Letter to the Editor: Prosecutorial Overcharging

By Nikki Madison

To the citizens of Natchitoches,

Last week, Billy Joe Harrington announced the jury conviction in a Natchitoches homicide case in the 10th Judicial District Court.

What was not mentioned in the media release was the original billed charge of second-degree murder. The citizens of Natchitoches should be aware that the grand jury and Detective Trent Perritt overcharged Onterio Pier.

The defendant claimed since day one that this was an accident. The arresting police officer Detective Trent Perritt stated in public court during the defendant’s voluntary statement, “I believe you.” The defendant stated that this was an accident several times, and that story has never changed.

The district attorney billed the defendant with second-degree murder, which carries a LIFE sentence, with the statement from the police and other witnesses who Detective Trent Perritt also stated in public court, “Your statement is very similar to what the witnesses have said.”

The District Attorney’s plea deal was offered on the day of jury selection with a guilty plea and a 30-year sentence with no appeal rights. The defendant declined this offer.

Attorney Jonathan Goins represented the defendant along with Co-counsels Attorney Christopher LaCour, and Attorney Bridgett Brown. After the case’s arguments, the jury returned with a unanimous decision to allow the lesser charge of negligent homicide, which carries a maximum allowed sentence of 5 years. Assistant District Attorneys J. Chris Guillet and Jason Methvin prosecuted the case. 

The public shall be made aware of prosecutorial overcharging. Prosecutors practice this act to coerce a guilty plea. In this case, second-degree murder, which carries a LIFE sentence, was used to intimidate the defendant into accepting a guilty plea and serving 30 years without a possibility of any future appeals. Additionally, the Prosecutor attempted to prosecute the defendant for a more serious crime than the known facts supported.

The public shall be aware and remember acts like this when it is time to vote!

Let your voice be heard!