Jury selection underway in RV park murder

By Lisa Addison
laddison@americanpress.com

Jury selection underway.

Jury selection began Monday in state district court for the first-degree murder trial of a Lake Charles man in a 2017 shooting death.

Johnnie Paul Hardman Jr., 29, is accused in the killing of Joshua Touchet, 24, at the Twelve Palms RV Park on Broad Street, on July 22, 2017.

Authorities have said the motive appeared to be robbery.

Touchet was found with a gunshot wound at 6 a.m. that day and taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries, police said.

Hardman has been held on $1.2 million bond in the Calcasieu Correctional Center since his arrest on the day of the shooting.

Judge Clayton Davis at a hearing in April ruled that statements obtained from Hardman during his interrogation by police could be used at his trial.

Prosecutor Loren Lampert at that hearing asked Det. Joe Savoie of the Lake Charles Police Department, about his investigation of the shooting.

Savoie told Lampert he read Hardman his Miranda rights on the day of the arrest and that the defendant did not appear to be impaired at the time of the interrogation, waived his rights and talked to him.

“At some point, he said to me, ‘Do you think I should talk to a lawyer or just tell you the truth?’ “ Savoie said.

Michael McHale, defense attorney for Hardman, asked Savoie at the hearing who was in the room at that time in addition to he and Hardman and he said there were two other police officers who were present and that the entire interrogation took a little more than three hours.

McHale asked Savoie if he thought the defendant was directly asking for an attorney during the interrogation and Savoie said he did not.

Lt. Bob Norton of the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office told the court of retrieving and downloading a call that Hardman made from the jail that, according to Lampert, included “incriminating information.”

McHale asked Norton if all calls are recorded and he said outgoing calls made by inmates at the Calcasieu Correctional Center are recorded and he said some calls are listened to “live.”

Authorities have said the motive appeared to be robbery.

He told McHale that all inmates are informed that outgoing calls are recorded.

Lampert asked Davis to admit all of Hardman’s statements into court but McHale objected to statements obtained during the defendant’s interrogation being included, saying he believed Hardman had invoked his right to an attorney and that the interrogation should have stopped at that time.

Davis said, “Even though I don’t think this interrogation should be used for training purposes, I’m going to rule that the statements can be admitted.”

Jury selection will continue today.

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