August trial set for Livingston Parish man accused of killing 5

Louisiana

LIVINGSTON, La. (AP) — An August trial date has been set for a man accused of a killing five people in Louisiana last year.

Dakota Theriot, 22, appeared Monday in state district court in Livingston Parish where a judge set trial for Aug. 10. But the trial might be delayed until 2021 as defense attorneys deal with scheduling conflicts, The Advocate reported.

Prosecutors said Theriot fatally shot his girlfriend, Summer Ernest, along with her dad and brother in Livingston Parish before driving to neighboring Ascension Parish and shooting his parents in their trailer last January. They said Theriot had been living with Ernest’s family after getting kicked out of his parents’ home.

A trial date hasn’t been set in Ascension Parish.

Authorities arrested Theriot at his grandmother’s home about 50 miles northeast of Richmond, Virginia, following a brief but nationally publicized manhunt.

Theriot faces five counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Summer, Tanner and Billy Ernest and his parents, Keith and Elizabeth Theriot. Each count carries the potential for the death penalty if convicted.

A judge has revoked bail, so Theriot has remained at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. He was at Monday’s hearing, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with his hands and legs shackled, but he did not speak.

Theriot pleaded not guilty to the five murder charges, but it’s still unclear if his defense team plans to seek an insanity defense or present evidence arguing he isn’t competent to stand trial.

Assistant District Attorney Kurt Wall said his office recently received some material about Theriot’s mental health from his lawyers, but he declined to say what they were about. If Theriot’s attorneys do change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, it could lead to further hearings on whether he’s able to assist in his defense — and whether he could tell right from wrong during the alleged killings.

“It could halt everything,” Wall said.

Theriot’s lawyer, Elliot Brown, said Monday he’s unavailable for a two-week trial because of another capital murder trial, which could further delay proceedings.

Judges in the 21st Judicial District preside over criminal and civil cases, and their schedules are often set a year in advance, which doesn’t allow for much flexibility for changing trial dates.

Brown declined to comment on the case because it’s still in the early stages. Evidence they’ve filed with the courts is not publicly available.

Prosecutors’ decision to seek the death penalty means stricter requirements that will draw out the length of the trial. Capital cases require additional steps, like requiring that defendants are represented by experienced defense lawyers.

Wall said waiting a year for this trial is not unusual. He said murder cases can take more than a year to get to trial even when the death penalty isn’t at stake.

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