Seth Fontenot trial jury selection to start today

Seth Fontenot, left, and his attorney Thomas Guilbeau arrive at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Lafayette, La. (Photo: Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)

Last-minute legal motions by both the defense and prosecution in the murder case against Seth Fontenot were rejected Monday by 15th Judicial District Judge Edward Rubin.

Fontenot’s trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the Feb. 10, 2013, shooting death of 15-year-old Austin Rivault of Lafayette and two attempted first-degree murder charges for shooting two others resumes Tuesday with jury selection set to begin.

On Monday, Fontenot’s attorney, Thomas Guilbeau of Lafayette, pulled a twisted, rusting hunk of metal from a bag and set it on the defense’s table inside courtroom 4B in the Lafayette Parish courthouse.

He advised Rubin and prosecuting Assistant District Attorney J. N. Prather Jr. that the hunk of metal was a mailbox with two bullet holes in it that he might present as evidence in the trial.

Prather objected, saying it’s not evidence yet. It’s just something Guilbeau is showing around at this late date.

Rubin told Guilbeau to introduce it as evidence at the proper time during the trial.

Monday’s court appearance was to decide the fate of last-minute motions and Rubin did so swiftly, denying a motion Guilbeau filed March 12 asking that the prosecution be required to call as its first witness Detective Larry Theriot, the lead investigator on the case.

Theriot is the assigned case agent for the prosecution and as such is exempt from sequestration. Guilbeau reasoned that Theriot’s testimony should be heard first, before he sits in the courtroom during testimony from other witnesses in the case, which may affect his testimony.

Rubin said he will allow the state to present its case as it sees fit.

Prather put the defense on notice that he intended to introduce as evidence alleged prior crimes by Fontenot and to introduce four statements Fontenot made to police on Feb. 10, 2013, and April 15, 2013.

Prather argued that the statements show Fontenot’s motive for shooting at the three teens was related to allegations that he sold drugs illegally.

Katherline Guillot, who also represents Fontenot, said Judge Kristian Earles, who handled the case in its early stages, already ruled that the statements and pending drug charges should not be presented to the jury because they would generate extreme unfair prejudice against Fontenot.

Rubin said he would not overrule Earles’ decision.

Fontenot, 20, admitted to police that he fired three shots at the tailgate of a pickup truck in front of his Lafayette house around 1:40 a.m. Feb. 10, 2013, because he believed its occupants had tried to break into his truck. Fontenot’s truck had been the target of burglars in the preceding months.

One shot struck rear-seat passenger Rivault in the head, killing him. The driver, Cole Kelley, was struck in the ankle. The front-seat passenger, William Bellamy, was hit in the neck. They all were 15 years old at the time.

Both Kelley and Bellamy told police they did not get out of the truck and did not try to burglarize Fontenot’s truck. They said they were driving slowly down Green Meadow Road in Lafayette because they were trying to sneak Rivault back to his house a few doors from Fontenot.

Rivault had sneaked out of his house and walked to a party at a friend’s house after a Mardi Gras parade Feb. 9, 2013, according to statements to police.

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