A 39-year-old Larose man convicted in 2002 of killing another man at a party has been granted a clemency hearing this month.
Louis Preston Jr. was convicted of second-degree murder in the Sept. 22, 2001, shooting death of 18-year-old Ryan Picou.
Although Judge Robert Klees gave Preston a life sentence, that may change later this month. Preston has been scheduled for a clemency hearing for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 25 in Baton Rouge.
According to Department of Public Safety and Corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick, the Board of Pardons will hear arguments from both sides during the hearing before handing down its decision. Its recommendation will be sent to the governor, who has the power to grant pardons or reduce sentences.
The hearing will allow three members from each side to speak in favor or opposition of granting Preston clemency.
According to state law, those serving life in prison can apply to the Board of Pardons to be considered for clemency after serving 15 years of their sentence.
In an impassioned letter to the Board of Pardons, Picou’s family members described the experience like reliving a nightmare or reopening a wound that never truly healed.
“Ryan was only 18, and Louis stole any chance Ryan had at life when he shot him in the back,” the letter said. “He gave us a life sentence of a life without our loved one. How can our justice system consider letting Louis out? It has only been 17 years. That is insane to give a murderer a second chance at life when his own actions took that chance from Ryan.”
“Ryan is never coming back, as should Louis not be able to come back to live a full life,” the letter continued. “It was cold-blooded murder Louis committed. It was not self-defense or an accident. I know that if I saw Louis in the store or anywhere else, it would be very hard and scary. But for Ryan’s mother or sister to see Louis out and about would be even more terrifying for them and bring back all those painful memories.”
According to police, Picou was killed by a shotgun blast at a party on East 25th Street in Larose.
Preston’s trial was riddled with controversy and chaos. The Courier reported that after the verdict was announced, angry family members from both sides were restrained by deputies as members of the jury wept.
When the verdict was read, Picou’s father shouted, “Yes, thank you, God,” and several of Picou’s friends, who witnessed his shooting, cheered.
Preston’s family members exploded in anger.
“This (expletive) isn’t right,” his sister screamed. “It isn’t right.”
Some family members had to be escorted from the courtroom by police. Preston’s mother cried and said, “They’re gonna pay. Jesus is gonna make them pay.”
Preston said during testimony he was being beaten on the ground by Picou’s friends when he asked someone to retrieve a 12-gauge shotgun from his car. He then fired two shots from that gun, one that hit Picou in the back as he ran for cover. The bullet ripped through the victim’s chest and penetrated a bathroom wall.
An autopsy showed Picou had bled to death.
The controversy surrounding Preston’s trial didn’t fade away after his conviction. Questions lingered about the jury-selection process. The American Civil Liberties Union and local NAACP representatives criticized the court’s use of an all-white jury. The jury was unanimous in its decision to convict Preston, who’s black.
Preston is serving his sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.
-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.
Posted on Tue, February 19, 2019
by By Dan Copp Daily Comet Staff Writer