Accused cop killer smears feces on himself, court proceedings halted for the day
Travis Boys faces a charge of first-degree murder for shooting to death New Orleans Police Officer Daryle Holloway in 2015
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.
NEW ORLEANS — Jury selection for the trial of alleged cop killer Travis Boys came to a dramatic halt Wednesday afternoon when Boys suddenly smeared feces over his head and face, to the shock of those in the courtroom.
Boys faces a charge of first-degree murder for shooting to death New Orleans Police Officer Daryle Holloway in 2015. Police said Boys, 35, was being transported to jail when he shot Holloway dead inside the officer’s SUV. Boys then escaped and remained at large for 24 hours before his capture.
Holloway's uncle, criminal defense attorney David Belfield, witnessed the scene Wednesday. He said potential jurors and spectators in the court were aghast as Boys pulled out a piece of feces wrapped in tissue paper and proceeded to spread it over his head, face and mouth.
The disturbance came just after Boys had returned from a restroom break.
Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman halted jury selection for the day and ordered a mental competency hearing for Boys on Thursday morning.
All of the potential jurors in the case were dismissed, with the exception of a small group that was in Herman's chambers during the incident.
Belfield said he believed that Boys was putting on an act for jurors. "It's calculated, and it shows that he's not insane, not crazy," he said.
An hour after the incident, the smell of bleach used to clean the courtroom still hung in the air.
Boys is charged with first-degree murder, a count that could carry the death penalty. However, prosecutors have announced they will seek a life sentence instead.
Boys has entered a dual plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Herman had previously found him competent to stand trial, but his competency will again be at issue in the hearing Thursday.
The feces episode came hours after another unusual incident. Before jurors even entered the room, his attorneys asked Herman to order medical treatment for an infection in one of Boys’ eyes.
Medical professionals huddled with Boys for several minutes before he was returned to the courtroom.
After Boys was treated, prosecutors and defense attorneys polled potential jurors on whether they had heard of the shooting of Holloway and if they could decide the case fairly. Jury selection went on without incident for hours until the feces incident.
Earlier in the day, Herman had ruled on requests from lawyers on both sides about what evidence the jury will consider.
The most important requests from both sides concerned what kind of evidence Boys' lawyers can present about his purported low IQ and mental health problems. His attorneys face a steep challenge to prove his innocence in a shooting caught on body-worn camera video — but they are hoping to convince a jury that he was insane at the time with evidence of his mental disabilities.
Herman said doctors could not present evidence of Boys’ low IQ test scores unless they also declare that he did not know the difference between right and wrong when he shot Holloway.
“There is a certain bar that needs to be met, prior to making testimony of evidence of Mr. Boys’ IQ to be relevant,” she said.
However, Herman sided with the defense in a heated dispute over medical records from Boys’ uncle and mother. The defense obtained those records — which could show that schizophrenia runs in his family — by asking for copies from hospitals where the two relatives were treated.
Assistant District Attorney Inga Petrovich argued that the defense team should have obtained the records through a subpoena instead of a simple request. She also questioned why the request for medical records of Boys’ mother came before her death.
“It seems to us that those records were obtained illegally and unlawfully, and simply outside the purview of what the law allows,” Petrovich said.
Matthew Vogel, a staff attorney with the Orleans Public Defenders, said Boys was next of kin for both of his relatives. The request for his mother’s medical records came after her death, he said, and a date suggesting otherwise was a typo.
Vogel added that the state had “no credibility” when it came to the issuance of subpoenas — a reference to the ongoing debate over so-called “fake subpoenas” issued by the DA's Office.
Herman said she would allow the medical records from both Boys’ mother and uncle.
The judge rejected a defense motion seeking to bar officers from attending the trial in uniform. Boys’ lawyers argued that the sight of uniformed cops staring at the jury might influence their decision. They also pointed out that many officers may be wearing black honor bands over their badges because of the recent killing of Officer Marcus McNeil.
“The jury is going to be instructed on prejudices and not being inflamed by any kind of emotions,” Herman said. “It’s a great big courtroom. There’s over 100 seats in here.”
©2017 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.