Stabbing, dismemberment conviction stands in Louisiana case
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
Oct. 17, 2017
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Supreme Court says it won't hear an appeal from a man convicted of killing a French Quarter dancer and dismembering her body.
All seven justices initialed the "action sheet" denying the request from Terry Speaks, who is serving life in prison for the 2012 murder of 22-year-old Jaren Lockhart.
He acted as his own attorney, with another inmate preparing the document.
Speaks was convicted in 2015 of stabbing the young woman in the heart, dismembering her, and dumping her body parts in the Gulf of Mexico. Most washed onto Mississippi beaches. Some were never found. She was identified by DNA; numerous tattoos which might have identified her had been cut out.
Co-defendant Margaret Sanchez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is serving 40 years.
The Supreme Court's action, released late Monday, let stand a state appeal court decision upholding Speaks' convictions for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and second-degree murder.
The murder charge carries a mandatory life sentence. After District Judge Stephen Grefer found Speaks to be a habitual offender, he increased the jury's 40-year sentence on the obstruction charge to a second life term, to be served after the first.
Defense attorneys had also argued that Grefer should not have let Speaks represent himself during jury selection and early testimony. In a separate brief, Speaks said the judge should also have asked about his knowledge of state law and his history of mental illness.
"The trial judge advised Defendant of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation, and Defendant indicated he understood them," Judge Marc E. Johnson wrote in a 64-page ruling for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal.
Defense lawyers also contended that the state had too little evidence, and that two inmates who testified that he told them details of the crime were lying to get reduced sentences. In his request to the Louisiana Supreme Court, Speaks wrote that those inmates' testimony included only information available through news or the internet.
Even without their testimony, Johnson wrote, other evidence "overwhelmingly showed" that a rational jury could reasonably convict Speaks.