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Family of murder victim furious after judge allows suspect to remove ankle monitor due to leg irritation

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BATON ROUGE- A man who is awaiting trial for allegedly killing Julius Thomas in 2018 asked to have his ankle monitor removed due to leg irritation and Judge Tarvald Smith granted the request. Instead, Smith ordered that defendant Kevin Dukes be tracked by cell phone.

The turn of events that occurred in District Court last week infuriated Thomas's family who said they feel like they were slapped in the face as they wait for justice.

"He decided that he would take him off his ankle monitor because it was getting expensive, and he said he had a health issue which was diabetes causing spots on his leg," Joycelyn Davis, Thomas' sister said.

Julius Thomas was shot to death and dumped at the corner of Old Hammond Highway and South Flannery in December of 2018. One day after his death, authorities arrested Kevin Dukes. Dukes was charged with second-degree murder and is awaiting trial.

"It's heart-wrenching and the DA opposed this," Davis said. "She said it was a major murder case, do not take it off. The judge decided he would take it off anyway."

Judge Tarvald Smith declined to do an on-camera interview about this pending case that went before him last week. However, he did speak in generalities and says it's rare that he puts someone on cell phone monitoring for a major felony case. He said gps ankle monitors are the preference.

The cell phone monitoring involves the defendant downloading a phone application that periodically checks in with the defendant. Smith said it is a system that does work.

But, the victim's family is not buying it and believes the alleged killer is getting off easy.

"It shattered me and my mom," Davis said. "He's asking about his health issues. My mom has health issues. Her heart is shattered. Her son was killed, left in the street and now the murderer is walking around free to live life until someone decides to give us justice."

Court minutes show the defendant is due back in court in May.

Following the Investigative Unit's report on Tuesday, Judge Tarvald Smith issued an order for Duke to prove his medical condition that would prevent him from wearing an ankle monitor.

Duke has been given thirty days following the Feb. 9 court order to provide medical documentation of diabetes or any other ailment.

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