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Pardon board allows murderer chance at parole 18 years before eligibility

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BATON ROUGE- The state's pardon board allowed a murderer to become eligible for parole after serving only 15 years of a 40-year sentence for killing a man in Vacherie in 2003.

Brian Batiste appealed his sentence to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007. A panel of judges affirmed his 40-year sentence saying the murder of Ronald Edwards was done deliberately and without provocation.

Monday, the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole gave Batiste, in a 4-1 vote, the shot of being eligible for parole 18 years before he was originally to become eligible in 2037.

"I'm beyond upset," said Breyon Mitchell Weber, Edwards' daughter. "I'm beyond upset, and I'm six months pregnant and have to keep reliving that this man took my daddy's life and that this man is probably going to get out."

Edwards was shot four times by Batiste over a feud about a jacket in Vacherie. Since the murder, Edwards' family said they never dreamed that Batiste might have the opportunity to get out after 15 short years in prison.

"Think about the victim's family," Weber said. "Think about what we have to go through. Imagine me going to the store and seeing this man. Imagine the trauma I'm going to have to go through yet again."

In 2003, Bruce Mohon prosecuted Batiste and sent him away to prison.

Mohon attended the clemency hearing Monday and was shocked at the outcome.

"For a violent offender to get out after 15 years of a 40-year sentence, that's very disturbing," Mohon said.

Before the hearing even began, Mohon said he received disturbing information that the deck was already stacked against the victim's family.

"I was informed immediately before the hearing that he [Batiste] may have served as an orderly which is a form of a trusty, and could have been assigned to DOC at the headquarters there," Mohon said. "That concerned me."

The Department of Corrections confirmed in an email to WBRZ, Batiste is part of a cleaning crew housed at headquarters and is assigned to DOC Secretary Jimmy Leblanc's office. An attorney for the department said now that the pardon board has made its decision, it will be sent to Governor Edwards. If Governor Edwards signs off on it, Batiste will be eligible for a parole hearing.

"This is a violent offense," Mohon said. "Make no mistake about it. He shot this individual four times. How do you talk to a victim after the trial? I don't know what to tell them anymore."

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