ST. JOSEPH — A Benton Harbor man who will go on trial early next year in connection with a drug overdose death continues to insist on defending his own case, against the advice of lawyers and a judge.
Louis Earle Lacy-Garrett, 38, was bound over for trial earlier this week on a charge of delivery of a controlled substance causing the death of Brionna Capozio, 24, of Coloma. She died at home July 12 after injecting heroin she bought from Lacy-Garrett, according to earlier witness testimony.
Berrien County Trial Court Judge Angela Pasula heard testimony at a preliminary hearing earlier this month and made her bind-over ruling on Wednesday. The judge granted a motion by Jeffrey Taylor, chief trial attorney in the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office, to add a charge of delivery of heroin, second offense.
If convicted on the delivery causing death charge, Lacy-Garrett faces life or any term of years in prison. His sentence can be supplemented due to prior convictions.
He was originally represented at preliminary hearing by Jolene Weiner-Vatter from the Berrien County Public Defender’s Office. At that hearing, Lacy-Garrett became belligerent, saying he wants to represent himself and that his lawyer was not asking the right questions. At Wednesday’s hearing, he again spoke while the judge was speaking and tried to ditch his new lawyer, Edwin Johnson.
Judge Pasula said she will schedule a hearing prior to Lacy-Garrett’s trial to decide whether he will be allowed to represent himself. Johnson said after Wednesday’s hearing concluded that he wants to stay on the case, but it will be challenging.
Citing case law, Pasula said she found probable cause based on testimony at the preliminary hearing and an autopsy report that a heroin/fentanyl mix caused or significantly contributed to Capozio’s death, that Lacy-Garrett sold her the drugs, and that it was unlikely she had obtained heroin from anyone else between buying it from Lacy-Garrett and being found dead about 18 hours later.
Brooke Gargano testified at the preliminary hearing that she was with Capozio when Capozio bought the heroin from Lacy-Garrett for $70, and when she used some of it. Gargano said she drove herself and Capozio home because Capozio was “in and out of consciousness” after injecting some of the heroin in a parking lot in Benton Harbor.
She said she found out the next day that Capozio had died.
Lacy-Garrett says Gargano is lying and that he wants to question her himself, because lawyers are not asking her the right questions.
Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa