ST. JOSEPH — A Berrien County judge this week denied a Benton Harbor man’s request to ditch his lawyer and defend himself.
But Trial Court Judge Angela Pasula did allow Louis Earle Lacy-Garrett to question witnesses, and he grilled a police chief on the witness stand for more than an hour.
Lacy-Garrett, 38, is charged with delivery of a controlled substance, heroin, 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.
At the conclusion of Lacy-Garrett’s probable cause hearing, Pasula said she will rule at a later date whether there is enough evidence for him to be bound over for trial.
Brooke Gargano testified last week during the start of the preliminary hearing for Lacy-Garrett.
Gargano told the court that on July 11 Capozio contacted her about getting some heroin. Then, she testified, Capozio drove them to Benton Harbor, where they met Lacy-Garrett outside the Red Roof Inn. She said Capozio paid him $70 for five bindles of heroin.
Gargano told the court the women then went to the nearby Dollar General parking lot where they used some of the heroin. She said Capozio injected one pack, then a second pack about an hour later, and was in and out of consciousness, so Gargano drove them back to Coloma.
Gargano testified that later that evening, after both women were at home, Capozio sent her a message saying she’d taken a Xanax and was going to bed. The next day, Gargano told the court, Capozio called her three times through Facebook Messenger, but Gargano didn’t answer. Later that day, July 12, she found out Capozio had died.
In cross examination, Lacy-Garrett’s lawyer Jolene Weiner-Vatter asked Gargano whether there was anything on the heroin packs to show it came from him, and whether there was anything unusual about the color, and Gargano said no.
At times throughout his court proceedings, Lacy-Garrett has become belligerent, saying his lawyer is not asking the right questions, and shouting comments as witnesses are testifying.
In addition to denying Lacy-Garrett’s request to represent himself, the judge denied a request by Weiner-Vatter to withdraw from the case. Pasula told Lacy-Garrett she would allow him to ask questions of witnesses when lawyers are finished with their questions.
Coloma Township Police Chief Wes Smigielski testified that Gargano had identified Lacy-Garrett, who is known as “L.A.” on the streets, as the person who sold Capozio the heroin. He was arrested Oct. 23. Weiner-Vatter asked Smigielski why it took him so long to interview Gargano and other witnesses.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find people who don’t want to be found. They were afraid of (Lacy-Garrett),” Smigielski said.
Allowed to question Smigielski himself, Lacy-Garrett asked him, “Have you researched how many guys use the nickname L.A. in Benton Harbor?”
“I did,” Smigielski responded.
“How many did you come up with?” Lacy-Garrett asked.
Smigielski responded, “You.”
“Can you produce evidence that Louis Earle Lacy-Garrett ever sold heroin in my life?” the defendant asked the police chief.
Smigielski responded, “Yes.”
Jeffrey Taylor, chief trial attorney in the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office, objected to many of Lacy-Garrett’s questions, and Judge Pasula sustained many of his objections.
After many of Lacy-Garrett’s questions, Smigielski looked at Taylor, as though waiting for an objection.
“You keep looking at the prosecutor. Look at me please, sir,” Lacy-Garrett scolded.
Coloma Township Police Officer Daniel Stuglik testified that he found Capozio dead in the bathroom of her home after responding to a priority call about a “full arrest,” which indicates no breathing and no pulse.
At the scene he found torn-off corners of plastic baggies, a needle, a syringe, and three baggies, one containing a substance and two empty, Stuglik testified. The evidence was collected and sent to a lab for testing.
At the conclusion of testimony, Taylor asked the judge to bind Lacy-Garrett over for trial.
“(Gargano) very articulately discussed what took place,” the prosecutor said.
Weiner-Vatter objected to a bind-over, saying, “We object to the (allegation of) causing death. There were five bags purchased, she testified that they each used two and she (Capozio) was found with three. We believe there was a second provider.”
Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa