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Suspect in Mickey Shunick disappearance to appear before Lafayette grand jury

The suspect in the tragic disappearance of a Lafayette college student will go before a grand jury next week. While a community looks for answers and calls for justice, there are questions about whether police, prosecutors and the media are rushing to judgment.

A 33-year-old man has been accused of kidnapping and murdering 21-year-old Mickey Shunick, who went missing May 19. The story of her disappearance has been one of the more sensational criminal law-related stories to develop in our area in several years, and our entire community is united in expressing deep sympathy for the family.

Unfortunately, the case has attracted so much media attention at the local and national level that the accused man's attorneys worry that the publicity will affect his right to a fair trial.

Why does that matter?

It matters because conviction for first-degree murder can carry a punishment of life in prison or the death penalty. It matters because at this point, the most compelling evidence of the man's possible guilt appears to be a surveillance video simply showing Shunick riding her bicycle in one direction and a truck that looks like the suspect's following a short time later. Her body has not been found, so we do not even really know what happened. In fact, we all hope and pray that she is found safe.

The government will present its case against the man to a grand jury on July 18. In a grand jury hearing, attorneys for the state demonstrate what evidence they have and why they believe a trial is necessary. The grand jury can either agree that there is enough evidence to have a trial, say there is not enough evidence to have a trial or ask for more information.

It is important to realize that in grand jury proceedings, neither the defendants nor the defense attorneys are generally present. Prosecutors simply present their theories and any evidence they may have. In other words, grand jurors only hear one side of the story. This means that even if a grand jury returns an indictment, this is still not an indication of guilt. An indictment simply means that the prosecution was able to convince the grand jury that it could present a case at trial.

It is not clear in this case what evidence prosecutors have used to charge the suspect with kidnapping and murder, and the grand jury proceedings will not be open to the public. What is clear, however, is that some have already made up their minds as to the man's guilt. If the grand jury does find that a trial is warranted, we can only hope the issue of guilt or innocence will be determined by facts and arguments presented in court, independent of public speculation or media hype.

Ultimately, any rush to judgment can get in the way of finding the real truth about what happened. And finding out what really happened is what we all should want.

Source: The Lafayette Advertiser, "Grand jury to hear evidence against Lavergne,"Claire Taylor, July 11, 2012

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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