The law offices of three prominent attorneys in New Orleans have agreed to pay at least $100,000 to a former partner to cover his legal expenses, a move that could help shield a former husband from civil suits that could result in his wrongful conviction and incarceration.
The Louisiana Bar Association announced Monday that it has awarded attorneys $15,000 toward the cost of attorney’s fees and expenses for the case of Louis Meyer, who was wrongly convicted in 2001 of killing two young girls, ages 5 and 3.
Meyer, an ex-convict and former Marine, was convicted in the slayings of three young women who lived in his apartment complex.
He was also charged with murder in the killings.
“I can’t help but feel a sense of justice for my partner and his family, but it was more important for me to make sure the law is done right,” said attorney Joseph A. Miller, who represents Meyer in the case.
“The only reason that they took it so far was to make it easier for a client.”
Miller said he had been working with the law offices for months on the case and had been prepared to take a $100k settlement to cover the costs of the attorneys.
But on Monday, Miller and his partner, Thomas Miller, announced that they had agreed to settle for $100.5k in addition to the $100ks for attorneys fees and legal expenses.
The three attorneys were in court Monday to announce the agreement.
In 2003, Meyer, then 23, shot and killed 17-year-old Katrina Howard in the head while she was riding her bicycle in the neighborhood of North Houma.
Howard was shot six times.
The Louisiana State Police initially charged Meyer with two counts of first-degree murder.
Meyer pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to life in prison.
Miller and his partners filed an appeal in 2012, saying the murder conviction was “cruel and unusual punishment” that did not meet the requirements of the law.
Miller said that after he met with the state attorney general, they learned that the law does not apply to the wrongful conviction of a person with mental illness or substance abuse issues.
“It seems to me that you can’t prosecute a person for a wrongful conviction if they’re mentally ill, and there’s no such thing as a mental illness,” Miller said.
“There’s a presumption that someone who’s mentally ill is not capable of making a fair decision about what to do with their life.
I think that’s a fundamental mistake.”
In addition to his attorneys, Meyer is represented by attorney William R. McFarland and former Orleans Parish prosecutor Richard B. Bixby.
In a statement to the media, Bixbys attorney said the firm will be filing a motion to dismiss the case against Meyer on Monday.
“We have been representing Louis Meyer since his exoneration, and we are disappointed that he is unable to continue to do so,” the statement read.
“Our clients are aware of the situation, and they will be pursuing legal options to vindicate their rights.
We remain confident that Louis Meyer will be vindicated and that his case will be properly prosecuted in the criminal courts.”
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said that the office is reviewing the lawsuit.