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Rapides Parish public defender quits job three weeks before murder trial

Status conference called for Monday to find out if Karen Harrison trial will move forward
Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 10:36 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 12, 2021 at 6:40 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Rapides Parish public defender assigned to the case of an Elizabeth mother charged with the Nov. 2018 murder of her daughter who suffered from cerebral palsy, has quit her job three weeks before the trial was set to start.

On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Brian Cespiva filed a motion to set a status conference for Monday, March 15 to request the Rapides Parish Indigent Defender Board and its district defender, Deirdre Fuller, to appear to explain what their plan is for moving forward with the Karen Harrison trial.

Karen Harrison, 49, is charged with second degree murder, conspiracy to commit second degree murder, cruelty to the infirmed and cruelty to juveniles for the Nov. 2018 death of her daughter, 25-year-old Cyra Harrison.

Cyra Harrison suffered from cerebral palsy and died after severe neglect, according to the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office. Two others, Glen and Marilyn Maricle, are charged alongside Karen Harrison.

On Monday, Harrison’s public defender, Andree Jacques tried to get Judge Chris Hazel to release her client of her $1,170,000 bond obligation ahead of the trial. Hazel denied the effort. A status conference was set for Wednesday to make sure everything was on track for the trial that was set to begin on April 5.

According to the motion filed by the district attorney’s office on Thursday, the office received notification that Jacques “quit her job as an indigent defender in Rapides Parish” sometime between the Monday court appearance and the one that was set for Wednesday, “ostensibly leaving the defendant without representation in this case.” The district attorney is asking for “clarification on [the] defendant’s representation status and how this upheaval will affect the current trial setting.”

News Channel 5 reached Jacques for a comment about her leaving the Rapides Parish Indigent Defender Board. She chose not to comment.

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