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Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- Jermeny Marsh had been locked up for more than two years on a charge of second-degree murder.

It was a juvenile murder case, but the district attorney's office said the facts were serious enough for prosecutors to request that Marsh to be tried as an adult.

Marsh was going through hearings in that process known as a 357 transfer when on Aug. 9 he was booked with another charge: battery on a corrections officer.

That second charge, in which Marsh was booked with a municipal misdemeanor, ultimately led to his mistaken release, despite the pending murder case.

Authorities are now trying to locate the murder defendant, but he has been nowhere to be found.

'The ball was dropped by the criminal justice system,' said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. 'This case fell through multiple seams. There were multiple mistakes made by multiple entities.'

In the battery case, Marsh was accused of accosting a counselor at the city's Youth Study Center while the two were inside of his jail cell.

A police report about the altercation states that Marsh pushed and bumped told the counselor, telling him, 'F--- you. I run this up in here.'

Police were called and Marsh, 17, was taken to Orleans Parish Prison to be booked as an adult. Records show he was booked with 'battery of a correctional facility employee.'

The decision to book Marsh with a municipal charge was possibly the first slip-up in the case. State law dictates that when the offender booked with that charge is an inmate, the charge is a felony, which would have automatically shifted the case to state court.

'Because this type of battery puts a corrections officer at risk, it is a step up and has the potential to be charged as felony,' Goyeneche said. 'That wasn't done in this case.'

With Marsh facing only a low-level misdemeanor, his bail was set at $2,500. Records show it was set by an ad hoc municipal court judge on a Sunday, depriving authorities of another opportunity to keep Marsh behind bars.

If the bail hearing would have taken place during a regular weekday court session, a prosecutor would have been present to flag the case and request a detainer.

But there was no prosecutor in court when Marsh was given his ticket out of jail.

Matt Dennis, of Steve's Bail Bonds, processed Marsh's bond as a routine case.

'It was run of the mill. The kid was booked on a misdemeanor charge, we did the bond and he gets out. That's what happened,' Dennis said.

Dennis said nothing in Marsh's paperwork showed he was supposed to be returned to jail on the murder charge.

'Now we find out there was miscommunication between one facility and another, and he wasn't supposed to be released,' Dennis said.

Court paperwork shows that Marsh was taken from the Youth Study Center to Central Lockup, where he remained locked up for two days before his bail hearing.

Neither lockup placed a hold on Marsh, although both have the authority to do so.

The city, which runs the Youth Study Center, did not respond to calls for comment. A spokesman for Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office said that office did nothing wrong.

'The release was good as far as the sheriff's office is concerned,' spokesman Phil Stelly said. 'Any hold would have been beyond the scope of our office.'

While none of the agencies involved in Marsh's case accepted any blame, Goyeneche said there is plenty to go around.

He said that somewhere between the city's youth lockup and OPP, a detainer should have been placed on Marsh.

'There enough paperwork here with enough clues in it that if someone really would have paid close attention to this, they could have caught this and prevented this person from being released,' he said. 'This is a classic example of a system failure as opposed to a one individual making a mistake.'

Chief Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet said the poor communication between different agencies in the criminal justice system contributed to the oversight.

'I think it's unfortunate that a defendant facing a murder charge was released by mistake, but I honestly can't tell you where the ball was dropped,' Charbonnet said.

'I can tell you that because different parts of the system use different computers. We aren't always able to share information. But in this case, municipal court was not aware that this young man was facing a murder charge,' she said.

Authorities are now searching for Marsh. So is Dennis, even though he's not on the hook for Marsh's bond until he is scheduled to appear in Municipal Court next month.

'I'm not sure who dropped the ball, but we've got a dangerous guy on the street right now,' Dennis said.

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