Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court

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The sheriff discovered two bodies burned beyond recognition from a residential fire. The victims were later identified as the occupants, Donald Wayne Demille Williams (“Demille”) and Kimberly Sims. Autopsies revealed both were fatally shot in the head before being burned. A grand jury indicted defendant, Jeremy Wilson, and co-defendant, Erick Townsend, with two counts of first degree murder. The trial court severed the matters. Townsend pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter in exchange for his agreement to testify at Wilson's trial. A jury ultimately convicted Wilson of two counts of second degree murder, and the trial court imposed consecutive life sentences. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the convictions, however, finding the trial court’s evidentiary rulings, when combined with its failure to properly address the attendant privilege invocations, violated defendant’s right to present a defense. View "Louisiana v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Defendant Lee Turner, Jr. was indicted by a grand jury for the first degree murders of Edward Gurtner, III and Randy Chaney, committed while engaged in the perpetration of armed robbery. Following the close of evidence, a jury unanimously found defendant guilty of two counts of first degree murder and, at the conclusion of the penalty phase of the trial, unanimously recommended sentences of death. In his direct appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, defendant raised 32 assignments of error. Finding merit to defendant’s assignment of error related to his “reverse-Witherspoon” challenge, the Court vacated the sentences. Finding no merit to his remaining challenges, those convictions were affirmed, and this matter was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Turner" on Justia Law

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Defendant, Lawrence Clark was issued a citation for displaying his art for sale on neutral ground at Decatur Street and Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, in violation of New Orleans Municipal Code. Clark moved to quash the charging affidavit, asserting the ordinance was unconstitutional. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review to consider whether New Orleans Municipal Code section 110-11, which regulated the outdoor retail sale of art, was indeed unconstitutional as a violation of Clark’s First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court concurred with Clark that the ordinance was unconstitutional. Therefore, it reversed the lower courts’ rulings and granted the motion to quash the charging affidavit against Clark. View "City of New Orleans v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Defendant Brian Horn was indicted by a grand jury for the first-degree murder of 12-year-old Justin Bloxom. Following the close of evidence at trial, a jury unanimously found defendant guilty as charged and, at the conclusion of the penalty phase of the trial, recommended the death sentence. In his appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, defendant raised seventy assignments of error. Finding merit only in defendant’s assignment of error asserting a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, the Court vacated defendant’s conviction and sentence and remanded this matter to the district court for a new trial. View "Louisiana v. Horn" on Justia Law

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On May 4, 2015, the Eunice Police Department arrested Marlon Eaglin, Paul Powell, and two others and charged them with second degree murder. Eaglin and Powell remained imprisoned until their release on August 21, 2015. On April 29, 2016, Eaglin filed this lawsuit against the Eunice Police Department, the City of Eunice, and Chief Randy Fontenot (collectively, “defendants”), alleging false arrest and false imprisonment. More than one year following the arrest, Eaglin amended his petition to add Powell as a party plaintiff. In response to the amended petition, defendants filed an exception of prescription, alleging Powell’s claims for false arrest and false imprisonment were prescribed. Defendants argued Powell’s claims prescribed on May 4, 2016, one year after the date of his May 4, 2015 arrest. Powell opposed the exception, arguing the amended petition adding his claim related back to Eaglin’s timely-filed petition. In addition, Powell argued his claim for false imprisonment did not commence until the date he was released from prison (August 21, 2015), thereby making his May 9, 2016 claim timely. After a hearing, the district court granted defendants’ exception of prescription and dismissed Powell’s claims with prejudice. The district court initially rejected. Powell’s relation back argument, finding there was no legal or family relationship which would allow the amended petition adding Powell’s claim to relate back to Eaglin’s original claim. The court further reasoned that prescription on Powell’s false imprisonment claim commenced to run on the date of his arrest, rather than his release from custody. After its review, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the action was prescribed. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and reinstated the judgment of the district court. View "Eaglin v. Eunice Police Dept." on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted with five counts of second degree kidnapping and three counts of second degree murder. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari review in this case to determine whether guilty of simple kidnapping was a responsive verdict to a charge of second degree kidnapping. Finding that it is not enumerated among the legislatively authorized responsive verdicts in La. C.Cr.P. art. 814, and further that it is not a lesser and included offense in accordance with La. C.Cr.P. art. 815, the Supreme Court set aside defendant’s convictions for simple kidnapping, and remanded to the trial court to enter a post-verdict judgment of acquittal on these charges. View "Louisiana v. Price" on Justia Law

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This case presented a question of whether the defendant was deprived of effective assistance of counsel where trial counsel failed to investigate and present a cogent defense of “battered woman’s syndrome” (“BWS”), including failing to investigate the benefits of expert testimony concerning BWS. The Louisiana Supreme Court held, after review of the trial court record, that defendant was indeed deprived of effective assistance of counsel, given the documented evidence of repeated abuse the victim perpetrated upon the defendant before his death. The Court therefore reversed the court of appeal, vacated the defendant’s conviction and sentence, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Curley" on Justia Law

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Defendant Leroy Jackson was found guilty of armed robbery and two counts of attempted armed robbery based solely on his identification by the two victims, Adrian Maldonado and Wilson Vargas, and an eyewitness to the crimes, Anibal Maldonado. The offenses were committed in 2009, by three armed men. Two of the men wore masks. Defendant was identified as the unmasked man after the witnesses collaborated with an officer to make a computerized composite of him. A detective proposed placing defendant in a photographic lineup based on the composite. The three witnesses then each identified defendant from a photographic lineup. The two victims expressed uncertainty, however, in their identifications to a defense investigator. After defendant was found guilty by the jury, the district court sentenced him to 50 years imprisonment at hard labor as a second-felony offender for armed robbery, and two terms of 24 years imprisonment at hard labor for attempted armed robbery, with the sentences to run concurrently and without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, however, the district court granted defendant a new trial. In ruling, the district court emphasized the problematic nature of cross-racial identifications, and the strong indications here that the identifications were unreliable. The court of appeal reversed. Defendant appealed, arguing he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel was provided with information that undermined the witness identifications, in a case that rested entirely on the witness identifications, but did not use it. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated the district court’s ruling that granted defendant a new trial. View "Louisiana v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the state filed a petition alleging that R.M. committed the felony-grade delinquent act of possession with intent to distribute a counterfeit controlled dangerous substance when he was 15 years old. R.M. appeared to answer the petition and entered a denial of the allegations. Pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 877(B), the state had 90 days to commence the adjudication. R.M. filed a motion to challenge competency. The juvenile court appointed a panel of doctors to evaluate R.M. The court stayed the proceedings pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 832 and set a competency hearing. The court, on its own motion, reset the hearing date several times after R.M. was arrested on a new charge and to give the doctors additional time to evaluate R.M. The court ultimately held the competency hearing on March 17, 2016, and found R.M. competent to proceed based on the doctors’ recommendations. The juvenile court set the adjudication for April 14, but continued the hearing until May 4 because the police officers involved in the case were not served. On May 4, 2016, the parties appeared for the adjudication, and the state made an oral motion to continue because the officers still had not been subpoenaed. In response, R.M. made an oral motion to dismiss the delinquency petition. The trial court granted R.M.’s motion, finding that the competency determination had resulted in unreasonable delay not attributable to any fault of the juvenile. The state sought supervisory review from the court of appeal, which affirmed the juvenile court’s dismissal in a split decision. The juvenile argues in essence that the state was still obligated to seek an extension for good cause, pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 877(D), although R.M.’s competency was placed at issue and the proceedings were stayed pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 832. The court of appeal agreed and found “that the stay pursuant to article 832 did not relieve the State of its duty to request and obtain a good cause extension before the article 877 mandatory time limit expired.” The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court prematurely dismissed the state’s petition. The Court reversed, finding that R.M.s’ motion to dismiss on May 4, 2016 was only 48-days in, close to a month of the 90-day period provided by La.Ch.C. art. 877 remained. View "State of Louisiana in the interest of R.M." on Justia Law

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After the jury could not reach a verdict in relator Landon Quinn’s first trial, the jury in relator’s second trial found him guilty of two counts of second degree murder in connection with the 2009 shooting deaths of Matthew Miller and Ryan McKinley. On the night of the shooting, an eyewitness told police that they would not find any shell casings because the shooter used a revolver. The following day, the eyewitness identified relator as the shooter from a photographic lineup. The eyewitness testified at both trials and unequivocally identified relator as the shooter. The convictions were affirmed on appeal. After direct review was completed, relator sought post-conviction relief on the ground that, inter alia, counsel rendered ineffective assistance at the second trial by failing to utilize a statement obtained from the eyewitness by a defense investigator. Specifically, the eyewitness told the defense investigator that the shooter’s hair was shorter than that depicted in a booking photograph taken at the time of relator’s arrest around 24–48 hours after the shootings. The defense investigator memorialized his interview with the eyewitness in an affidavit that was provided to counsel, who represented relator in his second trial but did not utilize the affidavit or call the investigator to testify. The district court granted relator a new trial after determining counsel at relator’s second trial were in possession of the affidavit and that the defense investigator would have made a compelling witness who could have challenged the strength of the eyewitness identification. The court of appeal denied the state’s writ application, finding the affidavit “strongly suggests that the defendant was mistakenly identified as the perpetrator.” The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding that while the affidavit may have called into question the eyewitness’s ability to accurately discern the style of hair beneath a t-shirt worn over it, the likelihood of a different result if that information had been used at trial appeared conceivable but not substantial, and was insufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome of the second trial. View "Louisiana v. Quinn" on Justia Law