Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court

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Defendant Randy Turner was found guilty of aggravated flight from an officer. He was adjudicated a habitual offender based on the commission of seven predicate felonies and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment at hard labor. The court of appeal reversed the conviction and sentence. A majority of the panel found the district court erred in instructing the jury, and in allowing the State to argue, that the jury could find human life was endangered if the defendant committed one of the acts enumerated in La. R.S. 14:108.1(D) more than once. The dissent disagreed with the majority's interpretation of the statute; the Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari review to resolve the disagreement as to whether the crime of aggravated flight from an officer requires proof that a defendant committed two different acts from among those enumerated in La.R.S. 14:108.1(D), or whether proof of the repeated commission of one of those enumerated acts suffices. The Supreme Court found no real uncertainty in the meaning of “at least two of the following acts” in La.R.S. 14:108.1(D). Instead, the Court found the language of the statute in its context plainly encompassed the commission of one of the acts enumerated in that provision more than once. Therefore, the district court did not err in instructing the jury. Accordingly, it reversed the court of appeal and reinstated defendant’s conviction and sentence. View "Louisiana v. Turner" on Justia Law

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Defendant Khoi Hoang was indicted with conspiracy to commit second degree murder, solicitation to commit second degree murder, second degree murder, and obstruction of justice. Lien Nguyen was abducted from his home during the night on April 23, 2013. His hands were bound behind and his back, he was shot twice, and he was left to die in an area off Old Gentilly Highway. He was still alive when he was found by James Mushatt, who called 911. Mushatt reported seeing a Nissan Titan truck speeding away and said the victim told him that his wife was responsible for the crime. The victim died at the scene shortly after. The jury found defendant guilty as charged of obstruction but was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining charges. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole eligibility as a third-felony habitual offender. The court of appeal reversed because it found the evidence insufficient to support the conviction. After a review of the record, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded, from all of the evidence presented, a jury could reasonably infer (without speculating) that defendant removed the truck’s license plate or directed someone else to do so because the truck was going to be used in a murder or had just been used in a murder. Thus, the majority of the appellate court erred in finding that “circumstantial evidence connecting Defendant to the removal of the license plate was nonexistent.” To accept defendant’s hypothesis of innocence, that the license plate went coincidentally missing at some point after the murder, would indeed be to accept an “extraordinary coincidence” when viewed in the context of the entirety of the State’s case, as noted by the lower court's dissent. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal’s decision and reinstated defendant’s conviction and sentence for obstruction of justice. View "Louisiana v. Hoang" on Justia Law

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Defendant Melvin Miguel was driving a vehicle that was stopped because it had a cracked windshield. Defendant had been driving with a suspended driver’s license and a fraudulent license plate. In addition, he admitted smoking marijuana. Before asking defendant to exit his vehicle, a detective scanned the interior and noticed an orange prescription bottle, with the name on the label peeled off, sitting in the broken driver’s side door handle. Defendant and his passengers disclaimed ownership of the bottle. Defendant exited the vehicle, was handcuffed and Mirandized, and placed inside a police vehicle. The detective then retrieved the pill bottle, opened it, and discovered five Hydrocodone pills. Defendant was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance, and cited for several traffic violations. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence found in the bottle on several grounds, including that the pill bottle was not immediately apparent as contraband to justify a warrantless search and seizure. The district court denied the motion to suppress after conducting a hearing and reviewing the detective’s body camera video. The court of appeal found the district court erred in denying defendant’s motion to suppress. The Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the appellate court erred, reversed its holding and affirmed the trial court. View "Louisiana v. Miguel" on Justia Law

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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