Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court

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On March 27, 2015, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy encountered a truck stopped in the middle of the roadway late at night. He found defendant Calvin Lewis inside attempting to restart the truck. Defendant, who smelled of alcohol and whose speech was slurred, explained that the truck had just stalled and would not restart. The deputy noticed that the truck’s engine was still quite warm when he attempted to restart it with jumper cables. The truck could not be restarted, however, and was eventually towed away. There were no alcohol containers in or around the vehicle. When defendant got out of the truck, he leaned on it to steady himself. Defendant was arrested after he failed field sobriety tests. At trial, defendant denied he was in the truck attempting to restart it when the deputy arrived. Defendant claimed he drank alcohol after the vehicle stalled, threw the empty bottle into the grass, and he was just leaving to walk to his cousin's house for help when the deputy arrived. The trial court found defendant guilty as charged and sentenced him to serve 60 days in parish jail, suspended, 48 hours of in-home incarceration, and 11 months of probation. Finding the evidence sufficient, when viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution for the trial court to reasonably conclude defendant operated his vehicle while intoxicated until it stalled, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated defendant’s conviction and sentence. View "Louisiana v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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An employee of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, while conducting a search of Tier C2 of Orleans Parish Prison, discovered a cell phone secreted in a crevice of the wall of the day room. An investigation, including a warrantless search of the phone’s contents, revealed that defendant Keith Kisack used the phone to send text messages and take “selfies” while housed on that tier. Defendant was charged by bill of information with possession of contraband while in a penal institution. A jury found defendant guilty as charged. The State filed a habitual offender bill of information, alleging defendant to be a fourth-felony offender. Defendant moved for a new trial and to quash the habitual offender bill, which the trial court denied before commencing the hearing on the habitual offender bill of information. The trial court found defendant to be a fourth-felony offender and sentenced him to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on whether defense counsel waived the sentencing delay required by La.C.Cr.P. art. 873, and whether the State proved that less than ten years elapsed between defendant’s most recent predicate offense and the present offense as required by La.R.S. 15:529.1(C). Finding that the State carried its burden of proof here, the Supreme Court nonetheless emphasized La.R.S. 15:529.1(C) imposed a requirement on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the 10-year period has not elapsed in a habitual offender adjudication in the district court. In addition, the Court directed the court of appeal to recognize that the State’s failure to carry that burden is an error patent on appeal. However, the Supreme Court also found the court of appeal disregarded the plain language of Article 873, which required an explicit waiver of the statutory sentencing delay, by surmising defense counsel “implicitly waived” the delay by participating in the sentencing hearing. Therefore, the Court vacated the habitual offender adjudication and remanded for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Kisack" on Justia Law

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Baton Rouge police officers found two juveniles passed out at 1 a.m. in a truck parked at a McDonald’s restaurant. A strong odor of marijuana emanated from the open windows. Fifteen-year-old C.T. was seated in the front passenger seat with a pistol in his lap. A search revealed a bag of marijuana in the driver’s possession as well as a burnt marijuana cigarette in the center console. Crystal Etue had reported the truck stolen several weeks earlier. She did not know either juvenile or authorize them to use the truck. C.T. was adjudicated delinquent for illegally carrying a weapon while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The juvenile court committed him to the custody of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections until he turned twenty-one. The court of appeal affirmed the adjudication and commitment. Finding no reversible error in the adjudication and commitment, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed. View "Louisiana in the Interest of C.T." on Justia Law

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The State charged defendant Fahim Shaikh with simple kidnapping, and indecent behavior with a juvenile. The charges arose from an incident involving 13-year-old A.G. on April 17, 2014, after she ran away from home while her mother was out. He took A.G. to his apartment, eventually delivering her to a friend's house, where the friend's mother made A.G. call the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Department. Deputies, posing as A.G. arranged through text messages to meet defendant, and arrested him after he initially tried to flee from them. A Beauregard Parish jury found defendant guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced defendant to five years imprisonment at hard labor, with two years suspended, for simple kidnapping, and to seven years imprisonment at hard labor, with three years suspended, for indecent behavior. The court of appeal vacated the conviction for indecent behavior and found that the five-year sentence for simple kidnapping was excessive. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed and remanded: "While it may be true that the sentence is longer than those imposed in other cases, this fact alone does not demonstrate a manifest abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court. Moreover, it is important to note that while defendant received the maximum sentence, the trial court suspended 40% of that sentence. Thus, defendant will likely serve far less than the five years imposed. Under the circumstances, the sentence is an acceptable exercise of the trial court’s broad discretion. Therefore, we reinstate the sentence for simple kidnapping as originally imposed. Because defendant argued on appeal that his sentence for indecent behavior is excessive, which issue the court of appeal did not reach because it vacated the underlying conviction," the matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Shaikh" on Justia Law

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In 2011, a Lafayette police officer investigating a possible car burglary, stopped defendant Calvin Noel, III, who was walking down the middle of the road. As the officer patted him down, defendant told him that he “had a gun in his hip.” The officer determined from his computerized database system that defendant had prior felony convictions so he confiscated the gun and arrested him for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant was charged by bill of information with possession of a firearm by a person convicted of certain felonies, to which he pleaded not guilty. Pursuant to defendant’s pretrial motion, a sanity commission was appointed to determine his competency to proceed as well as offer an opinion as to his sanity at the time of the offense. The two members of the sanity commission agreed that defendant was competent despite his chronic paranoid schizophrenia. They noted his history of repeated psychiatric hospitalizations and his paranoia, grandiosity, and impulsivity. They also noted his tattoos (which included “insane” on his right hand and “crazy” on the left). The trial court found defendant competent to proceed. A jury would ultimately find defendant guilty as charged. Defendant was sentenced to fifteen years in prison at hard labor without parole, and fined him $2,500. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding defendant produced "an indicia of insanity" and the district court erred in finding good cause was not shown because defendant was engaging in a dilatory tactic because he changed his plea (from "not guilty" to "not guilty by reason of insanity"). Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal, vacated the conviction and sentence, and remanded for a new trial. View "Louisiana v. Noel" on Justia Law

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The State charged defendant Skylar Frank, a former Oakdale police officer, with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, malfeasance in office, and obstruction of justice. The issue this case presented for review was whether the court of appeal erred in applying Louisiana’s jurisprudential “same evidence” test to find that defendant’s conviction for attempted felony carnal knowledge had to be set aside in light of his conviction for malfeasance in office, because it violated the prohibition against double jeopardy. Finding that no double jeopardy violation occurred, the Louisiana Supreme Court reinstated defendant’s conviction and sentence for attempted felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Furthermore, the Court found no significant difference between U.S. Const. Amend. V and La. Const. art. I, section 15 supporting the notion that Louisiana’s constitution afforded greater protection against double jeopardy than the federal constitution or required Louisiana courts to apply two distinct tests (one federal and one state) to analyze double jeopardy claims. Therefore, Louisiana courts are bound only to apply the standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932), to protect against double jeopardy and can dispense with Louisiana’s separate “same evidence” test. View "Louisiana v. Frank" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the court of appeal erred in reversing defendant Derek Dotson’s conviction for aggravated rape, finding that the trial judge abused his discretion in denying a challenge for cause of a prospective juror. During voir dire, the prospective juror gave an equivocal answer as to whether she could be impartial after indicating her mother had been the victim of a violent crime. The Louisiana Supreme Court determined the record of the voir dire proceeding was “bereft of any information that would clarify the prospective juror’s response, and the remainder of her responses during voir dire indicate that she would be impartial.” As such, deference should have been afforded by the appellate court to the trial court’s ruling on the challenge. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision, and the matter was remanded to the appellate court for determination of the remaining issue raised on appeal by defendant. View "Louisiana v. Dotson" on Justia Law

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The underlying issue in this case concerns centered on the reasonableness of a warrantless search of a probationer’s residence conducted by a multi-agency law enforcement task force. Two officers from the New Orleans District of the Louisiana Department of Probation and Parole conducted a “compliance check” at defendant Avery Julien’s home in conjunction with the New Orleans Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Criminal Fugitive Task Force. A search of the residence netted ammunition and two guns, which were found to have been stolen. Specifically, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review was whether the search violated Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 895(A)(13)(a). After review of the law and record, and considering the arguments of the parties, the Supreme Court held the warrantless search of defendant’s residence violated the provisions of Article 895(A)(13)(a) because the search was not conducted by the probation officer assigned to him. Furthermore, the Court found violation of this statute constituted an unconstitutional search under Louisiana Constitution Article I, section 5, requiring exclusion of the evidence pursuant to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 703(C). Thus, the Court affirmed the ruling of the district court which granted defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence. View "Louisiana v. Julien" on Justia Law

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The underlying issue in this case concerned the reasonableness of a warrantless search of a probationer’s residence by multi-agency state and federal law enforcement personnel. Two officers from the New Orleans District of Probation and Parole were conducting a “residence check” because the department received information from another law enforcement agency that defendant Kayla Brignac may have been involved in the sale of narcotics. During the search, officer found Brignac in a bedroom with what appeared to be a burned marijuana cigarette in plain view. A search of the remainder of the residence netted miscellaneous pills and drug paraphernalia. Specifically, the issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review was whether the search violated Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 895(A)(13)(a). After review of the law and record, and considering the arguments of the parties, the Supreme Court held the warrantless search of defendant’s residence violated the provisions of Article 895(A)(13)(a) because the search was not conducted by the probation officer assigned to her. Furthermore, the Court found that violation of this statute constituted an unconstitutional search under Louisiana Constitution Article I, section5, requiring exclusion of the evidence pursuant to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 703(C). Thus, the Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated the ruling of the district court which granted defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence. View "Louisiana v. Brignac" on Justia Law

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Defendant Calvin King was tried by jury and convicted of second degree murder and armed robbery following the 2007 death of Javier Sanchez. The issue this case presented involved the trial court’s grant of a motion for new trial on the basis that the verdict was contrary to the law and the evidence pursuant to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure article 851(1). Defendant filed a motion for new trial, which focused on inconsistencies in the evidence presented to the jury, arguing that the testimony of the one eyewitness contained internal inconsistencies and was at least partially irreconcilable with the physical evidence. The trial court granted the motion, ordering a new trial for the defendant. The appellate court reversed. When a motion for a new trial is granted pursuant to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure article 851(1), the Louisiana Supreme Court held there is no threshold requirement that the trial court make a finding that an injustice has been done to the defendant that is reviewable as a matter of law. Nor may the court of appeal or the Supreme Court review the findings of fact of the trial court in granting such a motion based on the constitutional prohibition of the appellate courts reviewing factual findings in a criminal case. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s judgment and the trial court judgment granting defendant’s motion for a new trial was reinstated. View "Louisiana v. King" on Justia Law