Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court

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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

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The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the Court of Appeal erred in declaring unconstitutional certain provisions of Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 55 of 2014, which applied the formula contained in La.R.S. 17:3995 and allocated Minimum Foundation Program (“MFP”) funding to New Type 2 charter schools. After review, the Supreme Court determined the appellate court erred in declaring the constitution prohibits the payment of MFP funds to New Type 2 charter schools. In this case, the plaintiffs’ view was that local taxes were being used to improve privately-owned facilities to which the public had no title or interest. The Court determined this was a mischaracterization. “[L]ocal revenue is considered in the allotment of MFP funds to public schools. Calculation of the local cost allocation includes sales and ad valorem taxes levied by the local school board. These figures are used to calculate a per-pupil local cost allocation. A public school’s allotment of MFP funding is based on the number of students enrolled in that particular public school irrespective of whether the improvements made to that particular public school are vested in the public or not. Thus, the use of a phrase in an ad valorem tax, such as ‘improvements shall vest in the public’ does not prohibit the use of local revenue in the funding of New Type 2 charter schools and cannot be used as defense to thwart the goal of La. Const. art. VIII, §13(C). Thus, SCR 55 does not transfer actual local tax revenue to charter schools.” Thus, the appellate court’s declaration of unconstitutionality was reversed. View "Iberville Parish Sch. Bd. v. Louisiana Board of Elementary & Secondary Education" on Justia Law

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The United States Supreme Court remanded this case back to the Louisiana Supreme Court, vacating the Louisiana Court’s decision relating to defendant Rogers Lacaze’s petition for post-conviction relief. On remand, the Louisiana Court was instructed to consider whether the trial judge’s recusal should have been required because “objectively speaking, ‘the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decisionmaker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable’” under the circumstances. After carefully considering all the facts, the Louisiana Supreme Court found defendant did not show that the circumstances created an unconstitutionally high risk of bias, and the original denial of the defendant’s recusal claim in Louisiana v. LaCaze, 16-0234 (La. 12/16/16), 208 So.3d 856, was correct. View "Louisiana v. Lacaze" on Justia Law

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Defendant Larry Broussard, Jr. was convicted of aggravated flight from an officer. During voir dire, defense counsel challenged, pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, the state’s use of a backstrike against an African-American female prospective juror from the first panel. Specifically, defense counsel noted that the state had not previously challenged this prospective juror for cause and stated without further elaboration that “it seems like she’s one of two potential black jurors.” In response to the trial court’s request for a race-neutral reason for the backstrike, the state ultimately gave two: (1) the prospective juror’s occupation as a housekeeper; and (2) she was not intelligent enough to be a juror. After the trial court resoundingly rejected the state’s characterization of the prospective juror’s intelligence, the state then claimed she was inattentive during the questioning of the second panel. In a split-panel decision, the court of appeal reversed, with the majority finding a Batson violation in the state’s exclusion of the backstruck prospective juror, and thereby deeming a second assignment of error moot. The court of appeal vacated the conviction and sentence and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. The state contended the court of appeal erred in failing to recognize that defendant was never required to make a prima facie showing of purposeful discrimination in Batson’s first step. The state also contended that, even if a prima facie showing was made, both of its reasons for backstriking the prospective juror were racially neutral, and the trial court never found that they were pretexts for purposeful discrimination. Therefore, the state claims that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Batson challenge. The Louisiana Supreme Court disagreed: “While we are mindful that a trial court’s determination as to purposeful discrimination rests largely on credibility evaluations and is therefore entitled to great deference, we note that the trial court rejected the state’s first proffered reason and we cannot presume the trial court accepted the state’s demeanor-based proffered reason. Therefore, we find that the court of appeal correctly applied ‘Snyder’ [Snyder v. Louisiana, 552 U.S. 472 (2010)] to vacate the conviction and sentence and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.” The court of appeal’s decision was affirmed. View "Louisiana v. Broussard" on Justia Law

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Defendant Larry Broussard, Jr. was convicted of aggravated flight from an officer. During voir dire, defense counsel challenged, pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, the state’s use of a backstrike against an African-American female prospective juror from the first panel. Specifically, defense counsel noted that the state had not previously challenged this prospective juror for cause and stated without further elaboration that “it seems like she’s one of two potential black jurors.” In response to the trial court’s request for a race-neutral reason for the backstrike, the state ultimately gave two: (1) the prospective juror’s occupation as a housekeeper; and (2) she was not intelligent enough to be a juror. After the trial court resoundingly rejected the state’s characterization of the prospective juror’s intelligence, the state then claimed she was inattentive during the questioning of the second panel. In a split-panel decision, the court of appeal reversed, with the majority finding a Batson violation in the state’s exclusion of the backstruck prospective juror, and thereby deeming a second assignment of error moot. The court of appeal vacated the conviction and sentence and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. The state contended the court of appeal erred in failing to recognize that defendant was never required to make a prima facie showing of purposeful discrimination in Batson’s first step. The state also contended that, even if a prima facie showing was made, both of its reasons for backstriking the prospective juror were racially neutral, and the trial court never found that they were pretexts for purposeful discrimination. Therefore, the state claims that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Batson challenge. The Louisiana Supreme Court disagreed: “While we are mindful that a trial court’s determination as to purposeful discrimination rests largely on credibility evaluations and is therefore entitled to great deference, we note that the trial court rejected the state’s first proffered reason and we cannot presume the trial court accepted the state’s demeanor-based proffered reason. Therefore, we find that the court of appeal correctly applied ‘Snyder’ [Snyder v. Louisiana, 552 U.S. 472 (2010)] to vacate the conviction and sentence and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.” The court of appeal’s decision was affirmed. View "Louisiana v. Broussard" on Justia Law

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Codefendants Darryl Jones, Cecil Beals, and Calvin Williams were indicted, tried together, and found guilty of the second degree murder of their associate Gerald Wilkins. The evidence presented at trial established that Beals, Williams, and the victim regularly visited defendant Darryl Jones’s home in Baton Rouge. Beals lived in defendant’s garage. Notably, all were present there on the day and evening before Wilkins was killed. Wilkins was found alongside Panama Road in Sorrento, dead, with two gunshot wounds to the head. The victim was holding a crack pipe and appeared to have been shot while he was urinating. A witness heard the gunshots and saw a distinctive vehicle (like that owned by defendant and often used by Beals) speeding down Panama Road between 3:30 and 4:00 a.m. on January 12, 2013. Officers obtained surveillance video showing Beals at a gas station near the crime scene with defendant’s vehicle at 3:38 a.m. The surveillance video also showed an unidentified driver and an unidentified backseat passenger. The court of appeal found this evidence sufficient to prove that defendant Jones was a principal to the murder although he was not present at the time of the murder. The appellate panel’s dissent found the circumstantial evidence presented at trial was insufficient to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. Defendant appealed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed. Here, as the dissent found, “[t]he record is void of evidence that [defendant] gave any counsel to Beals or Williams, directly or indirectly, in the commission of the crime. Based on the evidence presented, the jury could only speculate defendant was guilty as a principal.” View "Louisiana v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Codefendants Darryl Jones, Cecil Beals, and Calvin Williams were indicted, tried together, and found guilty of the second degree murder of their associate Gerald Wilkins. The evidence presented at trial established that Beals, Williams, and the victim regularly visited defendant Darryl Jones’s home in Baton Rouge. Beals lived in defendant’s garage. Notably, all were present there on the day and evening before Wilkins was killed. Wilkins was found alongside Panama Road in Sorrento, dead, with two gunshot wounds to the head. The victim was holding a crack pipe and appeared to have been shot while he was urinating. A witness heard the gunshots and saw a distinctive vehicle (like that owned by defendant and often used by Beals) speeding down Panama Road between 3:30 and 4:00 a.m. on January 12, 2013. Officers obtained surveillance video showing Beals at a gas station near the crime scene with defendant’s vehicle at 3:38 a.m. The surveillance video also showed an unidentified driver and an unidentified backseat passenger. The court of appeal found this evidence sufficient to prove that defendant Jones was a principal to the murder although he was not present at the time of the murder. The appellate panel’s dissent found the circumstantial evidence presented at trial was insufficient to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. Defendant appealed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed. Here, as the dissent found, “[t]he record is void of evidence that [defendant] gave any counsel to Beals or Williams, directly or indirectly, in the commission of the crime. Based on the evidence presented, the jury could only speculate defendant was guilty as a principal.” View "Louisiana v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Relator John Esteen, along with 22 others, was charged with several drug and racketeering offenses committed in 1998 and 1999. Relator was ultimately found guilty of two counts of possession of cocaine over 400 grams, conspiracy to possess cocaine over 400 grams, and attempted possession of cocaine over 400 grams. The district court sentenced him to consecutive terms of imprisonment at hard labor totaling 150 years. His convictions and sentences were affirmed on appeal. In 2016, relator filed a motion to correct illegal sentences seeking the benefit of more lenient penalty provisions that were enacted by the Louisiana Legislature in 2001, La. Acts 403 (effective June 15, 2001). The legislature later declared La.R.S. 15:308(B) (effective May 16, 2006) would “apply to the class of persons who committed crimes, who were convicted, or who were sentenced” in accordance with enumerated provisions, including those pursuant to which relator was sentenced on three counts. The district court denied the motion and the court of appeal denied writs, relying on Louisiana v. Dick, 951 So.2d 124. On appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, Relator contended that La.R.S. 15:308(A) and (B), as revised by the legislature, rendered his sentences for possession of cocaine over 400 grams and attempted possession of cocaine over 400 grams illegal. The Supreme Court found that a more lenient penalty provision applied retroactively in accordance with La.R.S. 15:308(B), and relator’s remedy was by resentencing in the district court pursuant to his motion to correct illegal sentences. Accordingly, his sentence was vacated, and the matter remanded to the district court for resentencing. View "Louisiana ex rel. John Esteen v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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Relator John Esteen, along with 22 others, was charged with several drug and racketeering offenses committed in 1998 and 1999. Relator was ultimately found guilty of two counts of possession of cocaine over 400 grams, conspiracy to possess cocaine over 400 grams, and attempted possession of cocaine over 400 grams. The district court sentenced him to consecutive terms of imprisonment at hard labor totaling 150 years. His convictions and sentences were affirmed on appeal. In 2016, relator filed a motion to correct illegal sentences seeking the benefit of more lenient penalty provisions that were enacted by the Louisiana Legislature in 2001, La. Acts 403 (effective June 15, 2001). The legislature later declared La.R.S. 15:308(B) (effective May 16, 2006) would “apply to the class of persons who committed crimes, who were convicted, or who were sentenced” in accordance with enumerated provisions, including those pursuant to which relator was sentenced on three counts. The district court denied the motion and the court of appeal denied writs, relying on Louisiana v. Dick, 951 So.2d 124. On appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, Relator contended that La.R.S. 15:308(A) and (B), as revised by the legislature, rendered his sentences for possession of cocaine over 400 grams and attempted possession of cocaine over 400 grams illegal. The Supreme Court found that a more lenient penalty provision applied retroactively in accordance with La.R.S. 15:308(B), and relator’s remedy was by resentencing in the district court pursuant to his motion to correct illegal sentences. Accordingly, his sentence was vacated, and the matter remanded to the district court for resentencing. View "Louisiana ex rel. John Esteen v. Louisiana" on Justia Law