Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari review in two consolidated matters to examine the timeliness of a prosecution following defendant’s failure to appear in court after receiving actual notice and whether the court of appeal erroneously reversed the trial court’s ruling. The trial court granted defendant’s motion to quash, finding the prosecution untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal’s ruling, which reversed the quashal and found the State had no affirmative duty to locate an absent defendant, and remanded these cases to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review of this succession case to determine whether the testament at issue iwass valid under Louisiana law, where the first two pages of the testament were initialed rather than signed and where the testament contained no attestation clause which met all of the requirements of La. Civ.Code art. 1577, nor any attestation by the notary beyond the general notarization. The Court found the propounded testament materially deviated from the form requirements of La. Civ.Code art. 1577 and was thus absolutely null pursuant to La. Civ.Code art. 1573. View "Successions of Jeanette Toney" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Supreme Court’s review in this case was whether the court of appeal correctly found the evidence insufficient to support the jury’s determination that defendant committed money laundering pursuant to R.S. 14:230(B)(2), in conjunction with his scheme to fraudulently overbill Union Pacific Railroad for diesel fuel. The Court found that the jury rationally concluded that defendant knowingly gave, transferred, maintained an interest in, and/or otherwise made available things of value which he knew to be for the purpose of committing or furthering the commission of the criminal overbilling scheme. The Court vacated the trial court’s ruling and remanded this case to the court of appeal for consideration of the two remaining grounds in the motion for post-judgment verdict of acquittal. View "Louisiana v. Lemoine" on Justia Law

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In 2013, defendant Gary Howard was arrested in his girlfriend’s home pursuant to an arrest warrant for violating his probation and parole. Officers had received a tip that defendant could be found at that location, which included an allegation that he possessed a firearm and was involved in narcotics distribution. In this matter, the issue presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether the evidence presented at trial reasonably permitted a finding that defendant possessed 18 grams of marijuana with the intent to distribute it. The Court found that, while the quantity of marijuana was small, its packaging in conjunction with other indicia of drug trafficking found nearby, when viewed through the due process lens of “Jackson v. Virginia,” (443 U.S. 307 (1979)), sufficed to exclude the hypothesis of innocence that the marijuana was intended only for personal use. View "Louisiana v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Although he bore various diagnoses, the 56-year-old respondent suffered from severe chronic mental illness involving at times paranoia, delusional and disordered thought processes, and mood instability. He had been in and out of psychiatric treatment since he was a teenager. This matter presented interrelated questions of whether persons who are found not guilty of a sex offense by reason of insanity are subject to the sex offender registration and notification requirements of La.R.S. 15:540 et seq., and whether a petition for injunctive relief or for declaratory judgment regarding those requirements must be filed in the manner established by La.R.S. 15:544.1 when it pertains to such persons. Finding that the legislature chose for reasons of public safety to treat persons convicted of a sex offense the same as those found not guilty by reason of insanity for purposes of the sex offender registration and notification law, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in both finding it was the proper forum to hear respondent’s claim and in ruling that respondent be relieved of the obligation to register. View "Louisiana v. Cook" on Justia Law

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Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana legislature in 2006 passed Act 853 and Act 567, which amended the laws governing compensation for levee servitude appropriations with a particular focus on appropriations for use in hurricane protection projects. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this matter for three purposes: (1) to interpret specific provisions of the 2006 amendments to La. Const. art. I, section 4, La. Const. art. VI, section 42, and La. R.S. 38:281(3) and (4); (2) to determine the amount of compensation that was due a property owner whose property was appropriated by a levee district pursuant to a permanent levee servitude for use in a hurricane protection project; and (3) to determine whether La. R.S. 38:301(C)(2)(f) or La. R.S. 13:5111 governed an award for attorneys’ fees in a levee servitude appropriation dispute. The Court held the 2006 amendments to La. Const. art. I, section 4, La. Const. art. VI, section 42 and 38:281(3) and (4) reduced, rather than eliminated, the measure of damages to be paid to a property owner for the taking of, or loss or damage to, property rights for the construction, enlargement, improvement, or modification of hurricane protection projects from “full extent of the loss” to the more restrictive “just compensation” measure required by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was the fair market value of the property at the time of the appropriation, based on the current use of the property, before the proposed appropriated use, and without allowing for any change in value caused by levee construction. Furthermore, the Court held La. R.S. 38:301(C)(2)(f) governed an award for attorneys’ fees in a levee appropriation dispute. View "South Lafourche Levee Dist. v. Jarreau" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review of this matter to determine whether the appellate court erroneously applied the domestic abuse battery statute, La. R.S. 14:35.3. The appellate court determined there was insufficient evidence to support the defendant’s conviction under the statutory provision requiring that an offender and victim be past or present members of the same household. As interpreted by the appellate court, La. R.S. 14:35.3 required the state to show the offender and victim engaged in a relationship comparable to the civil law concept of “open concubinage.” After that review, the Supreme Court found that the appellate court’s requirement that the state prove “open concubinage” between the victim and offender was not grounded in the statute. Moreover, the appellate court’s requirement of proof of “open concubinage” thwarts the broader inquiry into the circumstances of the relationship intended by the legislature. The Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the trial court’s ruling that the totality of evidence was sufficient to find the victim and offender were part of the same household and, therefore, was sufficient to support the conviction. View "Louisiana v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Defendant Corei Guidry was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, one count of possession with intent to distribute Tramadol, and one count of conspiracy to commit simple escape. The charge of possession with intent to distribute heroin carried the highest sentence: ten to fifty years at hard labor. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the trial court could allow a criminal jury to be informed of the possible mandatory minimum sentence faced by the defendant if, after a conviction on the offense being tried, he were to be sentenced under the Habitual Offender Law. After review, the Court found the district court erred in denying the State’s motion in limine, which sought to disallow the defendant from mentioning in argument the mandatory minimum sentence the defendant could be subject to under the Habitual Offender Law should the State seek to enhance his sentence under that law and should the court find the State has proved all of the elements to warrant enhancement of the sentence. "We find the issue of the possible mandatory minimum sentences that may be imposed if the defendant is convicted and the State successfully pursues enhancement of the sentence under the Habitual Offender law is too attenuated from the guilt phase of trial to be discussed before a jury, because it shifts the focus of the jury from its duty to determine guilt or innocence to issues regarding sentencing, possibly causing confusion of the issues and inviting the jury to speculate as to why a defendant may be facing such a term of imprisonment." View "Louisiana v. Guidry" on Justia Law

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Derroceus Abney was murdered on or about February 10, 2007. His body was found on or about February 23, 2007 hidden in an inoperable freezer. Investigators determined that the body had been moved to the freezer immediately after his murder. A fingerprint found at the scene was entered into a national database, and it was determined to be the fingerprint of defendant Channing Gray. Gray was arrested in 2013. The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was whether La. C.Cr.P. art. 576 could be applied to render timely the institution of a prosecution against defendant for obstruction of justice, following the dismissal of a prosecution for murder. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to quash the bill of information charging him with obstruction of justice; however, the appellate court granted the defendant’s writ application, granted defendant’s motion to quash, and dismissed the bill of information. The appellate court concluded that the charge of obstruction of justice was not “based on the same facts” as the murder prosecution, contrary to the requirements of La. C.Cr.P. art. 576, and therefore was untimely filed. The Supreme Court disagreed with this, vacated the appellate court's judgment and reinstated the trial court judgment. View "Louisiana v. Gray" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jeffrey Clark and a number of fellow inmates incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana (“Angola”) conspired to escape from prison. In furtherance of that plot, on the evening of December 28, 1999, they smuggled improvised weapons into the Angola education building, where various scheduled meetings and classes were taking place. There, they launched an attack on the prison guards present, hoping to obtain keys necessary to gain access to a nearby vehicle and to exit a secure access sally port to leave the prison and escape to Canada. The escape attempt was thwarted when prison officials discovered the disturbance and quickly surrounded the education building. Captain David Knapps, who had been taken hostage by the inmates, was bludgeoned and stabbed to death. Each inmate involved was tried separately, and Clark was convicted of the first degree murder of Captain Knapps and sentenced to death. On automatic appeal to the Supreme Court, defendant raised thirty-seven assignments of error, contending his conviction and sentence should be reversed. After a thorough review of the law and evidence, the Court found no merit in any of the assignments of error. Therefore, the Court affirmed defendant’s conviction and sentence. View "Louisiana v. Clark" on Justia Law