Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The state filed a petition alleging A.C., at the age of 14 years, committed the felony-grade delinquent acts of aggravated rape of a victim under the age of 13 years, and indecent behavior with a juvenile. Pursuant to La.Ch.C. art. 877(B), the state had 90 days to commence the adjudication hearing, which was until Monday, June 6, 2016. The juvenile court set the adjudication hearing for Friday, June 3, 2016. On that date, the state made a motion to continue the hearing alleging that the prosecutor and the family of the victims had been out of town and witnesses had not been subpoenaed. Counsel for A.C. objected and indicated that, as soon as the 90-day limit passed, counsel would file a motion to dismiss the delinquency petition. The juvenile court found there was not good cause to extend the 90-day period and additionally dismissed the delinquency petition at that time. The state objected and gave notice of its intent to seek supervisory review in the court of appeal. The court of appeal granted the state’s writ application and reversed. On October 13, 2016, A.C. moved again to dismiss the delinquency petition, contending that the 90-day time limit had run, and argued in the alternative that the time was not suspended when the state sought supervisory review or, if the time was suspended, it began to run again after the court of appeal’s ruling on October 7, 2016, and had now run out. After the juvenile court denied A.C.’s motion to dismiss, A.C. gave notice of his intent to seek supervisory review from the court of appeal. The court of appeal granted A.C.’s writ application and dismissed the delinquency petition for failure to timely commence the adjudication hearing. The state asserted that there was good cause on day 88, and the court of appeal previously found the juvenile court acted prematurely in dismissing the petition. The Louisiana Supreme Court agreed the juvenile court’s dismissal was premature. While it would have been a better practice for the state to seek a stay from the juvenile court, or obtaining none from that court, seek a stay from the court of appeal, the Supreme Court found the state’s failure to obtain a stay was not fatal under the circumstances. The Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Louisiana in the Interest of A.C." on Justia Law

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Defendant Chadwick McGhee was found guilty as a principal to the simple kidnapping of Jessica Guillot, in response to a charge of second degree kidnapping. Guillot disappeared in September 2013 after she was last seen being dragged out of one vehicle by Donnie Edwards and Willie Price and forced into a second vehicle in which Asa Bentley was waiting. Bentley then choked and threatened the victim, who begged for her life, as Edwards drove off with them, following Price and defendant in the first vehicle. The court of appeal found that, although the evidence showed co-perpetrators Bentley, Edwards, and Price kidnapped the victim, the evidence was insufficient to show that the defendant was anything other than an unwitting bystander to the crime. Because the court of appeal erred in its application of the due process standard of Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), the Louisiana Supreme Court granted the state’s application to reverse the court of appeal’s ruling and remanded for consideration of the pretermitted assignments of error. View "Louisiana v. McGhee" on Justia Law

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Defendant Joseph Moultrie was found guilty as charged of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, based on approximately two ounces of crack cocaine found by officers in a barbeque grill in a driveway between two trailers, one of which belonged to defendant’s mother. Officers noticed defendant standing in the street in front of the trailer at approximately 11 p.m. in a high crime neighborhood. Defendant quickly retreated out of view into the driveway when he saw the officers before returning to the street. One officer approached defendant while two others entered the driveway to see if defendant had discarded drugs or a weapon. They noticed that there were torn baggies on the ground that appeared to have cocaine and marijuana residue. At the end of the driveway farthest from the street, one officer also noticed a grill whose lid was slightly askew with dew that had been disturbed on the handle. Inside the grill was the large quantity of cocaine. When arrested, defendant claimed he lived in the trailer, the grill belonged to his family, and he disavowed any knowledge of the cocaine. On appeal, defendant contended the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress and that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. Although the state ultimately bears the burden of establishing the validity of a warrantless search, in challenging the search a defendant bears an initial threshold burden of showing that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the premises. Defendant thus was in the difficult position of having to both distance himself from the barbeque grill, if he hoped to be found not guilty of possession of the cocaine found inside it, and tie himself more closely to the grill, if he hoped to obtain a favorable ruling on the motion to suppress. The Louisiana Supreme Court found, after review, that ownership of the grill was never established: it was never seized as evidence and never identified from any photograph as the grill belonging to defendant’s mother. Although defendant’s sister testified that her mother used a grill, her testimony did not establish that the grill in which the drugs were found belonged to defendant’s mother. Because defendant failed at the threshold to make a showing of any reasonable expectation of privacy in the barbeque grill, the inquiry ended. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and remanded for consideration of defendant’s claim that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. View "Louisiana v. Moultrie" on Justia Law

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This case presents the res nova issue of whether an attorney, representing an incarcerated felon, is subject to the provisions of La. R.S. 44:31.1, when making a public records request to obtain information relative to a potential post-conviction relief application. Both the district court and the appellate court in this case held that the provisions of La. R.S. 44:31.1 were applicable to the public records request of petitioner, attorney James Boren, reasoning, in essence, that Mr. Boren stood in the shoes of his client, Stephan Bergeron, an incarcerated felon who had exhausted his appellate remedies. Therefore, the lower courts ruled that Boren was required to satisfy the necessary inquiries of the custodian (here, the St. Landry Parish District Attorney) to ascertain “if the request of any such individual in custody for a felony conviction is limited to grounds upon which such individual may file for post conviction relief under Code of Criminal Procedure Article 930.3,” as provided by La. R.S. 44:31.1. Because the defendant/custodian denied Boren’s public records request in this case on the basis of La. R.S. 44:31.1, for his failure to answer an inquiry as to “the grounds for post-conviction relief” to be put forth on behalf of Bergeron, the denial was improper. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Boren v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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This case involved an alleged “agreement not to prosecute,” under which the defense claimed that in exchange for the defense providing the names of witnesses who would testify before the grand jury, the sharing of defense attorney work product, and the waiving of the spousal privilege as to the grand jury testimony of the defendant’s wife, the prosecution agreed to abide by the grand jury indictment, whether manslaughter or second degree murder. When the grand jury returned a manslaughter indictment, the State nevertheless presented the case to the grand jury again, approximately seven-and-one-half months after the first indictment, and procured an indictment for second degree murder. The defendant filed a motion to quash, alleging the prosecution failed to abide by the agreement. The district court granted the motion, quashing the second degree murder indictment. On appeal, the appellate court reversed. Finding that the prosecution did not prove it had a valid justification to withdraw from its agreement not to prosecute during the hearing on the motion to quash held in this case, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that, since there was no factual or legal error in the district court ruling, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion to quash the second degree murder indictment, and the appellate court erred in reversing the district court decision. View "Louisiana v. Karey" on Justia Law

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Defendant Thayer Green was adjudicated a third felony offender and sentenced under the Habitual Offender Law to a term of life in prison without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence, for a home invasion committed as a juvenile. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) applied to an enhanced single sentence of life in prison without parole under the habitual offender statute. The Louisiana Court held Graham was, indeed, applicable to a defendant who was adjudicated and sentenced as a habitual offender to life without parole for an offense committed as a juvenile. Therefore, the Court amended defendant’s life sentence under the Habitual Offender Law to delete the restriction on parole eligibility and directed the Department of Corrections to revise defendant’s prison masters according to the criteria in La. R.S. 15:574.4(D) to reflect an eligibility date for consideration by the Board of Parole. View "Louisiana v. Green" on Justia 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 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