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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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The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on whether the court of appeal erred in reversing the trial court’s ruling granting plaintiff’s special motion to strike defendant’s reconventional demand for defamation, pursuant to La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971 (the "anti-SLAPP" statute), where the appellate court found that plaintiff’s petition did not involve a “public issue.” Philip Shelton, M.D. married Judith Shelton in 2001. During their marriage, the couple each owned a life insurance policy that named the other as the beneficiary. At some point, Mrs. Shelton was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatorenal Syndrome (as a result of alcoholism. In July 2011, Mrs. Shelton was admitted to Ochsner Baptist Medical Center for treatment and was soon discharged to Woldenberg Village, an inpatient assisted living facility. Mrs. Shelton died on December 31, 2011, at the age of 64. After Mrs. Shelton's death, Dr. Shelton learned that she had changed her beneficiary to her personal assistant/paralegal/friend, Nancy Pavon. In November 2013, Dr. Shelton filed a Petition to Nullify Change of Beneficiary, alleging Mrs. Shelton had lacked the capacity to execute a change of beneficiary form due to her poor health, including dementia, confusion, disorientation, and personality changes. Alternatively, he alleged Mrs. Shelton's signature on the change of beneficiary form was a forgery or had been obtained through undue influence by Pavon. In response, Pavon filed an answer and reconventional demand alleging Dr. Shelton's petition constituted defamation per se. Dr. Shelton filed a Special Motion to Strike pursuant to La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971. Pavon opposed the motion, arguing that it should have been dismissed as a matter of law because Dr. Shelton’s petition to nullify did not involve a public issue. She also argued that a motion to strike was not the proper mechanism to dismiss her defamation claim. The trial court granted Dr. SHelton's special motion to strike. The Supreme Court found the court of appeal was correct in reversing the trial court’s ruling. The Supreme Court held that La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971(F)(1)(a) required statements had to be "in furtherance of a person’s right of petition or free speech ... in connection with a public issue.” View "Shelton v. Pavon" on Justia Law

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Ron Warren, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Derek Hebert, filed a petition for damages seeking to recover for the wrongful death of his son in a recreational boating accident under general maritime law and products liability. A jury found the defendant, Teleflex, Inc. liable under the plaintiff’s failure to warn theory of the case and awarded compensatory damages of $125,000 and punitive damages of $23,000,000. The court of appeal affirmed. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari mainly to review whether the trial court properly granted the plaintiff a new trial and whether the award of punitive damages was excessive and resulted in a violation of the defendant’s right to constitutional due process. After reviewing the record and the applicable law in this case, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court’s rulings; however, the Court did find the award of punitive damages was excessive and resulted in a violation of the defendant’s right to constitutional due process. View "Warren v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co." 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

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During his second term as mayor of Jonesboro, the state filed a bill of information charging defendant Leslie Thompson with three counts of malfeasance in office by failing and/or refusing to maintain proper records and to supply them to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor; by taking public funds of the town to pay for retirement benefits for employees who were not eligible to participate in the Municipal Employee’s Retirement System; and by using public funds to pay for health insurance premiums for former employees. After reviewing the evidence, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the evidence was sufficient to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt as to Count I of the malfeasance in office charge; however, as to Counts II and III, the Court found no rational trier of fact could have found defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Pretermitting all other assignments of error, the Court additionally found the district court erred in denying defendant’s motion for a mandatory mistrial after the prosecutor directly referenced race in a comment before the jury that was neither material nor relevant and that could create prejudice against defendant in the minds of the jury members. Accordingly, the Court vacated defendant’s convictions and sentences, and remanded this case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Thompson" on Justia 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 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