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State v. Gautreaux

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 5, 2014

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
WARREN RAY GAUTREAUX

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF ST. LANDRY, NO. 11-K-5616-A. HONORABLE JAMES PAUL DOHERTY, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE.

Edward John Marquet, Louisiana Appellant Project, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR: Defendant/Appellant - Warren Ray Gautreaux.

Earl B. Taylor, District Attorney - 27th Judicial District, Jennifer Ardoin, Assistant District Attorney - 27th Judicial District, Opelousas, LA, COUNSEL FOR: Plaintiff/Appellee - State of Louisiana.

Warren Ray Gautreaux, Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA.

Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D. Saunders, and Billy Howard Ezell, Judges.

OPINION

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[14-594 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] THIBODEAUX, Chief Judge.

The defendant, Warren Ray Gautreaux, appeals his convictions of two counts of first degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on each count without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence, with sentences running concurrently and credit for time served. Finding no merit to the defendant's assignments of error, we affirm the convictions and sentences for two counts of first degree murder.

I.

ISSUES

We must decide:

(1) whether the trial court erred by allowing hearsay testimony not excepted under La.Code Evid. art. 803;
(2) whether the trial court erred in not allowing the defendant's attorney to ask the State's witnesses whether they had pending criminal charges; and
(3) whether the trial court erred in not granting the defendant's motions for a new trial.

II.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The defendant was convicted of the first degree stabbing murders of Youric and Mary Courville in their home at 231 Boudreaux Street, Eunice, Louisiana, on the evening of January 9, 2006. Mrs. Courville was approximately seventy years old, and Mr. Courville was in his eighties. Their daughter found them the following day. Mr. Courville was lying in front of the refrigerator, and Mrs. Courville was lying in the doorway of her bedroom.

[14-594 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] An autopsy by Dr. Collie Trant revealed that Mrs. Courville died as a result of an incised wound to her left wrist that severed the artery and vein. Other cuts to her body occurred postmortem. She had bruises on the left side of her face, under both sides of her jaw, under her chin, on her left upper chest and left lower chest, on the backs of her hands and fingers, and on her left knee; she had abrasions on both knees. Mr. Courville died from a stab wound to the left chest that punctured the lobe of his left lung.

Four or five blocks away, at 210 College Road, a trailer occupied by Kenneth Dupre caught fire on the night of the stabbings. Defendant Gautreaux was living at the Dupre residence at the time. Dupre allegedly called Gautreaux's ex-wife during the fire and told her his house was burning because Gautreaux had put a candle behind the recliner and caught the house on fire to hide evidence. Gautreaux's ex-wife testified that she received two additional calls that night from Gautreaux during which he admitted killing an old couple.

In March 2012, Gautreaux was charged by indictment with two counts of first degree murder. He entered pleas of not guilty. A notice of intent not to seek the death penalty was filed.

At trial in May 2013, the jury heard the testimony of three witnesses to whom Gautreaux confessed the killings, one witness to whom he confessed causing harm with a knife and burning evidence, and three other witnesses with whom he discussed plans beforehand to steal money and drugs from an old couple in the neighborhood. Many of the testifying witnesses had a criminal history.

Following trial, the jury returned verdicts of guilty on each of the two counts of murder. Two motions for new trial were heard and denied.

[14-594 La.App. 3 Cir. 3] In March 2014, the defendant was sentenced to serve life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on each count, to

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run concurrently. Oral and written motions for reconsideration of sentence were denied.

On appeal, the defendant asserts that the trial court erred in allowing hearsay testimony not within an exception stated in La.Code Evid. art. 803; in not allowing his trial attorney to examine the State's witnesses regarding the existence of pending criminal charges; and in not granting a new trial to explore pending criminal charges of witnesses.

III.

LAW AND DISCUSSION

TRIAL TESTIMONY

Trial testimony pertinent to the issues on appeal indicates that before dark on the evening of January 9, 2006, Gautreaux went to the residence of Holly Fogleman.[1] Fogleman testified that Gautreaux said he wanted to get drugs and money. When Fogleman left to procure her own drugs, Gautreaux was still there, as was Ashley Taylor, a sixteen-year-old runaway who was staying with Fogleman. Taylor testified that Gautreaux said he knew of a house with an old couple who had money and drugs and that it would be an easy in-and-out job for him and another guy.

Brady Fuselier testified that he lived eight or nine blocks from the Courvilles. He stated that some time after 6:00 p.m., as he was walking to the store, he saw Gautreaux who told him of an old couple they could rob for pain [14-594 La.App. 3 Cir. 4] killers and money. Gautreaux gave the location of the house which Fuselier said was about 200 yards away. Gautreaux asked Fuselier to assist him with the robbery. Fuselier said he was going home.

Charles Fontenot testified that he had known Gautreaux most of his life and that Gautreaux lived in Dupre's house at the time of the killings. Fontenot said that Gautreaux was at Dupre's house several days after the incident, and that, during this time, Gautreaux looked different. When Fontenot asked what was wrong, Gautreaux kept saying he could not believe what he had done and that he had hurt someone " real bad." Fontenot further stated that Gautreaux said he and Quincy Ceasar went to the Courvilles' house fiending for drugs and things got out of hand. Gautreaux said that he had hurt Mrs. Courville, that a knife was involved, that he and Ceasar had run back toward Dupre's house, washed off in a coulee, and split up.[2] Once back at Dupre's house, Gautreaux said he changed clothes quickly and deliberately knocked over a candle to get rid of the evidence, specifically his clothes. Fontenot testified that Gautreaux threatened to hurt him if he told anyone.

Robert Kibodeaux testified that after the murders, he was in the Eunice jail with Gautreaux and asked him whether he had killed the Courvilles. Gautreaux initially responded, " don't put me in that bind," but later admitted that he had killed a man and burned the evidence. Kibodeaux testified that Gautreaux said he was paid twenty dollars to help the man hoe; he saw a wad of money and went back that night to ask for more money. Gautreaux was refused, but while there, he went inside to use the bathroom and unlocked a window. Later when both were out of jail, Kibodeaux said Gautreaux showed up at his house, and [14-594 La.App. 3 Cir. 5] Gautreaux admitted going into the Courville house through the window and killing both victims with a knife and burning his bloody clothes in the fire.

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Jimmy Lee testified that he had also been in the Eunice jail with Gautreaux. Lee said Gautreaux admitted that he had done things he was not proud of; that he had met up with " Q" and they were looking for drugs and money; that they took care of business; and that Gautreaux ended up with a mouth full of rocks and cash in his pockets. Lee further testified that Gautreaux said he would not be caught because the knife was thrown in a house, and the house burned down.

Rita Labbe testified that she was briefly married to Gautreaux, that they had a daughter together and had ongoing visitation issues. On the night of the murders, Dupre called her, waking her up, and said excitedly, " My house is on fire, my house is burning." Dupre told her that Gautreaux put a candle behind the recliner and caught the house on fire " to hide the evidence." Labbe testified that during this call she heard sirens and people screaming. She testified that she did not get up or look at the clock, but she usually went to bed between 9:30 and 10:00, and she thought the call came after 10:00. Labbe testified that Gautreaux called about a half hour later, telling her repeatedly that he had " messed up bad." She responded that Dupre's house was on fire, and Gautreaux said, " Yeah, his house is on fire. . . . [b]ut something bad happened. . . . I did something bad." When Labbe asked what he had done, Gautreaux told her he had killed two old people.

Labbe testified that she did not go back to sleep after Dupre's phone call. Around 11:30, Charles Fontenot called her and handed his phone to Gautreaux. Labbe was questioned about Warren Ray Gautreaux's call as follows:

Q. And what did Ray tell you this time?
[14-594 La.App. 3 Cir. 6] A. That he was very upset and he just said, " I messed up, I messed up." And I said, " Well, why would you kill some old people like that?" He said, " Because I got caught."
Q. And did he tell you what he got caught doing?
A. No, he just said, " I got caught."
. . . .
Q. Did he tell you how he killed them?
A. He said he stabbed them.
Q. Did he tell you why he ...

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