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State v. Hughes

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

November 25, 2014

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
EVERETT J. HUGHES

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ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 12-2370, DIVISION " C" . HONORABLE JUNE B. DARENSBURG, JUDGE PRESIDING.

PAUL D. CONNICK, JR., DISTRICT ATTORNEY, Twenty-Fourth Judicial District, Parish of Jefferson, TERRY M. BOUDREAUX, JULIET L. CLARK, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS, Gretna, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE.

MARTIN E. REGAN, JR., NISHA SANDHU, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, New Orleans, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.

Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Jude G. Gravois, and Robert A. Chaisson.

OPINION

JUDE G. GRAVOIS, J.

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[14-487 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] Defendant, Everett J. Hughes, appeals his convictions and sentences for second degree murder and attempted second degree murder. On appeal, he argues that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to sustain the returned guilty verdicts because the evidence supported a finding that defendant acted in self-defense and thus his actions were justifiable. Further, defendant argues that his sentences are excessive. After thorough review and consideration of the record and applicable law, for the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences, but remand the matter for correction of the commitment, as noted herein.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 3, 2012, a Jefferson Parish Grand Jury indicted defendant, Everett J. Hughes, with the second degree murder of Al " Darnell" Williams, in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1 (count one), and attempted second degree murder of Shane D. Petty, in violation of La. R.S. 14:27 and 14:30.1 (count two). Defendant was arraigned on May 7, 2012 and pled not guilty. On June 22, 2012, defendant filed [14-487 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] omnibus and pre-trial motions, including motions to suppress statement(s), evidence, and identification. A motion hearing was held on September 28, 2012 regarding defendant's motions to suppress evidence and identification, and the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress evidence. Additional hearings were held on defendant's motion to suppress identification on November 26-27, 2012 and February 22,

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2013. The trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress identification on February 22, 2013.

On September 24, 2013, defendant went to trial before a 12-person jury, which on September 26, 2013 found him guilty as charged as to both counts. On November 14, 2013, defendant filed a motion for a new trial and for post-verdict judgment of acquittal, which the trial court denied on November 15, 2013. After waiving sentencing delays, defendant was immediately sentenced to life imprisonment on count one, and fifty years imprisonment on count two. Both sentences were ordered to run concurrently and to be served at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. This timely appeal followed.

FACTS

Shane Petty, a victim of the shooting incident and the nephew of the murder victim (Mr. Williams), testified that he was present on January 2, 2012 when defendant shot and killed Mr. Williams. He also identified defendant in court.

Mr. Petty testified that he and Mr. Williams ran errands for the family that day, visiting several stores together on the date of the incident. He stated that they also visited the residence of Mr. Williams' fiancé , Rachel Durall, where defendant was present. While at Ms. Durall's residence, Mr. Williams and defendant had a " basic conversation" about Ms. Durall. According to Mr. Petty, he had no reason to believe that the conversation would lead to later violence between the two and [14-487 La.App. 5 Cir. 4] believed the problem was solved. Mr. Petty stated that after he and Mr. Williams finished visiting the stores, they visited the home of Mr. Petty's grandmother, Barbara Williams, who was also Mr. Williams' mother. As Mr. Petty left Ms. Williams' house, Ms. Williams stopped him and told him to let Mr. Williams (the victim) bring him home because Mr. Petty did not have car insurance. Mr. Petty stated that as a result, he and Mr. Williams left the house together in a vehicle belonging to Mr. Petty's mother, with Mr. Petty driving.

Mr. Petty stated that after leaving the house, they turned on Spruce Street, where defendant was standing on the corner. He testified that defendant " flagged" them down, and Mr. Williams told Mr. Petty to stop the vehicle. Mr. Petty stated that an altercation began, with defendant stating that he did not like what had occurred in their first conversation. Mr. Petty stated that Mr. Williams responded that he thought the first conversation was finished. The argument became louder, angrier, and more heated. Mr. Petty stated that Mr. Williams was angry, and both Mr. Williams and defendant elevated their voices. He stated that Mr. Williams attempted to exit the vehicle, and at that point defendant backed up, opened fire, and shot him. Mr. Petty stated that after defendant began shooting, he had to " run for his life" around the corner of the houses. Mr. Petty stated that when he looked back, he saw that defendant was shooting while running in the opposite direction.

Mr. Petty testified that he and Mr. Williams did not have a gun during the incident. He stated that only one gun was involved, and that defendant was the only person who fired a gun. He stated that after the shooting, he ran directly to his grandmother's house and informed her of the shooting. As he and his grandmother walked back to the crime scene, he realized that he had been injured. Mr. Petty stated that he did not enter the vehicle at that point. He explained that he was afraid to return to the vehicle because he believed his uncle had been killed, [14-487 La.App. 5 Cir. 5] and he did not want to see him in that condition. He further testified that he did not remove anything from the vehicle and did not see

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anyone, other than an officer or an emergency responder, remove anything from the vehicle. Mr. Petty said that he did not see the person who opened the car doors remove anything from the vehicle. He also testified that there were more than four people around the vehicle.

Mr. Petty stated that he provided a statement to officers and identified defendant as the shooter in a photographic lineup. Officers took photographs of his injuries sustained during the shooting incident, and he testified that the photographs accurately depicted his injuries. He testified that he never had any dispute with defendant and that defendant had no reason to shoot him on the date of the incident. According to Mr. Petty, he did not attack defendant, and instead, he exited the vehicle and fled in a different direction.

On cross-examination, Mr. Petty acknowledged that although the conversation became heated, he and Mr. Williams chose to stay during the altercation when they could have driven away. He also stated that Mr. Williams told defendant that if he had something against him, then he would have previously " smacked" him when they first met. Mr. Petty further stated that Mr. Williams was " furious" because he believed defendant was behaving disrespectfully to him during the conversation.

Barbara Williams, the mother of the murder victim, testified on behalf of the State that prior to the shooting, her son (Mr. Williams) left her house with her grandson, Mr. Petty. She explained that Mr. Williams was accompanying Mr. Petty to the house of her daughter, who was also Mr. Petty's mother. Ms. Williams stated that it was common for her family to drive down Avenue I to Spruce Street to exit the neighborhood and reach her daughter's house.

[14-487 La.App. 5 Cir. 6] Ms. Williams stated that within minutes after Mr. Williams and Mr. Petty left her house, Mr. Petty returned and informed her that her son was the victim of a shooting. According to Ms. Williams, neither she nor Mr. Petty called 9-1-1 on the date of the incident. She further stated that she walked up to the vehicle and saw her son lying inside. She explained that Mr. Williams' eyes were open at first, and when his eyes closed, she called her daughter. She also testified that she did not see Mr. Williams or Mr. Petty with a gun, she did not keep a gun in her house, and she did not know Mr. Williams to possess a gun. Ms. Williams further testified that no one brought a gun to her house after the shooting.

M.H., who was eleven years old at the time of trial, testified that on the date of the incident, she and her younger brother were in her mother's vehicle, which was parked outside of their residence on Spruce Street. M.H. testified that a man and two boys were talking while standing on the sidewalk. She stated that a gold SUV pulled up and stopped. M.H. stated that the passenger of the SUV and the man on the sidewalk began arguing. She testified that as the arguing became louder, the man standing outside the SUV pulled a gun from his jacket pocket and shot the other man. According to M.H., she did not see anyone else with a gun. She also stated that she was unable to see inside the SUV.

M.H. said that after the shooting began, she grabbed her younger brother, ducked between the car seats, and continued to peek. She also stated that the two boys on the sidewalk began running, and the driver of the SUV jumped out and also began running. M.H. testified that after the shooter shot the man, he ran to a corner,[1] shot " on the ground," and ran

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towards the back street of the neighborhood. M.H. testified that the driver of the SUV did not have anything in his hands when he exited the vehicle because he was pulling his pants up.

[14-487 La.App. 5 Cir. 7] M.H. stated that after the shooter left the scene, her mother told her to grab her brother, and they ran inside their house and locked the doors. M.H. stated that she later provided a statement to police officers. She explained that she was unable to identify anyone from a photographic lineup because she only saw the side of the shooter's face. M.H. described the perpetrator as wearing a black coat, having dreadlocks that reached down to the middle of his back, and having gold teeth.

On cross-examination, M.H. testified that she saw the vehicle that was occupied by the victims circle the street twice. She also acknowledged that in her statement to the police, she stated that she did not see " the guy run from the car." On redirect, M.H. explained that she was nervous, shaking, and crying when she spoke to the police, but that she really did see someone exit the vehicle. She also stated that she only saw one gun during the incident.

Chiva Lagarde, who testified for the State, stated that at the time of the shooting, she was inside of her residence on Spruce Street near the corner of Avenue I. She stated that prior to the shooting, she brought the garbage outside and saw defendant, Rashad Walker, and David Alexander walking towards Spruce Street. She explained that she knew defendant, Mr. Williams, Mr. Petty, Mr. Walker, and Mr. Alexander from the neighborhood.

Ms. Lagarde stated that she returned inside and was in her kitchen cooking when she heard gunshots. After the shooting, she looked out of her screen door and saw two people running. Defendant was running farther away from her residence, and the other unknown person ran through the field across from her residence. She stated that she was unable to determine whether either person held a gun because she was not wearing her eyeglasses at that time. Ms. Lagarde stated that after the shooting, she called 9-1-1, went outside, and saw people walking towards the vehicle.

[14-487 La.App. 5 Cir. 8] Ms. Lagarde walked towards the vehicle and saw someone sunken in between the two front seats. She testified that another female, possibly named Shandell, opened the driver side door and screamed. Ms. Lagarde stated that she opened the passenger side door because she was unable to see anything through the driver's side. She stated that Mr. Williams looked at her and made guttural noises as if he was trying to speak to her. She testified that she did not see a gun in the vehicle, but she was focused on Mr. Williams and not on the interior of the vehicle. Ms. Lagarde also testified that she did not remove a gun from the vehicle and did not see anyone else remove a gun from the vehicle. She stated that she saw Mr. Petty outside after the shooting, but she was unsure whether or not he approached the vehicle.

Sergeant Michael Nocito, a road supervisor of the Westwego Police Department, testified on behalf of the State that on January 2, 2012, he was the first officer to respond to a shooting that occurred in the 1000 block of Spruce Street in Westwego. Sergeant Nocito stated that he observed a black male in the passenger seat of a SUV. He described the victim as being slumped over the console towards the back of the vehicle and that the top portion of his shirt was " full of blood." Sergeant Nocito explained that after he secured the crime scene, he located the driver of the vehicle.

Keith Dykes, a former uniformed patrolman of the Westwego Police Department, testified on behalf of the State that on the date ...


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