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State v. Taylor

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 14, 2015


As Corrected May 26, 2015.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 273435. Honorable Ramona L. Emanuel, Judge.


PEGGY J. SULLIVAN, Louisiana Appellate Project, Counsel for Appellant.

CHARLES REX SCOTT, II, District Attorney, DALE G. COX, WILLIAM JACOB EDWARDS, J. AARON CRAWFORD, JESSICA DIANE CASSIDY, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.



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[49,467 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] LOLLEY, J.

This criminal appeal arises from the First Judicial District Court, Parish of Caddo, State of Louisiana, whereby a jury convicted the defendant, Marcus Andrew Taylor, of manslaughter, a violation a La. R.S. 14:31. After the trial court denied Taylor's motion to reconsider, he was sentenced to serve 30 years at hard labor. Taylor now appeals, and for the following reasons, we affirm his conviction and sentence.


On September 11, 2008, 18-year old Tavia Sills was reported missing by her mother, Vicki Britton. Two days earlier, Sills had left home with her ex-boyfriend and the alleged father of her unborn child, LaMondre Tucker. Sills informed her mother that Tucker was taking her to meet his sister. Some time after the pair left, Tucker strangely returned to Sills' home and told Britton that he had dropped Sills off at her sister's apartment complex. Unfortunately, Sills never came home.

On September 12, 2008, Mokojo Hill and her husband, Columbus, went fishing at a small pond near Legardy Street in Shreveport, Louisiana. However, upon arriving at the pond, Mokojo viewed what she believed to be a body floating in the water. After Columbus confirmed her fears, the couple immediately left the pond and telephoned police. The badly decomposed body was identified as Tavia Sills. Sills was five months pregnant at the time of her death, and Tucker immediately became the lead suspect in Sills' disappearance.

After police confronted Tucker with surveillance video from Sills' sister's apartment complex revealing that Tucker never dropped Sills off, [49,467 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] Tucker confessed to police that he had murdered Sills and that the defendant, Marcus Taylor, was with him during the commission of the crime.[1]

As a result of Tucker's confession, Detective Rod Demery of the Shreveport Police Department contacted Taylor, who agreed to an interview. Upon speaking with Detective Demery, Taylor denied any involvement in the crime. However, in subsequent interviews with police, Taylor changed his story and admitted assisting Tucker in the murder.

Taylor was charged by amended indictment with second degree murder on May 5, 2010. Shortly thereafter, Taylor filed two motions to suppress evidence: a buccal swab seized on September 15, 2008, and his statements made to police on September 15, 17, and 18 of 2008. In particular, Taylor argued that the police failed to obtain a search warrant for the buccal swab. As to his statements made to police, Taylor maintained they were not voluntarily and intelligently made because he is mentally retarded and lacked the ability to understand and waive his Miranda rights.

In response to the motions, the state filed a motion requesting a mental examination of Taylor to determine his mental capacity to proceed to trial. The trial court granted the state's motion, and Drs. George Seiden and Marc Colon were appointed to examine Taylor.

A sanity committee hearing was held, and Dr. Seiden, a forensic psychiatrist, testified as to his July 13, 2010, examination of Taylor. Dr. Seiden reviewed the

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following documents prior to his examination: (1) [49,467 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] Taylor's offense reports; (2) Taylor's school records; (3) interviews with Taylor's former teacher, his mother (Robin Taylor), and his girlfriend (Luwanda Walker); (4) Dr. James Pinkston's report; (5) an affidavit by Dr. Mark Dulle; (6) Taylor's social security records; and (7) a report by Dr. Victoria Swanson. The records revealed that Taylor had been in special education classes in school and had been previously found by Dr. Mark Dulle as having an IQ of 56. Taylor had not been able to hold a job, had a supportive home life, and had a girlfriend and two children. Dr. Seiden concluded that Taylor suffered from mild to moderate mental retardation and that his IQ was at the lower end of the classification for mild retardation.

Utilizing the factors set forth in State v. Bennett, 345 So.2d 1129, 1138 (La. 1977), Dr. Seiden determined that Taylor lacked the capacity to stand trial. Specifically, while Taylor understood the nature of the charge against him, murder, and the role of his attorney, he did not know how his attorney was to assist him at trial. Taylor also mistakenly thought that Sister Kathy Broussard, a mitigation specialist with his defense team, was his attorney. Additionally, while he understood the penalty he faced if convicted, Taylor could not articulate the meaning of the terms " jury" or " plea bargain." Nor could he define the word " witness," although he knew what " testifying" meant. Dr. Seiden opined that Taylor did not have the capacity to proceed to trial because although he understood the charges against him, his knowledge of certain specific details of the proceedings was lacking, and therefore he would have difficulty interacting effectively [49,467 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] with the attorney and following the proceedings effectively. Dr. Seiden also believed that Taylor would have difficulty concentrating during the trial due to its complex nature, and his confusion would be exacerbated by the fact that Taylor's criminal responsibility related to his actions as a principal to Tucker's crime.

On cross-examination, Dr. Seiden conceded that Taylor could be taught about his right to testify. Additionally, Dr. Seiden found that Taylor was not suffering any significant memory deficit that would interfere with his ability to remember the facts relating to the crime. In fact, Dr. Seiden noted that Taylor possessed the ability to inform his attorney about possible witnesses to assist in his defense, and with some difficulty, Taylor could also maintain a consistent defense and testify on his own behalf. Moreover, Dr. Seiden explained that Taylor's mental retardation was a static condition, unlikely to deteriorate under the stress of trial. Despite these findings, Dr. Seiden believed that Taylor would not be able to comprehend abstract questions in order to assist his attorney during cross-examination of witnesses.

Dr. Colon, a forensic psychiatrist and consulting psychiatrist for Caddo Correctional Center, and his fellow at the time, Dr. John Turpin, reached a different conclusion. Dr. Colon and Dr. Turpin reviewed police reports, mental health records and medical records prior to interviewing Taylor. The doctors inquired into Taylor's developmental, school, work, medical, psychiatric, family and legal history. Dr. Colon was impressed by Taylor's ability to recall his past experiences, which were verified by [49,467 La.App. 2 Cir. 5] Taylor's mother. Dr. Colon noted that Taylor received disability as a result of his mental and physical impairments (he had a history of foot and arm injuries), but did not appear to have any psychiatric issues beyond his mental retardation.

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Moreover, the doctors conducted a mental health status examination, to test Taylor's orientation, memory, concentration, speech and language difficulties, ability to follow commands and executive functioning capabilities. The doctors found that Taylor did well on the exam. Dr. Colon diagnosed Taylor as being mildly retarded, and agreed that his IQ was at or near 56. The doctors assessed Taylor's global assessment of function, or his ability to function independently, and found that he tested as being able to function independently.

Under the Bennett factors, Drs. Colon and Turpin believed that Taylor had the requisite capacity to stand trial. In particular, Taylor understood the nature of the charge he faced and could comprehend that if he was convicted he faced a sentence of death or life imprisonment. Specifically, Dr. Colon stated that Taylor told the doctors that he was charged with murder because he " was a part of the murder and did not tell anybody." Taylor was also able to identify defenses available to a criminally accused person, such as self-defense, and understood the meaning of the word " alibi." He also understood that if a person pleads guilty he admits to committing a crime and is punished by imprisonment, and if a person pleads not guilty then he proceeds to trial. Dr. Colon found that Taylor understood his legal rights, including his right to be represented by an attorney and his [49,467 La.App. 2 Cir. 6] right to remain silent. Taylor knew the respective positions of the district attorney, the jury and his attorney. Dr. Colon testified that Taylor could recall and relate facts pertaining to his actions and whereabouts, including those involving the crime. When ...

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