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State v. Gaspard

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit

January 15, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
CHARLES GASPARD

On Appeal from the 23rd Judicial District Court, In and for Assumption Parish, State of Louisiana. Trial Court No. 08-199. The Honorable Jessie M. LeBlanc, Judge Presiding.

Page 408

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 409

Ricky L. Babin, District Attorney, Donaldsonville, Louisiana and Thomas Daniel Daigle, Assistant District Attorney, Napoleonville, Louisiana and Donald D. Candell, Assistant District Attorney, Gonzales, Louisiana, Attorneys for Plaintiff/Appellee, State of Louisiana.

Frederick Kroenke, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Defendant/Appellant, Charles Gaspard.

BEFORE: McDONALD, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE,[1] JJ. McDonald, J. concurs.

OPINION

Page 410

    [2014 0903 La.App. 1');">0903 La.App. 1 Cir 2] CRAIN, J.

The defendant, Charles Gaspard, was found guilty as charged of second degree murder after pleading not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, and was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The defendant appealed and this court found no merit in his argument that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction.[2] State v. Gaspard, 11-2098 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/28/12), 2012 WL 6737838, p.3. However, this court held that the defendant could not simply withdraw the request for a sanity hearing once invoked and, as such, the trial court erred in allowing the matter to proceed to trial without holding a contradictory hearing to decide the issue of the defendant's mental capacity to proceed. Accordingly, we conditionally affirmed the defendant's conviction and sentence, and remanded to the trial court to determine if there was sufficient evidence to make a meaningful determination of the defendant's competence at the time of his trial, and if so, to hold a nunc pro tunc hearing and make a competency ruling. Gaspard, 2012 WL 6737838 at pp. 5-6.

Page 411

On remand, the trial court found there was sufficient information to make a meaningful determination of the defendant's competency at the time of trial, then conducted a nunc pro tunc hearing and found that the defendant was competent to stand trial. The defendant has again appealed. We affirm the conviction and sentence.

WHETHER THERE WAS SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO CONDUCT A NUNC PRO TUNC HEARING

The defendant argues that the trial court erred in ruling there was sufficient evidence available to make a meaningful determination of his competency [2014 0903 La.App. 1');">0903 La.App. 1 Cir 3] " retroactive to the trial date." According to the defendant, the dynamic nature of his illness made it impossible to determine, in 2014, if he was competent during his trial, which was held in 2010.

If the trial court abuses its discretion in failing to investigate a defendant's claims of incompetency before trial, a nunc pro tunc hearing on the issue of competency may be allowed if a meaningful inquiry into the defendant's competency can still be had. See State v. Snyder, 98-1078 (La. 4/14/99), 750 So.2d 832, 855. A meaningful determination is possible where the state of the record, together with such additional evidence as may be relevant and available, permits an accurate assessment of the defendant's condition at the time of the original state proceedings. Id. It is the State's burden to show the court that the tools for making a rational decision on competency are available. Id. Whether a trial court can hold a meaningful retrospective competency hearing is necessarily decided on a case-by-case basis, and the trial court is in the best position to make that determination. Id. This includes consideration of the existence of contemporaneous medical evidence, the recollections of non-experts who had the opportunity to interact with the defendant during the relevant period, statements by the defendant in the trial transcript, and the existence of medical records. If sufficient contemporaneous information is available, the passage of time is not an insurmountable obstacle. Id.

At the February 5, 2014 hearing to determine if a nunc pro tunc competency hearing was possible, the State introduced into evidence the entire record of the proceedings, which included the transcript of the hearing on the defendant's motion to recuse Judge Jane Triche-Milazzo that was conducted by Judge Alvin Turner, Jr. on August 4, 2010, the first day of trial. That transcript included extensive testimony by the defendant (on both direct and cross examination), discussion between Judge Turner and the defendant, as well as testimony by Judge Triche-Milazzo.

[2014 0903 La.App. 1');">0903 La.App. 1 Cir 4] The State specifically offered the reports of Doctors Thomas C. Fain, Charles P. Vosburg, and Clay Kelly, who had been appointed to a sanity commission in 2009, evaluated the defendant before the trial court allowed him to rescind the commission, and submitted their reports to the court. In his report, Dr. Fain concluded that the defendant was capable of assisting his attorney and participating in his own defense, and that the defendant more likely than not knew right from wrong at the time of the crime. Dr. Fain further opined, " [t]here is nothing in his presentation to suggest any aberration in mental state that he cannot logically choose his own fate, when alternatives are clearly explained to him." [2014 0903 La.App. 1');">0903 La.App. 1 Cir 5] Doctors ...


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