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State v. Armstead

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

January 28, 2015


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Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr., District Attorney, Andrew M. Pickett, Assistant District Attorney, Parish of Orleans, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE/STATE OF LOUISIANA.


Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Paul A. Bonin, Judge Rosemary Ledet


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[2014-0036 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] Following its reversal of our prior disposition of the criminal appeal of Randolph Armstead, the Louisiana Supreme Court remanded his case to us for consideration of his assignments of error, which we had pretermitted. See State v. Armstead, 14-1365 (La.11/21/14); 153 So.3d 998, 2014 WL 6775415 (on rehearing).

Mr. Armstead was convicted of the charge of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, a violation of La. R.S. 14:80(A)(1), and sentenced to ten years imprisonment at hard labor. See La. R.S. 14:80(D).[1] Mr. Armstead assigns six errors: first, that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the guilty verdict; second, that the trial judge erred in reversing his initial ruling which quashed the indictment on the grounds that the time limitation for the institution of prosecution had expired; third, that his constitutional right to confront the DNA analysts was violated; fourth, that the trial judge prohibited the introduction of statements by the victim's mother which showed that the victim had lied; and, fifth and sixth, that it [2014-0036 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] allowed the trial to proceed without the testimony of the victim and also denied the defendant's motion for new trial when the victim was available. Notably, none of Mr. Armstead's assignments relate to his sentence.

We have reviewed Mr. Armstead's first assignment under the well-known Jackson v. Virginia standard and, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the prosecution, conclude that any rational trier of fact could find that the prosecution proved each and every essential element of the offense of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile beyond a reasonable doubt. We have reviewed Mr. Armstead's second assignment de novo and conclude that the trial judge was legally correct in finding that the time limitation for instituting the prosecution had not expired. With respect to the third assignment respecting a right to confront the DNA analyst, we find that Mr. Armstead failed to timely object and thus failed to preserve that issue for our review. The remaining assignments we have reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard and are unable to discern any abuse of discretion by the trial judge. In addition, as we always do, we have examined the entire record for errors patent and have detected

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none bearing upon the defendant's conviction.[2] See La. C.Cr.P. art. 920 (2).

[2014-0036 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] Accordingly, we affirm Mr. Armstead's conviction and sentence. We explain our decision in greater detail below.



On December 10, 2010, the Grand Jury indicted Randolph Armstead for the aggravated rape of a girl who was under the age of seventeen years and, in a second count, for her second degree kidnapping. The Grand Jury alleged that the offenses occurred on November 18, 2001.

On September 25, 2012, the assistant district attorney amended the indictment so that the second degree kidnapping count was dismissed and the charge of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile was substituted for the charge of aggravated rape.[3] At that point, Mr. Armstead orally urged the trial judge to quash the indictment on the ground that the time period for the institution of prosecution had expired. Despite the absence of a written motion, the trial judge quashed the indictment on the same day that the indictment was amended. See State v. Armstead, 14-0036 (La.App. 4 Cir. 6/4/14); 144 So.3d 66, reversed 14-1365 (La. 9/12/14); 147 So.3d 162. The assistant district attorney filed a written motion for appeal, and the trial judge signed the order of appeal.[4] The prosecution, however, [2014-0036 La.App. 4 Cir. 4] asked the trial judge to reconsider his ruling. On reconsideration, the trial judge reversed himself and refused to quash the indictment.

On March 26, 2013, Mr. Armstead was tried by a jury, which found him guilty as charged. He later filed a motion for new trial, which was heard on May 3, 2013, and denied. The trial court subsequently sentenced Mr. Armstead to serve ten years at hard labor, with credit for time served. The sentence was to be served concurrently to any other sentence Mr. Armstead was serving. Mr. Armstead, subsequently, sought timely appellate review of his conviction.


Detective Clifton Neely testified to having investigated a sexual assault involving

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a minor victim that occurred on November 18, 2001. The officer was notified that the victim was at University Hospital where a sexual assault examination, which included a vaginal swab for DNA material, was conducted on November 19, 2011. The assault kit was placed in a locked refrigerator and later given to the police to be placed in Central Evidence and Property.

In the meantime, Detective Neely met with the victim and took a statement. The victim had initially told Joan Rooney, her attending nurse, that two boys, whom she named, had threatened and attacked her. The victim, however, told Detective Neely a different version of events. Detective Neely later had the victim take him to the area where she was assaulted. They first passed up the location before the victim later pointed it out to him. Detective Neely also spoke with the pastor of a church, which was located across the street from the site of the incident, [2014-0036 La.App. 4 Cir. 5] but he was unable to provide any information to the detective. Detective Neely testified that while the victim's description of the assault changed, her description of the assault's location remained consistent. Detective Neely testified that he was unable to develop a suspect because the victim's statements to him kept changing. The detective also stated that he spoke with the victim's mother, and that statements she made to him caused him to suspect that the victim's allegations of rape were unfounded. The detective administratively closed the case because he found the allegations " unfounded."

But, because Detective Neely was unable to develop a suspect, the seal on the sexual assault examination materials was never broken or tested at the time of his investigation. It remained sealed and untested in Central Evidence and Property until 2004, when it was sent to ReliaGene, a private DNA laboratory in New Orleans, in connection with a federally funded program intended to clear up the City's backlog of untested rape examination kits.

This matter remained a cold case until 2007 when the NOPD's Detective Francis Jarrott received correspondence from the NOPD's Criminal Investigation Division stating that there had been a CODIS hit with respect to this case. Specifically, the detective testified that he was part of the cold case unit assigned to investigate cases which received CODIS hits. The Combined DNA Index System, or " CODIS," is a nationwide, FBI-supported system of DNA databases maintained by national, state and local crime laboratories. Accordingly, Detective Jarrott re-interviewed the victim in November 2007, who stated to him that she knew the [2014-0036 La.App. 4 Cir. 6] defendant and did not have consensual sex with the defendant.[5] Detective Jarrott also testified that the defendant's date of birth was March 19, 1980, and the victim's date of birth was March 27, 1985. He then obtained an arrest warrant for the defendant and a search warrant to take a buccal swab sample from the defendant.

At trial, the prosecution presented witnesses who discussed the process by which fluid samples were collected from the victim, tested, and the DNA analyzed. The prosecution likewise introduced evidence documenting the chain of custody through which the fluid samples and DNA evidence passed on their way to being introduced into evidence at trial. Specifically, the prosecution established that DNA was extracted from both the vaginal swab and a blood sample taken from the victim, and the profiles from each were compared. A report on the findings was provided to the

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New Orleans Crime Lab and the New Orleans Police Department.

The report was discussed at trial by Angela DeLatte, a DNA analyst with the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab who was qualified as an expert in molecular biology and DNA analysis. Ms. DeLatte identified the DNA report she prepared concerning the two referenced buccal swabs taken from the defendant. She obtained a DNA profile from one of the buccal swabs and compared the profile with the results from the unknown DNA profile obtained from the victim's 2001 vaginal swab. Ms. DeLatte determined that the defendant could not be excluded as the donor for the 2001 DNA profile. Ms. DeLatte testified that the probability for [2014-0036 La.App. 4 Cir. 7] ...

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