APPEAL FROM 25TH JDC, PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES. NO. 13-00959, DIVISION " B" . Honorable Michael D. Clement.
Charles Joseph Ballay, District Attorney, Edward Robert McGowan, Assistant District Attorney, Belle Chasse, LA, COUNSEL FOR THE APPELLEE/STATE OF LOUISIANA.
Mary Constance Hanes, LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.
Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Paul A. Bonin, Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu. BONIN, J., CONCURS WITH ADDITIONAL REASONS.
[2014 0511 La.App. 4 Cir. 1]
Madeleine M. Landrieu, Judge.
The defendant, John E. Rivers, appeals his
conviction of second degree murder and life sentence. For the reasons that
follow, we affirm.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
On February 27, 2013, the State charged Mr. Rivers by indictment with second degree murder, a violation of La. R.S.
14.30.1. Mr. Rivers pled not guilty. Following a motion hearing, the trial court
found probable cause and denied the defendant's motion to
suppress his statement.
The matter was tried to a jury on January 14-16, 2014. Mr. Rivers was found guilty as charged. He filed a motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal and a motion for new trial. On February 5, 2014, the trial court denied the motions and sentenced Mr. Rivers to life in prison without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. Mr. Rivers filed a motion to reconsider sentence, which was denied by the trial court. Mr. Rivers now appeals.
[2014 0511 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] FACTS
At 7:20 p.m., on January 8, 2013, Mr. Rivers telephoned Sgt. Kirk Usey of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office and told him he wanted to turn himself in to authorities because he had killed his girlfriend. Mr. Rivers knew Sgt. Usey because Mr. Rivers had worked for him as a handyman in the past. Thinking that Mr. Rivers might be lying, Sgt. Usey called Greg Hijuelos, a Commander with the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office, who also knew Mr. Rivers. Sgt. Usey then called Mr. Rivers and got his permission for Cmdr. Hijuelos to contact him. Using Sgt. Usey's phone, Cmdr. Hijuelos called Mr. Rivers and spoke with him. Mr. Rivers told Cmdr. Hijuelos that at around 2:00 p.m. that day, he had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend, which had ended with him stabbing her four times. Mr. Rivers said that he was about an hour away from the Belle Chasse lockup in Denham Springs, explaining that after killing his girlfriend, he had driven to Denham Spring to see his son. Mr. Rivers agreed to meet Cmdr. Hijuelos at the Belle Chasse lockup at around 9:00 p.m. Mr. Rivers also told Cmdr. Hijuelos where the killing had taken place and offered to take him there. Cmdr. Hijuelos responded that he and Sgt. Usey would go to the location while they were waiting for Mr. Rivers to arrive at the Belle Chasse lockup.
After speaking with Mr. Rivers on the phone, Cmdr. Hijuelos and Sgt. Usey proceeded to the area where Mr. Rivers had said his girlfriend's body would be, and they found the body of Wendy Osborn down a small trail about 100 yards off Buccaneer Road.
[2014 0511 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] Captain Mark Plumer arrived at the location at about 8:46 p.m., at which point Cmdr. Hijuelos and Sgt. Usey left to go meet with Mr. Rivers at the Belle Chasse lockup. At the lockup, one detective conducted a pat-down search of Mr. Rivers for weapons during which Mr. Rivers emptied his pockets, taking out a Smith and Wesson folding-type knife, a cell phone and his wallet. Mr. Rivers told the officers that the knife, which still had blood on it, was the one he had used to stab his girlfriend. Cmdr. Hijuelos transported Mr. Rivers from the lockup to the detective bureau so he could be interviewed.
Detective Aaron Verrette first informed Mr. Rivers of his constitutional rights and had him sign a Waiver of Rights form. Det. Verrette and another detective then conducted a custodial interrogation of Mr. Rivers, a tape of which was played for the jury. Mr. Rivers said that he and his girlfriend, Wendy Osborn, had been in an argument earlier in the day because he believed she had been stealing his Vicodin pills and money. They continued to argue off and on as they drove to an area off Buccaneer Road in Belle Chasse to have sex. Mr. Rivers said it had been was a regular part of their lives to have sex in various places, such as state parks, and that they had gone to that ...