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State v. Roland

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

February 27, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA, Appellee
v.
LIBERT ROLAND, Appellant

Page 559

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 560

Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 263,495. Honorable Craig Marcotte, Judge.

LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, BY: Teresa Culpepper Carroll, Counsel for Appellant.

CHARLES REX SCOTT, District Attorney, BRIAN BARBER, CATHERINE M. ESTOPINAL, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.

Before WILLIAMS, MOORE and GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 561

[49,660 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] GARRETT, J.

The defendant, Libert Roland, appeals his adjudication as a third felony habitual offender and his sentence of life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm his adjudication and sentence.

FACTS

Law enforcement officials conducted a lengthy investigation of Roland and an accomplice, Krystal Shantelle Egan. They would frequently rent a car, drive to Dallas, pick up cocaine, and return to Shreveport where they resold the drugs. On October 18, 2007, Roland was driving a vehicle in Caddo Parish when he committed a traffic violation. Law enforcement officials initiated a traffic stop. Roland led officers on a high-speed chase. Ultimately, Roland stopped and, with his cooperation, officers recovered approximately 133 grams of cocaine he had thrown from the vehicle. Officers also found marijuana inside the vehicle.

Roland was charged in November 2007 with two drug offenses: possession of a schedule II controlled dangerous substance, cocaine, 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams, and possession of marijuana, third offense. On the day his jury trial was scheduled to begin, Roland fled from the courthouse. After he was apprehended, he was remanded to jail. Later that same day, on May 6, 2008, Roland pled guilty as charged to both offenses, with no agreement as to his sentence, and with the understanding that he would be charged as a habitual offender. Charges pending in two other cases were dismissed. When Roland entered his plea, he stated on the [49,660 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] record that " Ms. Egan didn't have anything to do with this." We note that Egan pled guilty the next day.[1]

On June 30, 2008, the state filed a fourth felony habitual offender bill of information against Roland, alleging he had pled guilty to simple burglary on June 12, 1986, and was sentenced to three years at hard labor; attempted armed robbery on May 24, 2004, and was sentenced to 31/2 years at hard labor; and possession of marijuana, third offense, on July 31, 2003, and was sentenced to two years at hard labor. Roland waived the reading of the habitual offender bill of information and entered a plea of not guilty. The habitual offender hearing was continued numerous times. Different retained counsel enrolled on Roland's behalf during the continuances.

On February 5, 2009, the state filed an amended fourth felony habitual offender bill of information, which specified that Roland's second felony conviction was based on his guilty plea on May 24, 2004, to attempted simple robbery, not attempted armed robbery. The minutes reflect that Roland was present in court, but his attorney was not present at the time the amended habitual offender bill of information was filed.

Page 562

The state produced in discovery and provided to defense counsel all of the documentation to be used at the habitual offender hearing, which included the bills of information, minutes and records from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections pertaining to the predicate offenses. No [49,660 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] written responses or objections to the habitual offender bills of information or any of the documents produced pursuant to discovery were filed by counsel.

The habitual offender hearing began on March 12, 2009, and was tried over several days due to requests made by defense counsel. The state noted that it previously filed an amended bill of information charging Roland with being a fourth felony offender. The state called Gary Baird, a Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office crime scene investigator, as an expert in fingerprint analysis comparisons. Baird took Roland's fingerprints and compared them to fingerprints taken at the time of his guilty pleas in his prior offenses and determined that they were the same.

The state introduced certified copies of the minutes for all of the predicate offenses, showing that in each instance Roland had been advised of his Boykin rights. The state also introduced the fingerprints into evidence, as well as a " pen pack" showing the dates of Roland's discharge and then informed the court that the state could not in good faith submit that there was less than 10 years between the completion of sentence for Roland's first felony conviction and his second conviction on July 31, 2003, as required by La. R.S. 15:529.1. Therefore, Roland's 1986 conviction for simple burglary could not be used as a predicate offense. The state orally amended the habitual offender bill of information to charge the defendant as a third felony [49,660 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] offender.[2] The state argued that it proved Roland was a third felony offender.

Defense counsel argued, without any factual basis or legal support, that the habitual offender bill of information should be rejected because Roland was not properly advised of any of his rights during the sentencing hearings on the predicate offenses. Defense counsel had previously requested a continuance to obtain transcripts of the prior guilty plea hearings. Although this matter had been pending for many months, the trial court stated that the matter would be left open to allow defense counsel to obtain and review the transcripts.

The hearing resumed on April 27, 2009. Defense counsel argued that the 2003 conviction for possession of marijuana, third offense, was invalid because Roland had not previously been convicted of possession of marijuana, second offense. Although Roland clearly had two prior convictions for possession of marijuana, defense counsel contended that the 2003 conviction for possession of marijuana, third offense, should only have been a possession of marijuana, second offense. She argued that Roland had not been advised when he pled guilty to possession of marijuana, first offense, that he could later be charged with possession of marijuana, third [49,660 La.App. 2 Cir. 5] offense.[3]

Page 563

Defense counsel stated that she would file the transcripts into the record; however, she failed to do so.

The hearing resumed on April 29, 2009. At that time, the state clarified that it was seeking a multiple offender adjudication only on the defendant's conviction for possession of cocaine, 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams, not on his conviction for possession of marijuana, third offense. The trial court rejected Roland's argument regarding his 2003 conviction for possession of marijuana, third offense, noting that a possession of marijuana, second offense conviction is not a prerequisite for a conviction for possession of marijuana, third offense. It was sufficient that Roland had two prior convictions for possession of marijuana. The trial court then carefully reviewed all the evidence that had been adduced at the hearing and determined that the state had satisfied its burden of proof.

The trial court adjudicated Roland a fourth felony offender and sentenced him to the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Regarding his present conviction of possession of marijuana, third offense, Roland was sentenced to 20 years at hard labor, ...


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