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State v. Sims

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

February 27, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA, Appellee
v.
LARRY W. SIMS, Appellant

Page 596

Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 301,939. Honorable E. Joseph Bleich, Judge Pro Tempore.

LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, By: Douglas Lee Harville, Counsel for Appellant.

CHARLES REX SCOTT, District Attorney, SARAH S. HOOD, MEKISHA S. CREAL, CATHERINE M. ESTOPINAL, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.

Before CARAWAY, LOLLEY and GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 597

[49,682 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] GARRETT, J.

The defendant, Larry W. Sims, was charged with second degree murder. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years at hard labor. The defendant appealed. We affirm his conviction and sentence.

FACTS

In the early morning of November 19, 2011, the victim, Nelson Varela, was shot and killed in a trailer home in Caddo Parish. The residence was the home of a woman with whom the victim had a sexual relationship. She had left the night before with the defendant, leaving the victim at the trailer with her 11-year-old son, S.J. While watching television, the boy fell asleep on the living room sofa. He was awakened by the sound of a violent confrontation between the victim and an armed assailant who was demanding money. The victim was fatally shot. The child hid and, after the assailant left, fled the trailer to call 911 from a neighbor's home.

The police developed the defendant as a suspect. S.J., who briefly saw the assailant's profile, identified the defendant from a photo lineup. The defendant was arrested and charged with second degree murder. At trial, the defendant offered an alibi defense. However, a jury unanimously convicted him of the responsive verdict of manslaughter. The defendant's motions for new trial and for post-verdict judgment of acquittal were denied. After reviewing a presentence investigation (PSI) report, the trial court imposed the maximum sentence of 40 years at hard labor. The defendant's motion for reconsideration of sentence was denied.

[49,682 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] The defendant now appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient and that the sentence imposed was excessive.

SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE

Law

The standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the evidence claim is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Tate, 2001-1658 (La. 5/20/03), 851 So.2d 921, cert. denied, 541 U.S. 905, 124 S.Ct. 1604, 158 L.Ed.2d 248 (2004); State v. Carter, 42,894 (La.App. 2d Cir. 1/9/08), 974 So.2d 181, writ denied, 2008-0499 (La. 11/14/08), 996 So.2d 1086. This standard, now legislatively embodied in La. C. Cr. P. art. 821, does not provide the appellate court with a vehicle to substitute its own appreciation of the evidence for that of the fact finder. State v. Pigford, 2005-0477 (La. 2/22/06), 922 So.2d 517; State v. Carey, 47,650 (La.App. 2d Cir. 2/27/13), 110 So.3d 221, writ denied, 2013-0726 (La. 11/1/13), 125 So.3d 417.

The Jackson standard is applicable in cases involving both direct and circumstantial evidence. An appellate court reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence in such cases must resolve any conflict in the direct evidence by viewing that evidence in the light most ...


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