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State v. Thibodeaux

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 11, 2015



Paula C. Marx, Louisiana Appellate Project, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Mark Wayne Thibodeaux.

Mark W. Thibodeaux, Pro se, Angola, LA.

John F. DeRosier, District Attorney, Karen C. McLellan, Assistant District Attorney, Fourteenth Judicial District, Lake Charles, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.

Court composed of Jimmie C. Peters, Billy H. Ezell, and James T. Genovese, Judges.


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[14 1002 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] PETERS, J.

The defendant, Mark Wayne Thibodeaux, appeals his conviction of two counts of second degree murder, violations of La.R.S. 14:30.1, and one count of attempted second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:27 and La.R.S. 14:30.1. For the following reasons, we remand the matter to the trial court with instructions to complete the record by producing and ruling on certain pretrial motions.


In the early morning of January 4, 2012, officers of the City Police Department of Lake Charles, Louisiana, responded to a 911 call concerning a disturbance in the 1100 block of North Prather Street. Upon arrival at the scene, they first discovered the body of Bridget Tillman Pryor lying in the front yard of the residence of Joanne Browne, 1103 North Prather Street. After further investigation, the officers went into Ms. Pryor's home at 1110 North Prather Street and discovered a second body, that of Carla Yvette Ledoux.

The information derived after the discovery of the second victim led the officers to identify Joseph Newman as a person of interest in their investigation. The officers were able to ascertain Mr. Newman's address, and when they arrived at that address, they found Mr. Newman in his bed bleeding profusely from a number of stab wounds. Mr. Newman became the principal source of the information that ultimately connected the defendant to the criminal offenses now before the court.

On March 22, 2012, the Calcasieu Parish Grand Jury indicted the defendant for the second degree murder of Ms. Pryor and

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Ms. Ledoux and for the attempted second degree murder of Mr. Newman. Six days later, on March 28, 2012, the defendant appeared in open court with counsel for arraignment on the charges and [14 1002 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] entered not guilty pleas to all three counts. At the arraignment proceeding, the trial court set November 26, 2012, as the date for the trial on the merits to begin. On November 26, 2012, the defendant's counsel requested a continuance because pretrial motions had yet to be filed. The trial court continued the trial; ordered that all pretrial motions be filed within thirty days; set February 6, 2013, as the date to hear motions that might be filed; and rescheduled the trial on the merits for May 20, 2013.

Neither the defendant nor his counsel filed any pretrial motions within the thirty-day deadline, and no hearing was held on February 6, 2013. Instead, on February 19, 2013, the defendant's counsel filed a motion seeking to have a sanity commission determine the defendant's ability to assist in his own defense and the degree of his understanding of the proceedings against him. The trial court appointed a sanity commission that same day and set a March 20, 2013 hearing on that mental capacity issue. The hearing was subsequently continued to May 1, 2013, at which time the trial court rendered judgment, finding that the defendant sufficiently understood the proceedings against him and that he had the ability to assist in his own defense.

During the pendency of the sanity commission proceedings, the defendant filed three pro se motions: (1) a motion to quash the indictment filed April 26, 2013; (2) a motion to suppress filed April 29, 2013; and (3) a motion for a speedy trial filed April 30, 2013. However, none of these motions were ever considered by the trial court. Instead, the trial court minutes of May 20, 2013, reflect that the defendant was " available for trial," but the trial did not begin that day. Instead, the trial court minutes of the next day reflect that the state moved for a continuance [14 1002 La.App. 3 Cir. 3] based on the assertion that the defendant's counsel was involved in another trial in another courtroom that same day.

The trial court granted the continuance and reset the trial on the merits for September 16, 2013. Slightly over a month later, on June 27, 2013, the defendant filed a pro se motion seeking to have his appointed counsel recused. No hearing was held on that motion, but on September 1, 2013, the defendant's counsel filed a motion to continue the September 16, 2013 trial date based on the fact that he was withdrawing as the defendant's counsel and the newly appointed counsel would need time to prepare for trial. The motion did not mention the pending motion to recuse him, and it simply asserted that he was leaving employment with the Calcasieu Parish Public Defender's Office effective September 1, 2013. The trial court granted the motion for continuance and reset the trial on the merits for February 10, 2014. Six days later, on September 7, 2013, the defendant filed a second pro se motion to quash the indictment.

A September 16, 2013 trial court minute entry reflects that the trial court reaffirmed the February 10, 2014 setting, and also set a status hearing for December 9, 2013. The trial court minutes of that date do not mention that status hearing. Instead, the minutes reflect that on motion of the state, the trial court " refixed" the trial date to February 10, 2014.

Soon after the defendant's new counsel enrolled in September of 2013, he filed a second motion for a bill of particulars and

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a second discovery motion.[1] The state responded to these motions with extensive filings providing the defendant with investigative information.

[14 1002 La.App. 3 Cir. 4] A three-day jury trial began on February 11, 2014, and resulted in the defendant's conviction on all three counts. However, before the jury selection process began, the trial court commented that there were some preliminary matters that needed to be addressed, and the defendant's trial counsel responded to that comment in the following manner:

That is correct, Your Honor. On behalf of Mr. Mark Thibodeaux, he has objections to any introduction of any information regarding a mental health examination that he said he did not consent to. He has objections to a Motion to Quash that he filed in proper person stating that he has not received a response as it relates to whether it was granted or denied.
He has objections regarding a Motion to Suppress. He hasn't had a hearing on either of those two matters and he's objecting to the continuation of these proceedings without such hearings.

The defendant's trial counsel went on to assert to the trial court that when the pro se motions were filed, the defendant was incarcerated, but did speak to his previous appointed counsel concerning the motions.

The trial court's only response to the lack of hearing on these preliminary motions was that " [t]hose objections are noted for the record." Thereafter, the jury selection process began.

On March 12, 2014, the trial court sentenced the defendant to serve life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on each of the second degree murder convictions; and to serve twenty-five years at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on the attempted second degree murder conviction. The trial court ordered that ...

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