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State v. Vercher

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 6, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JOSEPH ERIC VERCHER

APPEAL FROM THE THIRTY-THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF ALLEN, NO. CR2013-2714. HONORABLE JOEL GERARD DAVIS, DISTRICT JUDGE.

Paula Corley Marx, Louisiana Appellate Project, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Joseph Eric Vercher.

Herbert Todd Nesom, District Attorney, Thirty-Third Judicial District Court, Joe Green, Assistant District Attorney, Oberlin, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.

Court composed of John D. Saunders, Shannon J. Gremillion, and David Kent Savoie, Judges.

OPINION

Page 741

[14-1211 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] GREMILLION, Judge.

In the early morning of June 29, 2013, Defendant, Joseph Eric Vercher, arrived at the Allen Parish Sheriff's Office and spoke with Frederick Stewart, an officer with Oberlin Police Department. Defendant advised the officer tat he had stabbed his wife, Rachael Vercher, to death. Following a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1, and obstruction of justice, a violation of La.R.S. 14:130.1. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the offense of second degree murder, without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence, and ten years at hard labor on the offense of obstruction of justice, to be served concurrently with the life sentence.

Defendant now appeals and asserts that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the verdict of second degree murder. He contends that he should have been found guilty of manslaughter. He also asserts that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the verdict of obstruction of justice. Finally, Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it permitted prejudicial, post-mortem photographs of the victim to be shown to the jury. For the following

Page 742

reasons, we affirm Defendant's convictions and sentences.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR NUMBERS ONE AND TWO

Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to establish second degree murder in the stabbing death of his wife. Defendant asserts that he was provoked into stabbing her. He contends that during their marriage of two years, she was physically abusive and that on the evening of the killing, after driving around on back roads in Allen Parish, drinking and smoking crack cocaine, she wanted him to drop her off at another man's house. He asserts that the facts [14-1211 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] establish a classic case of manslaughter because he acted in sudden passion or heat of blood when he stabbed her to death.

Defendant further argues that the evidence was insufficient to establish the offense of obstruction of justice, in that he reported the killing within a few hours of the incident, was cooperative with the police by taking them to the body, and pointed out the location of the knives he threw away after he dragged her body into a field.

Second degree murder is defined as the killing of another " [w]hen the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm[.]" La.R.S. 14:30.1. Manslaughter is defined as:

(1) A homicide which would be murder under either Article 30 (first degree murder) or Article 30.1 (second degree murder), but the offense is committed in sudden passion or heat of blood immediately caused by provocation sufficient to deprive an average person of his self-control and cool reflection. Provocation shall not reduce a homicide to manslaughter if the jury finds that the offender's blood had actually cooled, or that an average person's blood would have cooled, at the time the offense was committed[.]

La.R.S. 14:31(A)(1).

Obstruction of justice is defined, in pertinent part, as:

A. The crime of obstruction of justice is any of the following when committed with the knowledge that such act has, reasonably may, or will affect an actual or potential present, past, or future criminal proceeding as hereinafter described:
(1) Tampering with evidence with the specific intent of distorting the results of any criminal investigation or proceeding which may reasonably prove relevant to a criminal investigation or proceeding. Tampering with evidence shall include the intentional alteration, movement, removal, or addition of any object or substance either:
(a) At the location of any incident which the perpetrator knows or has good reason to believe will be the subject of any investigation by state, local, or United States law enforcement officers[.]

[14-1211 La.App. 3 Cir. 3] La.R.S. 14:130.1.

While Defendant did not testify at trial, the State presented to the jury two audio tapes of statements Defendant made to the police. The interviews were conducted on June 29, 2013, by Detective Peggy Kennedy, Chief Detective and supervisor with the Allen Parish Sheriff's Office, and on June 30, 2013, by Fredrick Stewart, an officer with the Oberlin Police ...


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