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State v. Stephens

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 20, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA, Appellee
v.
SPENCER VARDAMAN STEPHENS, Appellant

Page 1169

Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 314,194. Honorable Craig Marcotte, Judge.

LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, By: Carey J. Ellis, III, Counsel for Appellant.

DALE G. COX, District Attorney, JESSICA D. CASSIDY, JANET L. SILVIE, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.

Before WILLIAMS, DREW, and GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1170

[49,680 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] GARRETT, J.

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Spencer Vardaman Stephens, was convicted as charged of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The trial court sentenced the defendant to 12 years at hard labor, the first 10 years to be served without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. A fine of $1,000 was also imposed. The defendant appeals, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to convict him. We affirm the defendant's conviction. However, we vacate the defendant's sentence and remand for resentencing.

FACTS

On March 18, 2013, two law enforcement officers from the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office (CPSO) observed the defendant and his brother, Eric Stephens, sitting in a car belonging to their older brother, Sebraun[1] Stephens, in a driveway by a vacant lot in the Mooretown neighborhood in Shreveport. Eric was seated in the driver's seat while the defendant, who is paralyzed from the waist down, was in the front passenger seat. As they approached the car from the rear, one of the officers saw an empty gun holster on the back seat. After detecting the smell of marijuana when Eric opened his door, the officers ordered the men out of the car. After the officers were informed of the defendant's disability, his wheelchair was retrieved from the car trunk by Eric and one of the officers. A pat-down search revealed a small amount of marijuana in the defendant's pocket. After the men were removed from the vehicle, a loaded .380 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and a small weighing scale were found just under the front passenger seat. [49,680 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] After determining that the defendant had previously been convicted of possession of cocaine, the officers arrested him on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

In February 2014, the defendant, who was represented by retained counsel, was convicted as charged by a jury. His motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal and two motions for new trial were denied. Additionally denied was his motion in arrest of judgment. After obtaining a presentence investigation report, the trial court sentenced the defendant to 12 years at hard labor; it ordered that 10 years of that sentence be served without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. The defendant was also ordered to pay a fine of $1,000, plus court costs, to be paid through Inmate Banking, or, in lieu of payment, to serve 60 days in the parish jail.

The defendant appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him.

SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE

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 ...


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