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State v. Baker

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 20, 2015

DONNIE R. BAKER, JR., Appellant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court. No. 314,919. Honorable Roy L. Brun, Judge.

Peggy J. Sullivan, LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, Counsel for Appellant.

DALE G. COX, JR., District Attorney, TOMMY J. JOHNSON, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.



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[49,841 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] MOORE, J.

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Donnie R. Baker, Jr., was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and carjacking for violations of La. R.S. 14:44 and 14:64.2, respectively. The trial court imposed a life sentence without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence for the aggravated kidnapping conviction, and it imposed a 20-year sentence at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence for the carjacking conviction. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively. Baker now appeals, urging three assignments of error. For the following reasons, we affirm.


Around 6:15 p.m. on April 19, 2013, Allison Copple brought her son to Broadmoor Baptist Church to help with an event for special needs adults and delivered some cookies for the event. When she returned to her charcoal-gray Ford Explorer in the parking lot, Copple noticed a man approaching her vehicle. She testified that she assumed the man was there for the church event, so she rolled down her driver's side window to assist him. The man looked around to see if anyone was watching, and then he dove head first into Copple's car between her and the steering wheel. Copple was still buckled into the driver's seat of her car.

Copple described the man as a black man, wearing dark pants and a black t-shirt, with a white t-shirt underneath the black one. He had close-cut hair and a small mustache.

She initially tried to push the man back out of the window and clawed at his face

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trying to injure his eyes. The carjacker yanked Copple's hair and [49,841 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] hit Copple in her face. She attempted to yell, honk the horn, hit the gas and/or brake pedals, as the two continued to struggle. Ultimately, the man gained control of the car while still sitting on Copple's lap. He drove the vehicle over a parking barrier toward Leo Avenue. As they left the parking lot, Copple continued to honk the horn in hopes that someone at the church would hear it. In retaliation, the man elbowed her.

At trial, Copple testified that, as they neared the edge of the parking lot, she heard the defendant say the word " bank," and she assumed her assailant wanted money.[1] She offered the man money in exchange for him letting her go and offered him her car. The man never took any of those things, nor did he take Copple's purse.

Leaving the parking lot, the vehicle crossed Leo Avenue into an alley behind businesses that front Youree Drive. Copple testified that her view was obscured by the man sitting on her lap. She continued to struggle, and tried hitting the gas and brake pedals alternatively to garner attention. This enraged the attacker, who pushed Copple's head toward the console of her car, twisting her neck and saying, " I'm going to kill you bitch, I'm going to kill you bitch."

The Ford SUV then headed south on Youree Drive toward Southfield Road. Copple continued to try to draw attention to her car by waving her hands out of the window, hitting the gas and brake pedals. She said the defendant told her to get her head down, although she initially thought he said to get her hands down.

[49,841 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] During this time, Copple said, she heard her cell phone ringing and heard a voice say " hello." Copple did not recognize the voice, but said, " help me," three times. The call was disconnected and then reconnected. Copple learned afterwards that the man had accidentally leaned on the steering wheel, activating the phone controls, and redialed Copple's friend, Kelly Hodgson, with whom she had spoken about an hour earlier.

The ordeal ended when the Ford Explorer veered into the parking lot of Clark's gas station at the corner of Southfield and Youree. Copple realized that this was her chance to get out of the car. She opened the door, but was held back by her seatbelt. She unbuckled herself, pushed the door open and slid out of the car, falling onto the concrete near the AAA Rental parking lot next to Clark's. She landed on her bottom, but hit her head on the pavement. The defendant drove away. People rushed to assist Copple, who testified that an employee of Clark's gas station came to her aid. Someone else brought her purse that fell out when she opened the door. Another person called her husband.

A Shreveport Fire Department medical unit arrived and transported Copple by ambulance to Willis-Knighton Pierremont Hospital. Copple was placed on a backboard en route to the hospital. CAT scans determined that she suffered a concussion and a neck sprain. Additionally, Copple had a bloody nose, a busted lip, a bruise on her forehead, bruised elbows, and a bruised left knee. She was discharged from the hospital on the same night.

Prior to her release, a Shreveport policeman took a swab of the inside of Copple's

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mouth and under her fingernails to obtain a reference sample of [49,841 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] Copple's DNA to distinguish it from possible DNA of the perpetrator. Copple stated that she had scratched the perpetrator while they were inside the car.

At trial, Copple identified the defendant, Donnie R. Baker, Jr., as the man who assaulted her. She similarly identified Baker in a surveillance video from Island Park, a residential community.

The entire incident lasted about 15 minutes. Copple testified that at no point did the perpetrator ask if she had any ATM cards. He never asked for any PIN numbers. He did not take her to any ATMs. The two of them never went inside a bank. Copple also admitted that she was unable to identify the suspect in a photographic lineup that she was shown two weeks after the incident. She explained that the photographic lineup consisted of six to eight men in small photographs with similar facial hair. She stated that those pictures are not comparable to seeing a live person. She testified that she has no doubt that Donnie R. Baker, Jr. was the man who assaulted her.

Copple's friend, Kelly Hodgson, testified that approximately 1 1/2 hours after speaking to Copple on her telephone, she received a second phone call from Copple. She testified, " I heard Allison say 'help me' three times," and she heard a man yelling, " Put your hands down, put your hands down." Hodgson called 911 from her land line. The cell phone call was disconnected, but a minute later she received another call from Allison Copple, but she only heard rustling noises.

Ms. Jamie Lester testified that she was stopped at a traffic light at the corner of Southfield and Youree heading north when she noticed a silver [49,841 La.App. 2 Cir. 5] SUV on the opposite side of the street stopping and going as if someone was pressing on the brake. She saw the SUV pull into Clark's gas station, still driving erratically. Lester drove around the back of Clark's gas station. Ms. Lester observed a purse fall out of the SUV, and then saw a lady fall out. She parked her truck and offered help. She testified that Copple appeared terrified. Her hair was matted like it had been pulled, she had blood on her face, and she had a big knot, the size of a golf ball, on the back of her head. Lester called Copple's husband. She observed the silver SUV jump the median to the parking lot, jump the median in the middle of Southfield, and continue to proceed to the left.

A store clerk for Clark's, Christine Bogosh, testified that she heard the squeal of tires and a woman screaming. She saw a truck coming at a high rate of speed. As the truck passed, Bogosh saw a purse fly out of the driver's window and arms, black and white, flailing. It looked as if two people were sitting in the driver's seat. Bogosh saw a blonde-haired woman come out of the vehicle. She testified, " I don't know if she was pushed, shoved, or if she jumped out of the driver's door." The woman landed on the pavement on her back, hitting and then bouncing her head on the pavement. The car sped away on Southfield, running over the median. Bogosh rendered assistance to Copple, as did at least two other ladies. Bogosh testified that the woman was shaking and crying and appeared frightened.

Alisa Laskey testified that on April 19, 2013, she was outside her home near Broadmoor Baptist Church " hula-hooping" when she noticed a man walking around the church's south parking lot looking into vehicles. [49,841 La.App. 2 Cir. 6] Laskey described the man as a

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black male with short hair, between five feet, seven inches or five feet, eight inches tall, 150 or 160 pounds, and wearing dark-colored clothing. Soon thereafter, she and her family heard yelling and screaming. The man was standing by an SUV in an altercation with a female in the driver's seat. She said he either jumped in the window or got through the door of the SUV. Laskey observed arms flailing; she heard screaming; and then, after approximately five minutes, she observed the SUV jump a curb. After the SUV jumped the curb, it exited onto Leo Street, turned right and ended up on Youree Drive. Laskey took a picture of the vehicle and called 911. The man Laskey saw in the vehicle was the same man she previously saw roaming the parking lot.

While he was driving south on Youree Drive, Charles Reed testified that he saw a vehicle in front of him at the intersection of Southfield and Youree lurch forward and stop approximately three or four times. When the car turned into Clark's gas station, he followed it. Reed saw the car door open and a woman screaming and struggling to get out of the car. She fell backwards out of the car onto her back. Reed pursued the vehicle traveling at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. Reed was able to keep up with the vehicle for some time, but as the vehicle made a turn at the corner of Horton and 70th, he lost sight of it. Reed returned to Clark's gas station where he observed Copple, who had bruises, dark discoloration and blood around her mouth. He informed the police of everything he had observed.

Later that evening, Royce Williams testified that he saw a strange man standing in an empty lot in the Island Park subdivision off Clyde Fant Parkway. As president of the homeowners' association, Williams became [49,841 La.App. 2 Cir. 7] concerned about it, and went home to retrieve his cell phone. When he returned to the lot, the man was gone.

The next morning, Williams received a complaint from one of the residents in the neighborhood regarding a vehicle parked in an undeveloped wooded area on private property. The vehicle was a grayish-green Ford Explorer with a car sticker on it. Police had the vehicle towed away.

Meanwhile, Williams checked the surveillance cameras at the subdivision's clubhouse to see if the cameras had captured anything. The cameras showed the same man Williams had seen the day before walking from Paradise Road to the clubhouse, knocking on the door and attempting to open it, and walking away. The surveillance cameras also showed a vehicle driving to the remote area mentioned above and a man walking back from that location. At trial, Williams identified the defendant, Donnie R. Baker, Jr., as the man he saw on the lot as well as the man he saw on the surveillance camera video.

On the evening of the incident, Detective Eric Farquhar of the Shreveport Police Department's Crime Scene Unit was dispatched to Willis-Knighton Pierremont Hospital. He collected DNA samples from underneath Copple's fingernails on both of her hands and he also swabbed blood on her left hand. Farquhar additionally took a reference sample, a swab inside of Copple's mouth. He then transported the samples to the North Louisiana Crime Lab.

Detective Farquhar also photographed and swabbed the interior of Copple's SUV that was located at the Shreveport Police impound bay on Greenwood Road. He discovered three areas that appeared to be

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blood on [49,841 La.App. 2 Cir. 8] the driver's seat of the vehicle. He also found human hair on the floor between the door and the driver's seat. Farquhar helped take fingerprints, but detectives ...

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