[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appealed from the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Richland, Louisiana. Trial Court No. F201304. Honorable Terry A. Doughty, Judge.
JESSTY REESE, Pro se.
PEGGY J. SULLIVAN, Louisiana Appellate Project, Counsel for Appellant.
JOHN MCINTOSH LANCASTER, District Attorney; PENNY WISE DOUCIERE, KENNETH DOUGLAS WHEELER, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.
Before BROWN, DREW and LOLLEY, JJ.
[49,849 La.App. 2 Cir. 1]
This criminal appeal arises from the Fifth Judicial District Court, Parish of Richland, State of Louisiana. Jessty Reese pled guilty to manslaughter (La. R. S. 14:31) and conspiracy to commit armed robbery (La. R.S. 14:26 and La. R.S. 14:64). He was sentenced to 40 years at hard labor for manslaughter and to 35 years at hard labor for conspiracy to commit armed robbery. For the following reasons, Reese's conviction and sentence are affirmed.
Jessty Reese was indicted for: (1) conspiring with codefendant Cody Reynolds to rob Brandon Johnson in his home while
armed with a firearm on December 16, 2012, in violation of La. R.S. 14:26 and La. R.S. 14:64; and, (2) the second degree murder of Johnson during the attempted commission of that armed robbery, in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1.
Reese filed a motion to reduce bond, and a hearing was conducted. At that hearing, Officer Mario Turner, of the Rayville Police Department, testified that on December 16, 2012, responding officers found Brandon Johnson on the floor of his apartment on Coenen Drive, Rayville, Louisiana, with two gunshot wounds to the abdomen. According to Off. Turner, the investigation led officers to Cody Reynolds and other witnesses, who revealed the following information.
On December 16, Reese approached Reynolds with an idea to make some money. The two formulated a plan to steal marijuana from Johnson, and a 9 mm handgun and two masks were obtained to conduct the crime. Later that evening the two met up and went to the back door of Johnson's [49,849 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] apartment, where Reynolds said they could see Johnson, his girlfriend (Ashley Rudd), and the couple's two young children inside. Reese and Reynolds entered Johnson's apartment through the back door. Reese pointed a gun at Johnson, and a struggle between the two ensued. When Rudd tried to intervene, Reynolds stopped her and she fought back, pulling off his mask. Reese fired two gunshots and Johnson collapsed, dying in the presence of Rudd and the children. Reese and Reynolds ran out of the apartment. Rudd was unable to identify the intruders.
According to Off. Turner, during the investigation several witnesses were interviewed who had been walking through the neighborhood around the time of the shooting. Those witnesses reported hearing sirens and seeing two men, dressed in all black, run from the direction of Johnson's apartment and go behind a vacant house. Both men were soaked from running through a nearby ditch. Another witness (who lived close to Johnson) informed officers that he heard the gunshots and saw two guys, dressed in all black, running toward a nearby ditch. Officers found footprints around the ditch, but were unable to match them with the shoes later found in Reese's or Reynolds' homes.
Officers found two 9 mm shell casings at the scene, which matched the caliber of bullets that killed Johnson. The weapon was never found. Two stocking caps were found on the couch in the apartment--one with Reese's DNA and one with Reynolds' DNA. A large amount of marijuana was found in a backpack in Johnson's apartment.
[49,849 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] Based on a witness identification, Off. Turner located Reynolds, who related the sequence of events leading up the incident. He also identified Reese as being the coperpetrator and shooter. Later, when questioned by police, Reese denied any involvement or knowledge of the incident and told officers he had been at a barbecue in the neighborhood. Reese was ultimately arrested and charged by bill of information.
Initially, a jury trial against Reese was commenced. But subsequently, Reese informed the trial court that he had accepted the state's plea agreement, and he would plead guilty to the reduced charges of manslaughter, in violation of La. R.S. 14:31, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, violations of La. R.S. 14:26 and La. R.S. 14:64. At the hearing on the guilty pleas, the trial court accepted the facts as stated at the bond reduction hearing and accepted Reese's plea. A presentence
investigation report (" PSI" ) was ...