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State v. Butler

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

July 29, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
CORNELL D. BUTLER

Page 1284

ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT. PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 12-3448, DIVISION " K" . HONORABLE ELLEN SHIRER KOVACH, JUDGE PRESIDING.

PAUL D. CONNICK, JR., DISTRICT ATTORNEY, Twenty-Fourth Judicial District, Parish of Jefferson, TERRY M. BOUDREAUX, THOMAS J. BUTLER, BLAIR C. CONSTANT, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS, Gretna, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR THE STATE OF LOUISIANA.

JANE L. BEEBE, ATTORNEY AT LAW, New Orleans, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.

Panel composed of Judges Robert M. Murphy, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg.

OPINION

HANS J. LILJEBERG, J.

Page 1285

[15-89 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] Defendant appeals his conviction for second degree murder and two counts of intimidating a witness. For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 19, 2012, a Jefferson Parish Grand Jury indicted defendant, Cornell D. Butler a/k/a " Poppa," with second degree murder, in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1, and two counts of intimidating a witness in violation of 14:129.1. On July 26, 2012, defendant pled not guilty to all three charges.

Defendant filed a motion to sever the second degree murder charge from the charges for intimidating witnesses, which the trial court heard and denied on December 20, 2013.[1] Trial commenced on February 18, 2014. On February 21, 2014, a twelve-person jury found defendant guilty as charged on all counts. Defendant filed a motion for new trial and for post-verdict judgment of acquittal, which the trial court denied on March 20, 2014.

On that same day, the trial court sentenced defendant to life imprisonment

Page 1286

without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on the second degree murder charge, and 40 years imprisonment at hard labor on each count for intimidating a witness. The trial court ordered all counts to run consecutively. On [15-89 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] September 18, 2014, defendant filed an application for post-conviction relief requesting an out-of-time appeal, which was granted on September 25, 2014.

FACTS

On April 18, 2012, Officer Kenneth Goodman of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office responded to a call regarding gunshots at 244 Church Street in Avondale, Louisiana. When he arrived, Officer Goodman observed the victim, later identified as Durrell Dearmas, lying in the driveway between two cars. Mr. Dearmas was unresponsive and appeared to have several gunshot wounds. Police recovered seven fired nine-millimeter caliber cartridge casings from the crime scene. Jene Rauch, a firearm expert, testified all seven cartridge casings were fired from the same weapon. Forensic pathologist, Dr. Dana Troxclair, testified that defendant had seven gunshot wounds and died from fatal wounds to his head, neck and chest.

The murder occurred in front of Arthur Veal's house. Through her investigation, Detective Rhonda Goff of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office learned Mr. Veal allowed the victim, Durrell Dearmas, to sell drugs in front of his house. In return, Mr. Dearmas provided Mr. Veal with drugs. Mr. Veal saw defendant in front of his house prior to the murder. Mr. Veal went inside and approximately five minutes later, he heard gunshots. Mr. Veal did not witness the shooting.

Shortly after the shooting, a neighbor, Darrell[2] Thomas a/k/a " Big Round," called 911 and stated he witnessed the murder. Mr. Thomas lived across the street and three houses down from Mr. Veal's home. At trial, Mr. Thomas testified that prior to the murder, defendant and several other people were on his side patio. Mr. Thomas went inside and later noticed everyone leaving, including defendant, who [15-89 La.App. 5 Cir. 4] walked to Mr. Veal's house. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Thomas heard a gunshot and ran to the bay window in the front of his house. Mr. Thomas testified he saw defendant shoot Mr. Dearmas several times. Prior to the murder, defendant complained to Mr. Thomas about ...


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