from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 15F13161 Honorable B.
Scott Leehy, Judge
J. SULLIVAN Louisiana Appellate Project Counsel for Appellant
STEPHEN TEW District Attorney Counsel for Appellee
G. JOHNSON CYNTHIA F. LAVESPERE Assistant District Attorneys
BROWN, DREW, and GARRETT, JJ.
a jury trial, defendant, Luke Jarrod Hust, was convicted of
two counts of attempted first degree murder, in violation of
La. R.S. 14:27 and La. R.S. 14:30, and possession of a
firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of La. R.S.
14:95.1. Hust was subsequently adjudicated a third felony
offender as to the possession of a firearm by a convicted
felon conviction and a fourth felony offender as to the two
attempted first degree murder convictions. Three consecutive
life sentences were imposed. Hust has appealed, assigning
four errors. Hust's convictions and sentences are
testimony at trial established that late in the afternoon of
May 21, 2015, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Agents Josh Harris and Scott Bullitt were in the Russell Sage
Wildlife Area in Ouachita Parish. Agents Harris and Bullitt
observed a Dodge Durango backed up and parked on the levee at
the Wham Brake boat launch. Agent Harris testified that as
the agents drove toward the truck, the driver of the Durango
started his vehicle and drove toward the agents as if he were
going to exit the park. Agent Harris explained that all
persons who enter the wildlife management area are required
to check in at the entry point, and all persons and vehicles
in the park are subject to search.
agents approached the brown truck and, through the open
window, spoke to the driver, Toby Trichell. There was a male
passenger in the Durango who identified himself as Clay Hust
(he was later determined to be defendant, Luke Hust).
Trichell and Hust got out of the vehicle to talk to the
agents. Agent Bullitt testified that the area is known for
drug activity; he walked to the levee where the Durango had
been parked and found no evidence of illegal activity. Agent
Harris conducted a field sobriety test on Trichell, but found
no evidence of impairment. The agents explained to Trichell
and Hust the park policy requiring that all persons to obtain
a registration slip at the entry point into the wildlife
Trichell nor Hust had a valid driver's license, and the
truck's inspection sticker was expired. Both agents
testified that they intended to allow the men to contact
someone to come and get them. Agent Bullitt stated that when
Trichell could not produce a license, he acted extremely
nervous. Trichell consented to a search of the Durango. The
agents found small plastic baggies and lithium batteries, but
no contraband. Trichell further consented to a search of his
person, which revealed no contraband. Agent Bullitt, after
observing Trichell, noted no signs of impairment. Agent
Bullitt asked Trichell whether he had someone with a
driver's license who could come pick up his vehicle; at
that time, Trichell was about to be let go by the agents.
Bullitt then walked to the back of Trichell's truck,
where Agent Harris and Hust were standing. Agent Bullitt
asked Hust whether he was in possession of anything illegal.
According to the agent, Hust threw his hands up in the search
position and turned to face the truck. Agent Bullitt
testified that he conducted a patdown search of Hust and felt
a hard metallic object in Hust's waistband which the
agent believed was a pistol magazine. This caused Agent
Bullitt some concern because where there is a magazine
"it could be a weapon." Agent Bullitt looked at
Agent Harris to signal that he had found something and began
reaching for his handcuffs. Agents Harris and Bullitt both
testified that when Agent Bullitt reached for the handcuffs,
Hust took off running toward a nearby ditch, and they gave
chase. While both agents pulled out Tasers, only Agent Harris
deployed his Taser, which did not disable Hust. Agent Harris
testified that just as Hust jumped the ditch and his feet hit
the ground, Hust pulled out a black handgun. Agent Harris
threw down his deployed Taser and "broke right" to
run around the truck for cover. Agent Harris stated that he
noticed two shots ricochet off the ground by his feet as he
ran for cover, so he pulled out his gun and returned fire.
Agent Harris testified that the first time he pulled his
weapon was after he felt the ricochet shots. Agent Harris
reloaded his weapon once he was behind the vehicles, and it
was at that time that he saw Trichell in the ditch with Agent
Bullitt. Agent Harris testified that Trichell yelled to him,
"Hey, your buddy was shot, " and Agent Harris
radioed for help. The radio recordings to dispatch and the
Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office were introduced into
evidence and played for the jury.
cross-examination, Agent Harris restated that Hust was
"at the ditch" when he pulled out his gun and began
firing haphazardly in the direction of the agents. Agent
Harris testified, "[Hust] was just on the other side of
the ditch and that's when I realized he had a firearm.
… He was pulling it out and turning over his right
shoulder looking back towards the direction of Sgt. Bullitt.
… He fired."
Trichell's testimony corroborated that of Agent Harris.
Trichell stated that as he was trying to call someone to come
pick up him and Hust up, Hust came running around the corner
and grabbed at his shirt, which caused Trichell to fall down.
It was then that he saw the agents pursuing Hust. Trichell
also saw the gun in Hust's hand before Hust jumped over
the ditch. Trichell testified that although Hust was running
away, he stopped and turned to shoot at the agents.
"After [Hust] had went across the ditch is when he
turned and started firing rounds." Trichell explained
that he was in the line of fire, so he was "laying
low." After the shooting stopped and Hust ran further
into the woods, Trichell saw that Agent Bullitt had spun and
fallen in the ditch where he was lying in deep water.
Trichell ran to assist Agent Bullitt. Trichell yelled to
Agent Harris that his partner had been hit and to call for
help. He then reassured Agent Bullitt that he was trying to
help, not hurt him, and Trichell held Agent Bullitt's
head above the water in the ditch until first responders
Bullitt corroborated Agent Harris's testimony and
explained that when Hust started running, Bullitt pulled his
Taser out, but when he saw that Hust had a gun, the agent
dropped his Taser without deploying it and sought cover in
the area of the ditch. Agent Bullitt testified that he
recalled that Hust jumped the ditch before turning and
firing, but he could not specifically remember Hust's
body position as he fired. Agent Bullitt stated that "I
just remember falling in the ditch." He knew he had been
hit and felt numbness begin at his waist and move downward.
Trichell came over to him and reassured him that help was on
the way. Agent Bullitt underwent several surgeries and is
paralyzed from the waist down. Agent Bullitt will be confined
to a wheelchair and require ongoing medical treatment for the
remainder of his life.
Mark Palmer testified that he responded to the call for
assistance that evening. He arrived to find Trichell holding
Agent Bullitt's head and providing cover for him. Deputy
Jared Benjamin testified that he also responded to the call
for assistance and located Hust later that night hiding
behind a brick column on the porch of his parents' home.
Hust, who was disheveled, coughing and throwing up, had in
his possession a .40 caliber handgun. A firearms expert
testified that bullet jackets found at the scene were
consistent with a .40 caliber bullet.
jury convicted Hust of two counts of attempted first degree
murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He
was subsequently adjudicated a habitual offender as noted
above and was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
Hust now appeals.
of the Evidence
defense argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict
Hust of attempted first degree murder because the state
failed to prove that defendant had the specific intent to
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 found the essential elements of the crime
proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560
(1979); State v. Tate, 01-1658 (La. 05/20/03), 851
So.2d 921, cert. denied, 541 U.S. 905, 124 S.Ct.
1604, 158 L.Ed.2d 248 (2004). This standard, now
legislatively embodied in La.C.Cr.P. art. 821, does not
provide the appellate court with a vehicle to substitute its
own appreciation of the evidence for that of the fact finder.
State v. Pigford, 05-0477 (La. 02/22/06), 922 So.2d
517; State v. Dotie, 43, 819 (La.App. 2d Cir.
01/14/09), 1 So.3d 833, writ denied, 09-0310 (La.
11/06/09), 21 So.3d 297. A reviewing court accords great
deference to a jury's decision to accept or reject the
testimony of a witness in whole or in part. State v.
Eason, 43, 788 (La.App. 2d Cir. 02/25/09), 3 So.3d 685,
cert. denied, 561 U.S. 1013, 130 S.Ct. 3472, 177
L.Ed.2d 1068 (2010).
Jackson standard is applicable in cases involving
both direct and circumstantial evidence. An appellate court
reviewing the sufficiency of evidence in such cases must
resolve any conflict in the direct evidence by viewing that
evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. When
the direct evidence is thus viewed, the facts established by
the direct evidence and inferred from the circumstances
established by that evidence must be sufficient for a
rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt
that defendant was guilty of every essential element of the
crime. State v. Sutton, 436 So.2d 471 (La. 1983);
State v. Speed, 43, 786 (La.App. 2d Cir. 01/14/09),
2 So.3d 582, writ denied, 09-0372 (La. 11/06/09), 21
absence of internal contradiction or irreconcilable conflict
with physical evidence, one witness's testimony, if
believed by the trier of fact, is sufficient support for a
requisite factual conclusion. State v. Gullette, 43,
032 (La.App. 2d Cir. 02/13/08), 975 So.2d 753; State v.
Burd, 40, 480 (La.App. 2d Cir. 01/27/06), 921 So.2d 219,
writ denied, 06-1083 (La. 11/09/06), 941 So.2d 35.
The trier of fact is charged to make a credibility evaluation
and may, within the bounds of rationality, accept or reject
the testimony of any witness; the reviewing court may impinge
on that discretion only to the extent necessary to guarantee
the fundamental due process of law. State v. Sosa,
05-0213 (La. 01/19/06), 921 So.2d 94.
R.S. 14:30 provides, in pertinent part, that first degree