FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 515-118,
SECTION "C" Honorable Benedict J. Willard, Judge
AND SENTENCE AFFIRMED.
A. Cannizzaro, Jr. DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ORLEANS PARISH Donna
Andrieu ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ORLEANS PARISH J. Taylor
Gray ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ORLEANS PARISH COUNSEL FOR
APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA
Katherine M. Franks LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, KERMITT BERNHART
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Dennis R.
Bagneris, Sr., Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins
Dennis R. Bagneris, Sr.
defendant, Kermitt Bernhart, appeals his conviction on
manslaughter charges. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
February 21, 2013, the State indicted the defendant, Kermitt
Bernhart, for the second-degree murder of Christopher
Lambert. The defendant entered a plea of not
guilty. The trial court denied defendant's motions to
suppress the evidence, identification, and statement. On
August 20, 2015, at the end of a three day jury trial, the
defendant was convicted of manslaughter.
September 9, 2015, prior to sentencing, the defendant filed a
motion for new trial, motion to reconsider sentence, and
motion for appeal. On the same date, the trial court denied
the motion for new trial and granted the appeal motion.
October 14, 2015, the trial court sentenced the defendant to
twenty-seven years at hard labor, the sentence to be served
currently with any other sentence. It also denied the
defendant's motion to reconsider sentence.
the instant appeal was lodged with this Court.
following testimony was adduced at trial.
Lambert, the victim's cousin, testified that the
victim's parents predeceased him. She recounted that he
got involved with drugs after Hurricane Katrina, which he
used as an escape from his unhappy childhood. She maintained
the drug addiction caused the victim to live on the streets
until his death.
Lewis, the 911 call operator, explained the procedure to
record and identify all police/medical assistance calls.
Lewis identified the State's exhibit of the 911 call that
was subsequently played for the jury. Mr. Lewis verified the
call was received at 4:45 p.m. on October 19, 2011 and that
the record displayed the name "James" as the
Melvin Hunter said he responded to a 911 call about a
shooting in the 2500 block of Orleans Avenue. He identified
James Williams as the person who directed him to the second
floor of an abandoned building. Ofc. Hunter then discovered
the body of the victim on the bathroom floor.
Williams acknowledged he was incarcerated at Winfield
Correctional Facility on drug possession and distribution
charges. He described the victim as a friend. He testified he
had given clothes to the victim before his incarceration and
that the victim was wearing some of those clothes on the day
he was killed.
Theo Kent of the NOPD homicide division stated he assisted
Detective Ryan Vaught, the lead investigator on the case.
Det. Kent directed crime scene technicians in photographing
the victim's body and the interior and exterior of the
crime scene area. Det. Kent identified thirty-six pictures
taken the day of the shooting and the crime scene
technician's report. He also said he had the victim's
pants tested for DNA.
Cynthia Gardner, a staff member of the Orleans Parish
Coroner's Office, testified as an expert in forensic
pathology. She performed an autopsy on the victim's body.
Dr. Gardner relayed the victim suffered three gunshots to the
head and one to his right hand. Two of the bullets were
recovered during the autopsy. Testing of bodily fluids proved
positive for cocaine and heroin.
Ryan Vaught testified he was the lead detective in the case.
He instructed Officer Darryl Doucette to contact James
Williams, the man who placed the 911 call, and to canvass the
area for potential witnesses. Det. Vaught conducted two
interviews of James Williams at police headquarters on the
day of the shooting. The second interview came after Det.