FROM THE TWENTY-SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST.
LANDRY, NO. 12-K-1661-C HONORABLE ALONZO HARRIS, DISTRICT
John Marquet Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT:
B. Taylor District Attorney - 27th Judicial
District Court Jennifer Ardoin Assistant District Attorney -
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Sylvia R.
Cooks, and John E. Conery, Judges.
E. CONERY JUDGE
19, 2012, Defendant, Joenell Rubin, was charged by grand jury
indictment with the May 21, 1988, first degree murder while
in the commission of the aggravated rape of Brenda Dupont, in
violation of La.R.S. 14:30(A)(1).
January 27, 2016, a 10-2 jury found Defendant guilty of the
first degree murder of Brenda Dupont. On February 18, 2016,
Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor
without benefits and with credit for time served from the
date of arrest.
now appeals his conviction and sentence, alleging two errors.
For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's
conviction and sentence. We instruct the trial court to
inform Defendant of the provisions of La.Code Crim.P. art.
930.8 by sending appropriate written notice to Defendant
within ten days of the rendition of the opinion and to file
written proof in the record that Defendant received the
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
jury trial began on January 25, 2016. The State's first
witness was Ms. Linda Nicholas, the victim's sister. Ms.
Nicholas testified that on May 21, 1988, her sister, the
victim Brenda Dupont, was living in an apartment that was
only about ten feet directly behind her own apartment. Ms.
Nicholas testified that on the afternoon before her sister
was murdered, Defendant was at Ms. Nicholas' home
visiting her daughter, Michelle. Ms. Nicholas stated that she
had an altercation with Defendant and kicked him out of her
house because he had brought a knife to her house. Defendant
claimed that he was just "playing" with the knife,
but Ms. Nicholas said, "We don't play." She
testified that she last saw Brenda that night before Brenda
went back to her apartment, around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m.
Nicholas testified that the following morning, she made
breakfast and sent her six-year-old son to wake Ms. Dupont,
but that they were unable to rouse her. Ms. Nicholas got
worried when there was no response by 11:30 a.m. She
eventually called the police, who discovered Ms. Dupont's
body and would not allow Ms. Nicholas to enter the apartment.
Nicholas stated that she knew Defendant because he went to
school with her children and liked her daughter, Michelle,
but that she did not always allow him to visit because he
liked to fight with her sons. She testified that at the time
of her sister's murder, she was living with her children
and a man named Dicker Ray Chavis.
Nicholas testified that she had not seen anyone go into or
out of her sister's apartment the evening she died,
noting that Brenda was married but was separated from her
husband. Ms. Nicholas testified that although she slept
around ten or twelve feet from the side door to her
sister's apartment, she did not hear anything because the
weather was stormy that night.
State's next witness was Rene Speyer, an employee of the
St. Landry Parish District Attorney's Office who was
previously employed by the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's
Office for thirty-eight years, including at the time of Ms.
Dupont's death. Mr. Speyer videoed the crime scene in
1988, and that video was presented to the jury without sound
as State's Exhibit 2. Mr. Speyer testified that the video
and a photograph showed the area between Ms. Dupont's
apartment and the fence behind it. There was damage to the
vegetation and footprints on the side of the apartment,
indicating that the point of exit was the bedroom window near
where the footprints were discovered, as the bedroom door had
been locked from the inside.
cross-examination of Mr. Speyer was mainly asking him to
identify specific items that can be seen on the video.
However, Mr. Speyer acknowledged that he never determined an
entry point into the apartment, that he did not recall seeing
any windows which appeared to be pried open or broken, and
that most of the windows had undisturbed items on the
windowsills. Mr. Speyer also noted that the only area of the
house, other than the bed, that appeared to have been
disturbed was a dresser drawer in the bedroom, which was
pulled out and overturned onto the floor.
Loretta Etienne, a twenty-two year veteran of the Opelousas
Police Department who is the current evidence custodian, next
took the stand. She testified that evidence is secured in a
combination lock vault, but that the evidence custodian is
not responsible for keeping investigative reports. Sergeant
Etienne noted that she has only been the department's
evidence custodian for about six months, and that she had not
even joined the force yet at the time of Brenda Dupont's
State next called Dr. Dawn Young, a professor at Bossier
Parish Community College and former Lab Director at the North
Louisiana Forensic Pathology Lab. Dr. Young was also the
Deputy Coroner of Bossier Parish for twelve years and the
Coroner for four years, from 1996-2000. She was also Dr.
George McCormick's assistant for twenty-two years, and was
accepted as an expert in Medical/Legal Death Investigation.
Dr. Young was Dr. McCormick's assistant during the
autopsy of the victim Brenda Dupont on May 21, 1988. Dr.
Young testified that the victim had defensive wounds on both
hands. Additionally, the victim had incisions on her chest,
neck, and upper arms, as well as a potential bite mark. She
also testified that a vaginal swab was collected which
contained semen, but stated they did not do any testing on
the semen to try and determine potential donors.
Young noted smear samples taken from the vaginal, nasal,
oral, and rectal cavities, were tested, and that sperm was
found in the vaginal smear, as well as occasional
degenerative sperm heads being present in the oral and rectal
smears. Dr. Young also testified she could not conclusively
determine whether or not the victim was raped or had
consensual sex, specifically stating that "[t]ypically
you can't [determine rape] from an external
examination" of a woman of child-bearing years. She
further noted that after Dr. McCormick performed the autopsy,
the evidence recovered was submitted to Patrick Lane with the
State Police Crime Lab.
Lane, a thirty-eight year employee and crime lab analyst of
the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab (LSPCL), was the next
witness to testify. Mr. Lane testified that he recalled
receiving evidence from Dr. McCormick and subsequently
transported those items to the LSPCL for testing. He also
enumerated all of the evidence that was submitted to the
LSPCL in this case. Mr. Lane also went through multiple pages
of reports describing fingerprint analysis done by the LSPCL
around the time of Ms. Dupont's death, noting that over
twenty people's fingerprints were tested against the
prints in the apartment. Mr. Lane then confirmed that
State's Exhibit 7A appeared to be a fingerprint analysis
form which indicated Defendant's fingerprints were tested
on May 25, 1988. Defendant's fingerprints did not match
any of the prints taken from the apartment.
next witness to take the stand was Mr. Jude Victorian, who
spent roughly ten years as an employee of the Opelousas
Police Department. Mr. Victorian testified that he brought
photographs of the bite marks on the victim to a Dr. Bill
Lagattuta in Washington, D.C., along with a cast of Clint
Thompson'steeth. Dr. Lagattuta, an expert in
odontology, did not believe Mr. Thompson's teeth matched
the marks on the victim. Mr. Victorian further testified that
he could not recall specifics of what he did during the
course of the investigation or who he interviewed, but that
he would have written reports that would have been included
in the case file.
State's next witness was Mr. Ronnie Trahan, a St. Landry
Parish Sheriff's Office employee who was previously with
the Opelousas Police Department for twenty-eight years,
including May 1988. Mr. Trahan testified that a few years
after Ms. Dupont's death, he spoke with Dr. Lagattuta at
his office in Baton Rouge while retrieving evidence that was
still in Dr. Lagattuta's possession. Mr. Trahan testified
that Dr. Lagattuta informed him that he was never able to
make a match between the photos submitted and Clint
Thompson's teeth. Mr. Trahan stated that he did not
actually retrieve any evidence from Dr. Lagattuta, as the
evidence had already been returned to Mr. Victorian, and that
he did not recall writing a report on his trip for the case
file. Mr. Trahan remembers speaking with Defendant and Mr.
Dicker Chavis during the investigation, but is not clear who
else, if anyone, he spoke to in connection with this case.
State then called Mr. George Schiro, the lab director at
Scales Biological Laboratory in Mississippi, who previously
worked for the Acadiana Crime Lab, the Louisiana State Police
Crime Lab, and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office
Crime Lab. It was stipulated that Mr. Schiro is an expert in
forensic science with specialties in serology and DNA
analysis. Mr. Schiro testified that "[i]n 1988 there
were no public crime laboratories doing DNA in the state and
I'm not sure if there was a private lab called Gentest
but I don't recall if they had started in 1988." Mr.
Schiro noted that in 1988, DNA testing was not commonly used
by Louisiana law enforcement and that they were essentially
limited to blood-typing and cross-referencing a small number
of genetic markers. Mr. Schiro testified that in 2012 during
the cold case investigation, they discovered a DNA profile in
the vaginal swab taken from the victim, which was
subsequently found to be a match to the DNA profile provided
by Defendant. He testified that "the probability of
selecting an unrelated individual was approximately one in
thirteen billion." He further testified that by testing
the Y-chromosome of the seminal fluid found, the chance of
incorrectly identifying Defendant was about one in three
hundred billion, barring identical twins.
Schiro testified, much like Dr. Young, that there was no way
to conclusively tell whether the sexual intercourse between
Defendant and Brenda Dupont was consensual or rape. Mr.
Schiro noted that, based on the presence of acid phosphates
and a protein called P30, they determined that there was
seminal fluid on the rectal swabs, however, there were no
spermatozoa present, whereas they found sperm heads on the
vaginal swab. Mr. Schiro noted that studies have found sperm
can survive for as long as nineteen days in the female
cervix, and specifically noted that "there's really
no, no way to time when the sperm got there; how long
it's been there or anything like that." Mr. Schiro
also acknowledged that there were other items which had been
tested for DNA evidence:
We had already run the other test on some of those other
items that had generated profiles and those were put into
CODIS. So, we already had unknown profiles that were in
CODIS. Just because they didn't match anyone we, there
[sic] was no point in going further ...