APPEAL FROM THE FORTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 13, 82, DIVISION
"B" HONORABLE MARY H. BECNEL, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Bridget A.
Dinvaut, Orenthal J. Jasmin
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, KENNETH E. HICKS, III Bruce
composed of Susan M. Chehardy, Marc E. Johnson, and Robert A.
REMANDED FOR CORRECTION OF UNIFORM COMMITMENT ORDER
E. JOHNSON JUDGE
Kenneth E. Hicks, III, appeals his conviction for second
degree murder rendered in the 40th Judicial
District Court, Division "B". For the following
reasons, we affirm Defendant's conviction and sentence
and remand the matter for correction of the Louisiana Uniform
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 15, 2013, the St. John the Baptist Grand Jury indicted
Defendant, with second degree murder, in violation of La.
R.S. 14:30.1. Defendant was arraigned and pleaded not guilty
on April 16, 2013. On January 20-22, 2016, the case was tried
before a 12-person jury.
trial, Dontae Bond, Defendant's nephew, testified that on
the night of February 20, 2013, he was at Alex's Sports
with two friends. While having drinks and talking to people
in the patio area of the bar, he heard a gunshot. Mr. Bond
looked back and saw Defendant holding a gun, and he also saw
a man on the ground. He did not see anyone else in that room
with a gun after the gunfire. Mr. Bond identified the victim
as his friend, "Turk." He asserted that he and
Defendant were not together that night, but he and Defendant
were in the bar at the same time.
Bond testified that after the shooting, he and his friends
left. They drove around and then went to Defendant's
house. Mr. Bond stated that he spoke to Defendant and asked
him what happened, after which Defendant said,
"Don't say nothing." The police arrived
afterwards. Mr. Bond indicated that the police arrested him
in connection with the shooting, and he gave three statements
to them. He said he initially told them he did not know
anything, but ultimately he told the police what happened
because he did not want to be charged with a crime he did not
Lewis testified that on February 20, 2013, he also was in
Alex's Sports Bar. He stated that he arrived at 10:15
p.m., after which his friend, "Turk, " asked him to
give him a ride home. Mr. Lewis sat in the patio area of the
bar and waited while "Turk" helped his uncle, the
owner of the bar, clean the area. While sitting there, Mr.
Lewis heard a voice and then "Turk's" voice,
after which Mr. Lewis looked down for a second and then heard
a shot. Mr. Lewis testified that when he looked up, he saw
"Turk" spin around and fall on a table. A man, whom
he later identified as Defendant, turned around and had a gun
in his right hand. Defendant put the gun in his pocket. Mr.
Lewis explained that when Defendant passed by him to leave,
he brushed against Defendant. Defendant then turned around
and pointed a gun at Mr. Lewis, and Mr. Lewis held up his
hands begging Defendant not to shoot him. Mr. Lewis testified
that Defendant subsequently backed out the screen door,
walked to a car across the street, and left the scene.
Lewis recalled that Defendant was not upset and had no
emotional response after the shooting. He stated that he did
not know Defendant's name, but he would never forget his
face. He also stated that no one else had a gun that night.
Mr. Lewis was positive that Defendant was in the bar that
night, and Defendant shot "Turk." Mr. Lewis
admitted that he had seven convictions for possession of
cocaine and other non-drug convictions. Mr. Lewis insisted
that no one made promises to him for his testimony.
victim, Anthony Young, died as a result of the shooting. Dr.
Samantha Huber, who was accepted as an expert in forensic
pathology, testified that she performed the autopsy on the
victim. She determined that the cause of death was a gunshot
wound to the inner aspect of his left eye with a bullet going
through the base of his skull through his brain and coming to
rest in a fracture at the back right of his skull. Dr. Huber
stated that she retrieved the projectile and gave it to a
crime scene technician. Dr. Huber testified that the gunshot
wound was from an intermediate range of six inches to two
feet away. She further stated that the toxicology report
reflected that there was cocaine and alcohol in the
victim's system. Dr. Huber asserted that there was
evidence of recent drug use because there was "parent
cocaine" in his blood.
Michael Pugh of the St. John Parish Sheriff's Office
crime scene division testified that on the night of February
20, 2013, he responded to a call involving a homicide at
Alex's Sports Bar. When he arrived, he collected evidence
and took photographs. He identified the contents of the
victim's pockets, which included cocaine. Detective Pugh
stated that he searched Defendant's home but found no
guns or ammunition inside. He further stated that he searched
the Nissan vehicle parked in front of Defendant's home
and seized a 9mm Taurus handgun from the trunk and two phones
from the interior of the vehicle. Detective Pugh asserted
that he collected a Winchester .45 caliber shell casing from
the floor of the bar. He maintained that no gun was ever
found that linked Defendant to the crime.
Walter Stevens, Jr. of the St. John Parish Sheriff's
Office testified that on February 20, 2013, he responded to a
call involving a homicide at Alex's Sports Bar. His
investigation led him to arrest Defendant and Mr. Bond.
Defendant did not give a statement and wanted an attorney.
Mr. Bond initially denied knowing anything but later admitted
that Defendant shot the victim. Detective Stevens testified
that Mr. Lewis later contacted him and positively identified
Defendant in a photographic lineup as the shooter. He further
testified that Mr. Lewis also positively identified Mr. Bond
as being present at the time of the shooting.
Juan Watkins of the St. John Parish Sheriff's Office
testified that he interviewed Mr. Lewis in connection with
the homicide that occurred on February 20, 2013. Mr. Lewis
recounted the events of the evening in question to the
detective. Detective Watkins presented Mr. Lewis with a
photographic lineup, after which Mr. Lewis positively
Frank-Hicks, Defendant's wife, provided an alibi for
Defendant. She testified that on February 20, 2013, at 9:15
p.m., she contacted Defendant and told him that she was on
her way home. She arrived home at 9:30 p.m. When she got
inside, Defendant was sitting on the sofa, watching
television and eating. Mrs. Frank-Hicks testified that she
got in the bathtub at 10:00 p.m., and she and Defendant went
to bed no later than 11:00 p.m. She recounted that at
approximately 2:30 a.m., her daughter called and told her the
police were looking for her and Defendant. Mrs. Frank-Hicks
explained that she heard a knock at the door, and when she
opened it, officers were present. She further explained that
the police subsequently obtained a search warrant and
searched her house and her vehicle. Mrs. Frank-Hicks
testified that she told an officer that Defendant told her he
had gone to Alex's Sport's Bar earlier that day.
Stevens testified in rebuttal that when he went to
Defendant's house, he observed four black males
congregated around a Nissan Maxima vehicle, and Defendant was
standing right by the vehicle. He further testified that when
he informed Defendant that he and the other subjects were to
come with him to the Criminal Investigations Division for an
interview, Defendant wanted to notify his wife that he was
going to be leaving with them. Detective Stevens testified
that he believed Defendant knocked on the bedroom door to
awaken his wife, and she followed them outside.
conclusion of the presentation of evidence at trial, the jury
found Defendant guilty as charged. On February 16, 2016,
Defendant filed a Motion for New Trial, which was denied on
February 22, 2016. Also on February 22, 2016, Defendant
waived sentencing delays, after which the trial judge
sentenced him to life imprisonment at hard labor without
benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.
Subsequently, Defendant filed a Motion for Appeal, which was
granted. The instant appeal followed.
appeal, Defendant alleges the trial court erred by
prohibiting the jury from learning of the victim's
criminal conviction record, which denied him his Sixth
Amendment right to present a defense, and 2) it was an error
for the prosecutor to personally attack defense counsel in
closing argument by ...