FROM THE TENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
NATCHITOCHES, NO. C 20957 HONORABLE DESIREE DYESS, DISTRICT
BillyJoe Harrington District Attorney State of Louisiana
Parish of Natchitoches COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: State
J. Sullivan Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Earnest G. Hamilton
composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, John E. Conery, and D. Kent
KENT SAVOIE JUDGE
Earnest Hamilton was indicted on December 19, 2013, for
aggravated rape, a violation of La.R.S. 14:42. On October 13,
2015, Defendant filed a "Motion to Have Attorney Jason
Methvene [sic] Fired." A hearing was held on October 16,
2015, following which the trial court denied the motion in
open court. Trial commenced on January 25, 2016, and on
January 26, 2016, the jury found Defendant guilty as charged.
Defendant was sentenced on February 25, 2016, to life
imprisonment without the benefit of parole, probation, or
suspension of sentence.
has perfected a timely appeal, wherein he alleges two
assignments of error: 1) The trial court erred in not
conducting a sufficient inquiry into the allegations
regarding a clear conflict which existed between Defendant
and defense counsel and then replacing him; and 2) The trial
court erred in failing to grant challenges for cause made by
following reasons, the Defendant's assignments of error
are without merit. Defendant's conviction and sentence
whose date of birth is October 29, 1977, had sexual
intercourse between the dates of July 1, 2013, and July 5,
2013, with B.H, whose date of birth is January 10,
2002. The victim became pregnant and delivered a
baby boy on March 20, 2014. At trial, B.H. testified that her
uncle, Defendant, had sexual intercourse with her when she
was eleven years of age. DNA samples were taken from
Defendant, the victim, and the child, and they were submitted
for analysis. The results showed that Defendant could not be
excluded as the biological father. The paternity index
"indicated that Earnest Hamilton was 418 billion times
more likely to be the father" of the child than
"another randomly selected male."
accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, all appeals are
reviewed for errors patent on the face of the record. After a
review of the record, we find no errors patent.
OF ERROR NUMBER ONE
brief, Defendant asserts that the trial court failed to make
a sufficient inquiry into his assertion that defense counsel
should have been removed from his case. Defendant filed a pro
se motion requesting the trial court have defense counsel,
Mr. Methvin, replaced. In his motion to fire defense counsel,
he alleged that when defense counsel came to see him in jail,
defense counsel told him that his trial date was October 19,
2015; that he would be found guilty of aggravated rape;
"[a]nd that the Assistant District Attorney Billy Jo
Harrington [h]ad [t]old Mr. Melvine [sic] not to do
[a]nything to help the Plaintiff[.]" Defendant asserted
that defense counsel did no investigation of the case and
filed none of the motions Defendant wanted him to file.
hearing, the following conversation ensued between the trial
court and Defendant:
THE COURT: Mr. Hamilton, you filed a motion to have Attorney
Jason Methvin fired?
MR. HAMILTON: Yes ma'am.
THE COURT: On what basis sir?
MR. HAMILTON: I mean, ya'll [sic] should see this here. I
mean he ain't, after two years, almost two years it [sic]
coming straight to my trial.
THE COURT: Okay I don't really, I don't understand
what you just said, how that effects [sic] this at all.
MR. HAMILTON: How it don't [sic] effect [sic] it?"
THE COURT: Well has Mr. Methvin given you all the discovery
that's [sic] been given to him?
MR. HAMILTON: Yeah, what a week before we go to trial?
THE COURT: Well, when did he receive it? Do you have anything
to defend it?
MR. HAMILTON: Ya'll [sic]do what ya'll [sic] want to
THE COURT: No, Mr. Hamilton, come back here. Mr. Hamilton,
come back here.
MR. HAMILTON: You can't make me talk to you.
THE COURT: You filed the motion sir.
MR. HAMILTON: Are you [sic] grant it or you not? I'm not
going to no trial with no f_ _ king Jason Methvin.
THE COURT: Uh, he is held in contempt. Ten days in lock down.
You're not gonna [sic] cuss in my courtroom.
MR. HAMILTON: Suck my d_ _k b_ _ _h.
concluded the hearing on the motion. The trial court denied
abandoned any further presentation of evidence on his motion
by stating, "Ya'll [sic] do what ya'll [sic]
want to do man." He was uncooperative, disrespectful and
eventually had to be escorted out of the courtroom.
Furthermore, Defendant did not meet his burden of proof. He
did not enter any evidence into the record to support his
claim. In his pro se motion, Defendant did not state what
further investigation defense counsel should have conducted
or what defense counsel would have found had he investigated
further. Nor did Defendant indicate what motions defense
counsel should have filed. In brief to this court, there was
no discussion as to what further investigation was necessary
or what motions Mr. Methvin should have filed.
brief, Defendant raises the concern of ineffective assistance
of counsel. He states:
In this case, it is clear Earnest and his appointed counsel
had a communication problem. Once the attorney-client
relationship has been damaged to the extent the client does
not trust the attorney, it would be difficult for an attorney
to provide effective assistance of counsel. In this case, it
is clear Earnest was not going to be able to communicate with
Trial Counsel based on his trepidations about the nature of
the relationship and level of interest on the part of
counsel. Thus, he should have been provided counsel with whom
he could effectively communicate in order to ensure his
constitutional right to effective counsel.
State v. Christien, 09-890, p. 7 (La.App. 3 Cir.
2/3/10), 29 So.3d 696, 701, this court stated:
A claim for ineffective assistance of counsel is properly
raised in an application for post-conviction relief because
this allows the trial court to order a full evidentiary
hearing on the matter. State v. Burkhalter, 428
So.2d 449 (La.1983). However, where the record contains
sufficient evidence to decide the issue, and the issue is
raised by an assignment of error on appeal, it may be
considered by the appellate court. State v. Tapp,
08-1262 (La.App. 3 Cir. 4/1/09), 8 So.3d 804; See also
State v. James, 95-962 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/14/96), 670
filed his motion with the trial court, it was heard and ruled
upon, and he then appealed this issue before this court.
Therefore, the claim for ineffective assistance of counsel is
properly considered on appeal. The record shows that
Defendant provided no evidence at the trial court due
entirely to Defendant's actions in the courtroom. The
trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion.
This assignment is without merit.
OF ERROR NUMBER TWO
argues that the trial court erred when it denied cause
challenges for six jurors following voir dire,
forcing Defendant to use all twelve peremptory challenges.
State v. Lewis, 12-1021, pp. 9-11 (La. 3/19/13), 112
So.3d 796, 801-02 (footnote omitted), the supreme court
The peremptory challenge occupies an important role in the
jury selection process. By enabling each side to exclude
those jurors it perceives as harboring subtle biases with
regard to the case which were not elicited on voir dire or
which do not establish legal cause for a challenge,
peremptory challenges are a means of "
'eliminat[ing] extremes of partiality on both sides,
'. . .thereby 'assuring the selection of a qualified
and unbiased jury.' " Holland v. Illinois,
493 U.S. 474, 484, 110 S.Ct. 803, 107 L.Ed.2d 905 (1990),
quoting Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202, 219, 85
S.Ct. 824, 13 L.Ed.2d 759 (1965) and Batson v.
Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 91, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69
(1986). While peremptory challenges are one means of assuring
the selection of a qualified and unbiased jury, the U.S.
Supreme Court has determined that an erroneous ruling denying
a peremptory challenge is not, as a matter of federal
constitutional law, a structural error requiring automatic
reversal of a defendant's conviction. Rivera v.
Illinois, 556 U.S. 148, 160-61, 129 S.Ct. 1446, 173
L.Ed.2d 320 (2009). Rather, state law determines the
consequences when a peremptory challenge is erroneously
denied. Id. at 161-62, 129 S.Ct. 1446. As the Court
explained in Rivera, "[i]f a defendant is tried
before a qualified jury composed of individuals not
challengeable for cause, the loss of a peremptory challenge
due to a state court's good-faith error is not a matter
of federal constitutional concern . . . [but] a matter for
the State to address under its own laws." Id.
In Louisiana, the peremptory challenge is protected by and
preserved in the constitution. La. Const. art. I, § 17
("The accused shall have a right to full voir dire
examination of prospective jurors and to challenge jurors
peremptorily. The number of challenges shall be fixed by
law"). While the exercise of a peremptory challenge is
provided through legislation, La.C.Cr.P. arts. 795, 799, and
799.1, it is not merely a statutory right. Thus, this court
has long recognized that when a defendant is forced to
utilize a peremptory challenge to correct a district
court's error in denying a challenge for cause and
thereafter exercises all available peremptory challenges on
other prospective jurors, a substantial right of the
defendant, guaranteed by the Louisiana constitution, is
affected. State v. Monroe, 366 So.2d 1345, 1347
(La.1978). In such instances, prejudice is presumed.
Id.; State v. Juniors, 2003-2425, p. 8
(La.6/29/05), 915 So.2d 291, 305.
jurisprudence holds that trial courts have wide discretion in
determining whether to reject a juror for cause, and those
determinations cannot be disturbed absent an abuse of
discretion. State v. Jones, 474 So.2d 919 (La.1985),
cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1178, 106 S.Ct. 2906 (1986).
A review of the record indicates that Defendant used all
twelve of his peremptory challenges prior to the full
complement of the jury. La.Code Crim.P. art. 799.1.
third circuit case with a defendant of the same last name,
State v. Hamilton, 12-204, pp. 4-5 (La.App.
3 Cir. 11/20/13), 127 So.3d 76, 79-80, writ
denied, 13-2925 (La. 5/30/14), 140 So.3d 1173, this
court discussed issues of a trial court's denial of
challenges for cause, as follows:
A trial court is vested with broad discretion in ruling on
challenges for cause, and its rulings will be reversed only
when a review of the entire voir dire reveals the trial judge
abused its discretion. . . .
"A challenge for cause should be granted, even when a
prospective juror declares his ability to remain impartial,
if the juror's responses as a whole reveal facts from
which bias, prejudice or inability to render judgment
according to law may be reasonably implied." However, a
trial court does not abuse its discretion when it refuses to
excuse a prospective juror on the ground he is not impartial
where, after further inquiry or instruction, the potential
juror has demonstrated a willingness and ability to decide
the case impartially according to the law and evidence. Thus,
to establish reversible error warranting reversal of a
conviction and sentence, defendant must demonstrate "(1)
erroneous denial of a challenge for cause; and (2) the use of
all his peremptory challenges." In the instant case, it
is undisputed that defense counsel exhausted his peremptory
challenges, and, therefore, need only show that the trial
court abused its discretion by denying a challenge for cause.
State v. Odenbaugh, 10-268, pp. 23-25 (La.12/6/11),
82 So.3d 215, 236-37, cert. denied, __U.S. __, 133
S.Ct. 410, 184 L.Ed.2d 51 (2012) (citations omitted).
to La.Code Crim.P. art. 797, the State or Defendant may
challenge a prospective juror for cause on the ground that:
(2) The juror is not impartial, whatever the cause of his
partiality. An opinion or impression as to the guilt or
innocence of the defendant shall not of itself be sufficient
ground of challenge to a juror, if he declares, and the court
is satisfied, that he can render an impartial verdict
according to the law and the evidence;
(3) The relationship, whether by blood, marriage, employment,
friendship, or enmity between the juror and the defendant,
the person injured by the offense, the district attorney, or
defense counsel, is such that it is reasonable to conclude
that it would influence the juror in arriving at a verdict;
(4) The juror will not accept the law as given to him by the
Odenbaugh, 82 So.3d at 238 (citations omitted), the
supreme court further stated:
[W]hile cognizant of the broad discretion afforded a district
court when ruling on cause challenges, this Court has
cautioned that a prospective juror's responses cannot be
considered in isolation and that a challenge should be
granted, "even when a prospective juror declares his
ability to remain impartial, if the juror's responses as
a whole reveal facts from which bias, prejudice or inability
to render judgment according to law may be reasonably
current case, Defendant argues that the trial court erred
when it denied cause challenges for prospective jurors Calab
Chesser, Van Wiggins, Kathy Kohls, Lykeisha Marshall, Angela
Perot, and Katie Carter.
the State accepted Mr. Chesser, defense counsel challenged
him for cause, stating:
Uh, not only did he struggle with the presumption of
innocence and production, uh, he was one of the ones that
also testified about how he . . .scratch that. Okay. P[sic]
expects for the defendant even after the prosecution,
finishes his case to produce and/or testify one way or the
other. And I believe that one point, Your Honor, he even
stated that it would be. . .I believe, my fault, and that I
did not prove that my client was innocent. Uh, so, I think
that he's having a problem with the presumption of
innocence and production, as well as the defendant's
right not to self. . .to not incriminate himself. So, I
challenge him for cause.
brief, Defendant points to a conversation between Mr. Chesser
and defense counsel, as follows:
MR. METHVIN: Okay. And you believe that. . .do you believe
that innocent people can be ...