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State v. Turner

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 5, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA Plaintiff-Appellee

         Appealed from the Third Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lincoln, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 65498 Honorable Jay McCallum, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Carey J. Ellis, III Counsel for Appellant.

          JOHN FITZGERALD BELTON District Attorney LAURIE LEE WHITTEN JAMES TRACY WAYNE HOUCK Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee.

          Before MOORE, LOLLEY, and COX, JJ.

          COX, J.

         The defendant, Rashad Montreal Turner ("Turner"), was charged with resisting a police officer with force or violence. Following a jury trial, a unanimous six-person jury found Turner guilty of the responsive verdict of attempted resisting a police officer with force or violence, in violation of La. R.S. 14:27 and La. R.S. 14:108.2(A)(3). He was sentenced to serve one year at hard labor, suspended; two years' supervised probation; and was given a $750.00 fine or six months in parish jail in default of payment. Turner appealed his conviction based on insufficiency of the evidence. For the reasons stated below, we affirm Turner's conviction. However, we respectfully amend the portion of Turner's sentence that states he will spend six months in parish jail in default of payment of the $750.00 fine since Turner was and is an indigent. Rather, that portion of the sentence shall state that the $750.00 fine shall be imposed as a condition of Turner's probation. As amended, we affirm.


         On December 5, 2013, Sergeant Gary White ("Sergeant White") and Officer Thomas Harmon ("Officer Harmon"), officers of the Grambling State University Police, were called to the Holland Hall dormitory. The call indicated that a woman, later identified as Equasia Gallow ("Ms. Gallow"), had been thrown out into the hall of the dormitory by her boyfriend and that she was naked. Sergeant White and Officer Harmon responded and found Ms. Gallow in distress and crying, and it appeared she had been scratched. Ms. Gallow gave a statement to Sergeant White in which she stated that she and Turner, her boyfriend, were in his dorm room when they got into an argument over information he found on her cellphone. She stated that Turner threw her out of his dorm room without her pants on and then threw water in her face.

         By this point, the officers had determined that Turner had left the dormitory, so they escorted Ms. Gallow and an eyewitness to the incident, Donathan Howard, to the university police station to get their statements. While Sergeant White took Ms. Gallow's statement, Officer Harmon patrolled the area looking for Turner since the officers had been given a description of Turner and his vehicle. Officer Harmon eventually spotted Turner's vehicle in a parking lot near the dormitory; both he and Sergeant White went into the building to locate Turner.

         When the officers reached Turner's dorm suite, they knocked on the door and identified themselves as the police. When the officers' repeated knocking and announcements got no response, they had a resident assistant open the door to the suite. Once the officers entered the dorm suite, they again identified themselves and knocked on Turner's bedroom door numerous times before Turner opened the door.

         Sergeant White told Turner that he was under arrest for domestic abuse battery and read Turner his Miranda rights. Sergeant White then asked Turner to turn around and place his hands behind his back. After Sergeant White placed one cuff on Turner's left arm, Turner jerked his right arm loose and refused to allow Sergeant White to cuff him. Sergeant White forced Turner onto the nearby bed, where he asked Turner multiple times to give him his right arm.[1] Turner tucked his right arm underneath his chest and refused to release his arm. At this point, Officer Harmon stepped in, and the officers were able to successfully place both cuffs on Turner.

         Both officers escorted Turner downstairs to the police vehicle. Once they had reached the vehicle, Turner refused to get in after several requests by Sergeant White. Sergeant White told Turner that if he did not cooperate, he would be placed into the vehicle; Turner complied.

         Upon reaching the police station, Sergeant White attempted to get more information from Turner. When asked his middle name, Turner responded with an expletive. When asked his date of birth, Turner told Sergeant White that he did not have one. Turner eventually complied with Sergeant White, and Sergeant White was able to get the information he needed to complete his report.

         Turner was subsequently charged with the felony offense of resisting a police officer with force or violence, in violation of La. R.S. 14:108.2(A)(3). The trial court found Turner to be indigent and appointed counsel to represent him.

         On March 27, 2015, Turner appeared before the court and the state's plea offer was read into the record. The state offered to allow Turner to plead guilty to the reduced misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer, with a six-month suspended sentence and one year of supervised probation. Turner confirmed to the court that his attorney had communicated the state's plea offer to him, but he declined the offer and chose to proceed to trial.

         At trial, Sergeant White testified that he was not injured by Turner and that he did not feel threatened by Turner's actions. Sergeant White stated that he had a safety interest in cuffing Turner because the dorm room was small, and he was not sure what was located in the room that Turner could have grabbed. Sergeant White also testified that he believed Turner was trying to resist being handcuffed and not trying to injure him. He later conceded, however, that he did not actually know what Turner intended. Sergeant White agreed with the state's argument that Turner had to know that the loose right hand cuff was attached to the cuff already on his left wrist when he jerked his arm free. Sergeant White stated that Turner's snatching and whipping around of the loose cuff was also a concern because it could have been an attempt by Turner to injure him. Sergeant White testified that he knew of two instances where an officer was gruesomely injured with handcuffs.

         Officer Harmon testified that Turner was twisting and flailing his left arm around in a dangerous manner. Officer Harmon conceded that Turner did not swing at Sergeant White or attack either of them. However, Officer Harmon believed Turner's combativeness could have led to one or both of the officers being injured. He testified that Turner's actions indicated that he did not want to be arrested or handcuffed and that this constituted resistance. Officer Harmon also testified that the metal handcuffs are dangerous because they are heavy and have a serrated edge, so swinging them around could cause an injury.

         The trial court advised Turner of his right to remain silent and his right to testify; Turner chose to testify. Turner testified that he had obtained a degree in biology from GSU and that he was working to earn money to attend pharmacy school. He testified that he had never been handcuffed, arrested, or convicted of any crime.

         Turner testified that when he heard the officers knocking, he opened the door to find Officer Harmon, with a Taser in his hand, and Sergeant White, who told him to turn around.[2] Turner stated that as Sergeant White pulled his left arm behind his back, Sergeant White threw him onto the bed and lay on top of him, pinning Turner's right arm underneath him. Turner testified that he squirmed and wriggled to free his right arm, and Sergeant White then cuffed his right wrist. He testified that he never hit or attempted to hit Sergeant White, nor did he ever try to ...

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