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State v. Savage

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

April 12, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
DAMION SAVAGE

         ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 11-1878, DIVISION "F" HONORABLE MICHAEL P. MENTZ, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Terry M. Boudreaux Juliet L. Clark, Paul D. Connick, Jr.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, DAMION SAVAGE Damien Savage Bertha M. Hillman

          Panel composed of Susan M. Chehardy, Fredericka Homberg Wicker, and Robert A. Chaisson

         RAC

         SMC

         FHW

          ROBERT A. CHAISSON JUDGE

         Defendant, Damion Savage, appeals his convictions and sentences for six counts of armed robbery with a firearm. We have reviewed the arguments presented in appellate counsel's brief and defendant's pro se supplemental brief and find them to be without merit. Accordingly, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 18, 2011, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed a bill of information charging defendant[1] with six counts of armed robbery, in violation of La. R.S. 14:64. Defendant pled not guilty, and the case proceeded to trial before a twelve-person jury on February 16-19, 2016. After considering the evidence presented, the jury found defendant guilty as charged on all six counts. On February 25, 2016, the trial court sentenced defendant on each count to fifty-five years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. Further, pursuant to La. R.S. 14:64.3, the trial court sentenced defendant on each count to an additional five years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The trial court ordered that the five-year enhancement on each count be served consecutively to the fifty-five-year sentence on each count and further ordered that the six sentences be served concurrently with each other. Defendant now appeals.

         FACTS

         This case stems from a series of six armed robberies that occurred at Jefferson Parish businesses over the course of approximately two months. The details of each are as follows:

         January 23, 2011 - Armed Robbery of Heather Carmadelle at Subway on Barataria Boulevard (Count Six)

         On January 23, 2011, sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., Jayeshkumar Patel, [2] manager at the Subway restaurant on Barataria Boulevard in Marrero, and Heather Carmadelle, an employee, were getting ready to close for the day. Mr. Patel was in the restroom, and Ms. Carmadelle was washing dishes in the back of the store when two men, one of whom had a gun, came into the restaurant. The armed perpetrator told Ms. Carmadelle to unlock the safe. When Ms. Carmadelle replied that she did not have a key to the safe, they ordered her to open the register and lie down on the floor. The two men took the money from the cash register and left. Ms. Carmadelle testified that she was unable to see the faces of the men because they were covered, but that the robbery was recorded by a surveillance camera.

         March 6, 2011 - Armed Robbery of Ashley Arthur and Jayeshkumar Patel at Subway on Barataria Boulevard (Counts One and Two)

         On March 6, 2011, the Subway on Barataria Boulevard was robbed for a second time while Mr. Patel and another employee, Ashley Arthur, [3] were working. On that occasion, two black men, armed with guns, entered the business. According to Mr. Patel, one of the robbers demanded that he open the register or he would kill him. The men then took Ms. Arthur's purse as well as money from Mr. Patel's pocket and the cash register. During the course of their investigation, the officers discovered a Newport brand cigarette butt outside of the restaurant. Subsequent DNA analysis revealed that the cigarette butt was consistent with the DNA profile obtained from the reference sample of co-defendant Isaac.

         Surveillance footage of the robbery was obtained. After viewing the surveillance videos from the two Subway incidents, Detective Wayne Rumore of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office believed the two robberies were committed by the same suspects based on the similarities between the two incidents. Detective Rumore explained, "two men entered the business fully masked, fully covered, both armed with semi automatic pistols, and there was basically a takeover robbery where they took over the entire business."

         March 13, 2011 - Armed robbery of Adrian Labeaud and Dana Rhea at Subway on Jefferson Highway (Counts Three and Four)

         On March 13, 2011, Dana Rhea and Adrian Labeaud were working at a Subway on Jefferson Highway when two armed men entered the restaurant from the back door. One of the perpetrators ordered Ms. Rhea to crawl on the floor to the cash register where she then opened the register and gave the man the cash. While Ms. Rhea was at the cash register, the second assailant put a gun to Mr. Labeaud's side and instructed him to keep his face down towards the ground. After learning the whereabouts of the safe from Mr. Labeaud, the men also removed money from the safe before instructing Ms. Rhea and Mr. Labeaud to crawl to the back of the store and wait there.

         Deputy Richard Uyeda of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office responded to the armed robbery at the Subway on Jefferson Highway, spoke to the victims, and obtained descriptions of the perpetrators. Additionally, as in the March 6, 2011 robbery, a Newport brand cigarette butt was discovered outside of the restaurant. Subsequent DNA analysis revealed that the cigarette butt was consistent with the DNA profile obtained from the reference sample of co-defendant Isaac. The police also obtained surveillance footage of the robbery, which depicted similarities to the March 6, 2011 robbery.

         March 24, 2011 - Armed Robbery of Nicholas Ramsak at GameStop on Belle Promenade (Count Five)

         On the evening of March 24, 2011, Nicholas Ramsak was working at the GameStop in Marrero when he was robbed at gunpoint. Mr. Ramsak testified that two men, one of whom was armed with a gun, entered the store, demanded the money from both cash registers, took the cash, ordered him to his knees, and then fled. Mr. Ramsak was unable to see the assailants' faces because they were covered, but he did provide a clothing description of one of the men. Fingerprints taken from a video gaming accessory cabinet located behind the counter and inaccessible to the public matched co-defendant Isaac's fingerprints.

         Detective Rumore thereafter obtained an arrest warrant for Isaac and a search warrant for his residence. Isaac was arrested and a pack of Newport brand cigarettes was recovered at the location of his arrest. Additionally, a search of Isaac's residence revealed clothing that matched the description of the clothing worn by one of the suspects from several of the robberies.

         Isaac's cellular phone was also seized, and information obtained from Isaac's phone records indicated that a phone number registered to defendant's wife, Monique Savage, was contacted frequently around the times of the robberies. Moreover, cell phone tower information obtained from Isaac's and Savage's cell phone records placed both phones near the location of the robberies at the times they occurred. Detective Rumore obtained an arrest warrant for defendant and a search warrant for his residence. The officers thereafter went to defendant's residence and executed both warrants. Various articles of clothing, including a Polo cap, a Polo jacket, a White Sox cap, white Nike tennis shoes, and t-shirts similar to those worn by the perpetrators in the surveillance videos, were among items seized as a result of the search of defendant's residence and car.[4]

         Following defendant's arrest pursuant to the warrant, he was transported to the investigations bureau to be interviewed. After being advised of his rights, defendant gave a series of three statements, in which he admitted to committing the armed robberies after being confronted with the clothing seized and the surveillance videos from the robberies.

         Defendant testified at trial and denied his involvement in the robberies. He testified that when he was taken in for questioning he denied any involvement in the robberies. However, during the course of his interrogation, Lieutenant Russo became aggressive and threatened to contact defendant's wife's employer to inform him of a pending drug charge. According to defendant, things began to "escalate" between him and Lieutenant Russo, and at some point, Lieutenant Russo grabbed his clothing to "rough [him] around a little bit." Defendant maintained that his statements are not true, that he was threatened into giving them, and that the only reason he admitted to the robberies was to protect his family.[5] At trial, defendant also testified that during his interview at the investigations bureau, he began to experience heroin withdrawals.

         DENIAL OF JUROR CHALLENGE (Assignment of Error Number One)

         In his counseled assignment of error, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his challenge for cause as to prospective juror Marshall Breedlove. Specifically, defendant contends that Mr. Breedlove's answers as a whole during voir dire established that he could not be a fair and impartial juror because Mr. Breedlove's brother-in-law had been beaten and robbed at gunpoint, and this incident was "fresh on his mind." Based on this error, defendant concludes that he was denied his right to a fair and impartial jury, and thus, his case should be remanded for a new trial.

         The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the accused the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Further, Article I, §17 of the Louisiana Constitution guarantees the right to full voir dire examination of prospective jurors and the right to challenge those jurors peremptorily. State v. Munson, 12-327 (La.App. 5 Cir. 4/10/13), 115 So.3d 6, 12, writ denied, 13-1083 (La. 11/22/13), 126 So.3d 476. La. C.Cr.P. art. 797(2) allows the defendant or ...


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