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State v. Dickerson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

April 12, 2017


         On Appeal from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 07-13-0371, Honorable Louis R. Daniel, Judge Presiding.

          Bruce G. Whittaker New Orleans, LA, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant, Donald Dickerson.

          Hillar C. Moore, III District Attorney Dylan C. Alge Assistant District Attorney Baton Rouge, LA, Attorneys for Appellee, State of Louisiana.


          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         The defendant, Donald Dickerson, was charged by bill of information with second degree battery, a violation of La. R.S. 14:34.1. He pled not guilty and, following a jury trial, was found guilty as charged. The State subsequently filed a habitual offender bill of information; following a hearing on the matter, the defendant was adjudicated a fourth-felony habitual offender and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.[1] The defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence, which was denied. The defendant now appeals, designating two assignments of error.


         On May 12, 2013, at about 9:00 p.m., David L. Ray, III, drove to the Memorial Stadium Chevron gas station on Scenic Highway for gas. David's wife and two daughters were in the vehicle. The card-swipe did not work at his gas pump, so David stood in the line outside to pay for the gas at the cashier window. (The store's doors had already been locked for the night). As David was standing in line, the defendant approached David, pushed him, said something to him about the pink shirt he was wearing, and told him that he was in the wrong neighborhood. After the defendant and David exchanged words, David stopped talking and turned away, trying to avoid any contact with the defendant. The defendant then punched David in the face, causing him to briefly lose consciousness.

         The defendant struck David several more times while he was either lying on the ground or trying to get up. David's wife, Angela, exited the vehicle and ran to her husband. Two people who had ridden to the gas station with the defendant, Ashley Simmons and Devin Bessye, approached Angela. While Angela was tending to David and telling the defendant to leave him alone, Devin struck Angela in the head, knocking her unconscious. Ashley then got on top of Angela and began punching her. C.R., [2] David's older teenaged daughter, ran to her mother and tackled Ashley. While C.R. and Ashley fought, someone (likely Devin) punched C.R. in the jaw.

         Several patrons at the gas station intervened and broke up the attacks on the Ray family. The defendant, Ashley, and Devin got in a white Jeep Cherokee and left the scene. Latasha Henderson, one of the patrons who witnessed the attacks, followed the defendant and called 911 while in pursuit. The police quickly responded and stopped the defendant around Winbourne Avenue and North 38th Street.

         David suffered serious injuries. He was taken to the emergency room at Baton Rouge General on Bluebonnet, where he was treated by Dr. Keith Schwager. Dr. Schwager testified at trial David had an orbital blowout fracture and a hematoma (bleeding and swelling) behind that injured eyeball. He also had a nasal bone fracture and received ten stitches to his face. David was transferred to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital for specialized treatment by an ophthalmologist and a plastic surgeon. Because his orbital socket was completely fractured, doctors inserted a titanium plate behind his eye. According to David, his injured eye is now two millimeters more recessed in his skull, which causes his eyelid to open wider than it normally would, increasing sensitivity to light.

         The defendant did not testify at trial.


         In his first assignment of error, the defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the second degree battery conviction. Specifically, the defendant contends the State did not prove that he had the specific intent to inflict serious bodily injury. The defendant does not dispute that David suffered serious bodily injury.

         A conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand as it violates Due Process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; La. Const, art. I, § 2. The standard of review for the sufficiency of the evidence to uphold a conviction is whether or not, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). See La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B); State v. Ordodi, 2006-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660; State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1308-09 (La. 1988). The Jackson standard of review, incorporated in Article 821, is an objective standard for testing the overall evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. When analyzing circumstantial evidence, La. R.S. 15:438 provides that, in order to convict, the factfinder must be satisfied that the overall evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. State v. Patorno, 2001-2585 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/21/02), 822 So.2d 141, 144.

         La. R.S. 14:34.1 provides in pertinent part, with footnote added:

A. Second degree battery is a battery[3] when the offender intentionally inflicts serious bodily injury ....
B. For purposes of this Section, . . . "[s]erious bodily injury" means bodily injury which involves unconsciousness, extreme physical pain or protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty, or a substantial risk of death.

         In order to prove a second degree battery, the State must prove the defendant: (1) committed a battery upon another, (2) without his consent, and (3) intentionally inflicted serious bodily injury. State v. Young, 2000-1437 (La. 11/28/01), 800 So.2d 847, 852. Second degree battery is a crime requiring specific criminal intent. State v. Fuller, 414 So.2d 306, 310 (La. 1982). Specific intent is that state of mind which exists when the circumstances indicate that the offender actively desired the prescribed criminal consequences to follow his act or failure to act. La. R.S. 14:10(1). Such state of mind can be formed in an instant. State v. Cousan, 94-2503 (La. 11/25/96), 684 So.2d 382, 390. Specific intent need not be proven as a fact, but may be inferred from the circumstances of the transaction and the actions of defendant. State v. Graham, 420 So.2d 1126, 1127 (La. 1982). The existence of specific intent is an ultimate legal conclusion to be resolved by the trier of fact. State v. McCue, 484 So.2d 889, 892 (La.App. 1st Cir. 1986).

         In brief, the defendant maintains that the "single blow" that knocked David unconscious and caused the blowout fracture is not evidence sufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he had the specific intent to cause serious bodily injury. According to the defendant, while "it is unfortunate that the punch" caused such harm, "the fact is that proof that one male punched another ...

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