Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for
the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana No.
11-13-0359 Honorable Donald R. Johnson, Judge Presiding
C. Moore, III District Attorney Dale R. Lee Assistant
District Attorney Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Appellee
State of Louisiana
Landry Attorney General Colin Clark Deputy Solicitor General,
Criminal Appeals Section Chief Baton Rouge, Louisiana J.
Christopher Alexander Jennifer Aycock Matlow Baton Rouge,
Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/ Appellant Jarret Jean
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, CJ., GUIDRY, AND McCLENDON, JJ.
Jarret Jean McCasland, was charged by grand jury indictment
with second degree murder, a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:30.1.
Defendant entered a plea of not guilty and, following a jury
trial, was found guilty as charged. Defendant was sentenced
to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole,
probation, or suspension of sentence. Defendant filed a
motion to reconsider sentence; the trial court heard argument
at a hearing and denied the motion. Defendant now appeals
designating four assignments of error. We affirm the
conviction and sentence.
evening of July 25, 2013, Flavia Cardenas (also known as
Cathy) and her boyfriend, defendant herein, went to the home
of Flavia's friend, Christina Garman, who lived on
Cedarcrest Avenue in Baton Rouge. Flavia had just recently
turned nineteen years old; defendant was twenty-four years
old. The three went to Christina's bedroom. Defendant and
Flavia began using cocaine and heroin. According to
Christina, who testified at trial, defendant, using a syringe
and needle, injected heroin three times into Flavia, and also
injected cocaine into Flavia two or three times. Defendant
injected himself with the drugs, and Christina injected
herself once with cocaine. All the injections from defendant
were in Flavia's arm (or arms) except the last one. When
defendant attempted to administer the third dose of heroin to
Flavia, the needle broke off in her arm. With the heroin
still in the syringe and no extra needles, defendant
administered the drug anally to Flavia. According to
Christina, defendant and Flavia left her house about 10:30
11:00 p.m. or 11:30 p.m., defendant brought Flavia home to
her mother's house on W. Versailles Drive. Flavia's
mother, Nancy Landa, testified at trial that when Flavia and
defendant came inside, they were arguing, and defendant was
being very aggressive with Flavia. Defendant grabbed
Flavia's phone and left. Crying, Flavia used Nancy's
phone to call defendant. Defendant returned to the house, and
he and Flavia went to Flavia's bedroom. Now past
midnight, Nancy went to Flavia's room a few times to ask
them to lower their voices. Later, Nancy was struck by a
period of "total silence" in Flavia's bedroom
after all of the arguing. When Nancy went to Flavia's
bedroom to see what was going on, she saw defendant
spoon-feeding cereal to Flavia. Nancy briefly went back to
her own bedroom, then returned to Flavia's room, and told
defendant that he had to leave. Defendant became angry and
started yelling at Nancy. Defendant left briefly, but then
returned and told Nancy that he had forgotten his keys.
Defendant left again, then returned, and told Nancy he had to
get some of his things from Flavia's room. Defendant left
the house for the final time at about 2:00 a.m.
checked on Flavia, who told her mother that she was tired and
that they could talk tomorrow. Later that morning (now July
26) at about 9:30 a.m. or 10:00 a.m., Nancy went to
Flavia's room to wake her up. Flavia did not respond.
Nancy called her neighbor, Joaquin Jule, for help. Joaquin
arrived shortly thereafter, found Flavia non-responsive, and
called 911. The 911 operator told Joaquin to try CPR on
Flavia. Joaquin noticed that Flavia's lips were turning
purple. He started chest compressions on Flavia, to no avail.
Flavia was brought to the hospital where doctors were unable
to revive her. Flavia died from acute respiratory depression
caused by a heroin overdose.
did not testify at trial. About two weeks after Flavia's
death, defendant was brought to the police station for
questioning. In his recorded (audio) statement, defendant
said that he injected Flavia with cocaine only. According to
defendant, when they were at Nancy's house in
Flavia's bedroom, defendant had a syringe of heroin and
was going to inject Flavia with it; but Flavia was moving
around so much that he could not inject her. Impatient,
Flavia took the syringe, according to defendant, and injected
OF ERROR NO. 1
first assignment of error, defendant argues that his life
sentence at hard labor, as applied to him, is
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and
Article I, § 20, of the Louisiana Constitution prohibit
the imposition of cruel or excessive punishment. Although a
sentence falls within statutory limits, it may be excessive.
State v. Sepulvado, 367 So.2d 762,
767 (La. 1979). A sentence is considered constitutionally
excessive if it is grossly disproportionate to the
seriousness of the offense or is nothing more than a
purposeless and needless infliction of pain and suffering. A
sentence is considered grossly disproportionate if, when the
crime and punishment are considered in light of the harm done
to society, it shocks the sense of justice. State v.
Andrews, 94-0842 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/5/95), 655 So.2d 448,
454. The trial court has great discretion in imposing a
sentence within the statutory limits, and such a sentence
will not be set aside as excessive in the absence of a
manifest abuse of discretion. State v. Holts, 525
So.2d 1241, 1245 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1988). Louisiana Code of
Criminal Procedure Article 894.1 sets forth the factors for
the trial court to consider when imposing sentence. While the
entire checklist of LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 894.1 need not be
recited, the record must reflect the trial court adequately
considered the criteria. State v. Brown, 02-2231
(La.App. 1 Cir. 5/9/03), 849 So.2d 566, 569.
articulation of the factual basis for a sentence is the goal
of LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 894.1, not rigid or mechanical compliance
with its provisions. Where the record clearly shows an
adequate factual basis for the sentence imposed, remand is
unnecessary even where there has not been full compliance
with LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 894.1. State v. Lanclos, 419
So.2d 475, 478 (La. 1982). The trial court should review the
defendant's personal history, his prior criminal record,
the seriousness of the offense, the likelihood that he will
commit another crime, and his potential for rehabilitation
through correctional services other than confinement. See
State v. Jones, 398 So.2d 1049, 1051-52 (La. 1981).
On appellate review of a sentence, the relevant question is
whether the trial court abused its broad sentencing
discretion, not whether another sentence might have been more
appropriate. State v. Thomas, 98-1144 (La. 10/9/98),
719 So.2d 49, 50 (per curiam).
defendant's second degree murder conviction, the trial
court imposed the mandatory life sentence at hard labor
without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of
sentence. See LSA-R.S. 14:30.IB. Four months later, after
hearing extensive argument on whether the life sentence was
excessive as applied to this particular defendant, the trial
court denied the motion to reconsider sentence. Defendant
argues in brief that LSA-R.S. 14:30.1A(3) as applied to him
is unconstitutional because it was Flavia who purchased the
heroin and then later ingested it on her own and he
(defendant) merely carried the heroin into the house.
Defendant suggests that to sentence him to life imprisonment
without the possibility of probation or parole is a gross
misinterpretation of the intent of the statute and, as such,
he is a victim of the legislature's failure to assign
sentences that are meaningfully tailored to the culpability
of the offender, the gravity of the offense, and the
circumstances of the case.
State v. Dorthey, 623 So.2d 1276, 1280-81 (La.
1993), the Louisiana Supreme Court opined that if a trial
court was to find that the punishment mandated by LSA-R.S.
15:529.1 makes no "measurable contribution to acceptable
goals of punishment" or that the sentence amounted to
nothing more than "the purposeful imposition of pain and
suffering" and is "grossly out of proportion to the
severity of the crime", the court has the option, indeed
the duty, to reduce such sentence to one that would not be
constitutionally excessive. In State v. Johnson,
97-1906 (La. 3/4/98), 709 So.2d 672, 676-77, the Louisiana
Supreme Court reexamined the issue of when Dorthey
permits a downward departure from the mandatory minimum
sentences in the Habitual Offender Law. While both
Dorthey and Johnson involve the mandatory
minimum sentences imposed under the Habitual Offender Law,
the Louisiana Supreme Court has held that the sentencing
review principles espoused in Dorthey are not
restricted in application to the penalties provided by
LSA-R.S. 15:529.1. See State v. Fobbs, 99-1024 (La.
9/24/99), 744 So.2d 1274 (per curiam); State v.
Collins, 09-1617 (La.App. 1 Cir. 2/12/10), 35 So.3d
1103, 1108, writ denied. 10-0606 (La. 10/8/10), 46
is no need for the trial court to justify a sentence under
LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 894.1 when it is legally required to impose
that sentence. As such, the failure to articulate reasons as
set forth in Article 894.1 when imposing a mandatory life
sentence is not an error; articulating such reasons or
factors would be an exercise in futility since the court has
no discretion. State v. Felder, 00-2887 (La.App. 1
Cir. 9/28/01), 809 So.2d 360, 371, writ denied,
01-3027 (La. 10/25/02), 827 So.2d 1173. See State v.
Ditcharo, 98-1374 (La.App. 5 Cir. 7/27/99), 739 So.2d
957, 972, writ denied, 99-2551 (La. 2/18/00), 754
So.2d 964; State v. Jones, 31, 613 (La.App. 2 Cir.
4/1/99), 733 So.2d 127, 146, writ denied, 99-1185
(La. 10/1/99), 748 So.2d 434; State v. Williams, 445
So.2d 1264, 1269 (La.App. 3 Cir.), writ denied, 449
So.2d 1346 (La. 1984).
sentences have been repeatedly upheld as constitutional and
consistent with the federal and state constitutional
provisions prohibiting cruel, unusual or excessive
punishment. See State v. Jones, 46, 758, 46, 759
(La.App. 2 Cir. 12/14/11), 81 So.3d 236, 249, writ
denied, 12-0147 (La. 5/4/12), 88 So.3d 462. To rebut the
presumption that the mandatory minimum sentence is
constitutional, a defendant must clearly and convincingly
show that he is exceptional, which means that because of
unusual circumstances this defendant is a victim of the
legislature's failure to assign sentences that are
meaningfully tailored to the culpability of the offender, the
gravity of the offense, and the circumstances of the case.
Johnson, 709 So.2d at 676.
devotes most of his excessive sentence argument to the
proportionality doctrine and cites to, in particular,
Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 103 S.Ct. 3001, 77
L.Ed.2d 637 (1983), and Harmelin v. Michigan, 501
U.S. 957, 111 S.Ct. 2680, 115 L.Ed.2d 836 (1991). As noted by
defendant in brief, in Solem (a recidivist statute
case wherein the defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment
because of six prior felony convictions), the Supreme Court,
in applying a proportionality analysis, found the
defendant's life sentence without the possibility of
parole significantly disproportionate to his crime and, as
such, prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. The Solem
Court, 463 U.S. at 292, 103 S.Ct. at 3011, found that a
court's proportionality analysis under the Eighth
Amendment should be guided by objective criteria, including
(i) the gravity of the offense and the harshness of the
penalty; (ii) the sentences imposed on other criminals in the
same jurisdiction; and (iii) the sentences imposed for
commission of the same crime in other jurisdictions.
years later in Harmelin, the defendant was sentenced
to life imprisonment without parole for possession of more
than 650 grams of cocaine. Writing for the majority in
Harmelin, Justice Scalia found that
while Harmelin's claim that his sentence is
unconstitutional because of its mandatory nature finds some
support in the so-called "individualized
capital-sentencing doctrine" of the Court's death
penalty jurisprudence, that doctrine may not be extended
outside the capital context because of the qualitative
differences between death and all other penalties. Thus,
according to Justice Scalia, there is no proportionality
requirement in the Eighth Amendment.
Harmelin, 501 U.S. at 985-94, 111
S.Ct. at 2696-2701.
State v. Mitchell, 96-1896 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/20/97),
697 So.2d 22, 25, writ denied, 97-1988 (La.
1/9/98), 705 So.2d 1098, this court found that the Supreme
Court in Harmelin cast serious doubt on the
viability of the Solem v. Helm analysis. We
The Supreme Court reexamined this area of the law and upheld
a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole
for a defendant convicted of possessing more than 650 grams
of cocaine. In doing so, although a majority could not agree
on the exact standard to employ, the Supreme Court limited
the instances in which a complete Solem v. Helm
proportionality analysis is required. [Footnote omitted]. As
a result, courts are required to conduct the proportionality
analysis required by Solem v. Helm only if, after
comparing the gravity of the offense against the severity of
the sentence, the court infers that the sentence is
"grossly disproportionate" to the offense.
State v. Wimberly, 618 So.2d 908, 913 (La.App. 1st
Cir.), writ denied, 624 So.2d 1229 (La. 1993)
Mitchell, 697 So.2d at 25.
State v. Lindsey, 99-3256, 99-3302 (La. 10/17/00),
770 So.2d 339, 341, cert, denied, 532 U.S. 1010, 121
S.Ct. 1739, 149 L.Ed.2d 663 (2001), our supreme court held
that, despite the defendant's assertion that mitigatory
factors were important based on Solem, the mandatory
life sentence imposed by the trial court was not excessive
under Johnson. In footnote 2, the Lindsey
We note that the holding of Solem has been called
into question by the Supreme Court's later opinion in
Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957, 111 S.Ct. 2680,
115 L.Ed.2d 836 (1991), which held that the fact that the
sentencing judge was statutorily required to impose a life
sentence without possibility of parole and could not take
into account the particularized circumstances of the crime
and the criminal, including such mitigating factors as the
accused's lack of any prior felony convictions, did not
make the sentence "cruel and unusual" under the
Lindsey, 770 So.2d at 344 n.2.
support of the disproportionate impact that the mandatory
life sentence has on his particular situation, defendant
suggests that the "outcome" of this case is
contrary to the legislative intent underpinning LSA-R.S.
14:30.1A(3). Defendant notes that in May of 1987, Senator
William Jefferson proposed and presented Senate Bill No. 191
to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and that the
minutes from the committee meeting provided the following:
Senator Jefferson stated that the bill provides that if a
person sells a drug which results in death of the buyer, that
seller could be charged with second degree murder. Senator
Jefferson explained that the District Attorney association
had some language he wished to incorporate in the bill. Mr.
Robert Davidson, of the DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office,
representing the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, spoke in
support of the bill. Senator Jefferson moved that Senate Bill
No. 191 be reported favorably, and without opposition it was
Defendant then states in brief:
Senator Jefferson's legislative intent is critically
important. His choice of words clearly shows that he
contemplated, and had the foresight to avoid, grossly unjust
outcomes such as the one involved in this case. The
legislative intent of the bill was to give law enforcement
and prosecutors a new weapon against the drug trafficking
industry, and specifically those who sold drugs. It was not
intended to apply to tragedies such as the one that occurred
in this case.
assertion notwithstanding, legislative intent is looked at
only when the words of the statute are not clear or are
ambiguous. When a law is clear and unambiguous and its
application does not lead to absurd consequences, the law
shall be applied as written and no further interpretation may
be made in search of the intent of the legislature. LSA-C.C.
art. 9. Regarding interpretation, LSA-R.S. 14:3 provides:
The articles of this Code cannot be extended by analogy so as
to create crimes not provided for herein; however, in order
to promote justice and to effect the objects of the law, all
of its provisions shall be given a genuine construction,
according to the fair import of their words, taken in their
usual sense, in connection with the context, and with
reference to the purpose of the provision.
Revised Statutes 14:30.1A(3) provides, in pertinent part:
A. Second degree murder is the killing of a human being:
* * *
(3) When the offender unlawfully distributes or dispenses a
controlled dangerous substance listed in Schedules I through
V of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law, or any
combination thereof, which is the direct cause of the death
of the ...