Appeal from the 22nd Judicial District Court Parish of
Washington, State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 09 CR1105531
The Honorable William J. Knight, Judge Presiding
L. Montgomery, District Attorney Matthew Caplan, Assistant
District Attorney Covington, Louisiana Attorneys for Appellee
State of Louisiana.
Katherine M. Franks Abita Springs, Louisiana Attorney for
Appellant Jeremy Wilson.
Wilson Angola, Louisiana Appellant In Proper Person.
BEFORE: WELCH, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.
defendant, Jeremy Wilson, was convicted of two counts of
second degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive terms
of life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of
probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. We affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 8, 2008, the Washington Parish Sheriffs Office
responded to a residential fire in Franklinton and discovered
two bodies, burned beyond recognition. The victims were later
identified as Donald Wayne Demille Williams and Kimberly Sims
(or Simms), who both lived at the residence. During an
autopsy, bullet fragments were recovered from the
victims' bodies and it was determined they both died of
gunshot wounds to the head before their bodies were burned.
The police recovered bullet and casing fragments at the crime
scene, but found no evidence of traceable fire accelerant.
police identified as suspects, interviewed, and arrested
Ricky Magee, Monica Simmons, and Andrew James; however, the
murder investigation remained open. Then, in October 2008,
Britney Farrell contacted police and said the defendant
confessed to her that he and Erick Townsend shot the victims
during a robbery, then burned the house to destroy any
evidence. She later recanted her statement. At trial she
denied any memory of any statements, but identified her voice
after reviewing the recordings.
Farrell gave statements to police, Townsend was arrested on
unrelated charges and provided information that led police to
recover three guns from Jamieson Creek and to conduct further
investigation. Townsend was then indicted with the defendant
for two counts of first degree murder. The cases were severed
and Townsend pled guilty to two counts of manslaughter in
exchange for his agreement to testify at the defendant's
trial. However, when the state called Townsend to testify, he
refused to answer questions despite the trial court finding
he had no Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to
invoke and threatening him with its contempt power.
from Townsend led police to interview the defendant's
wife, Felicia Brewer. Brewer implicated the defendant in the
crimes, stating on the night of the murders she drove the
defendant and Townsend to what she thought was a drug deal.
She said she waited in the car and when the two men returned
they were wearing masks, bloody gloves, and had changed
clothes. She also described driving to Jamieson Creek where
Townsend disposed of three guns. Like Farrell, Brewer later
recanted her statement; however, at trial, Brewer testified
her original statement to police implicating the defendant in
the crimes was truthful.
defendant maintained his innocence and accused Ricky Magee
and Monica Simmons of the murders. However, Monica Simmons
invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination
and refused to testify at trial, as did Paul Robinson, who
gave a statement saying Ricky Magee confessed to him. Over
the defendant's objection that he was being denied his
right to present a defense, the trial court refused to allow
the defendant to admit the out-of-court statements to police
into evidence and ruled other witnesses would not be allowed
to testify about hearsay statements.
jury convicted the defendant of two counts of second degree
murder, responsive verdicts to his indictment on two counts
of first degree murder.
OF THE EVIDENCE
appeal, the defendant contends the evidence was insufficient
to support his convictions, arguing there was no physical
evidence against him and the testimony of witnesses who
implicated him was not credible.
conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand, as it
violates due process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV;
La. Const, art. I, § 2. In reviewing claims challenging
sufficiency of evidence, an appellate court must determine
whether any rational trier of fact could have found the
essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable
doubt based on the entirety of the evidence, both admissible
and inadmissible, viewed in the light most favorable to the
prosecution. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307,
319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v.
Oliphant, 13-2973 (La. 2/21/14), 133 So.3d 1255,
1258-59; see also La. Code Crim. Pro. art. 821B;
State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1308-09 (La.
1988). When circumstantial evidence forms the basis for
conviction, the evidence, "assuming every fact to be
proved that the evidence tends to prove . . . must exclude
every reasonable hypothesis of innocence." La. R.S.
15:438; Oliphant, 133 So.3d at 1258. The due process
standard does not require the reviewing court to determine
whether it believes the witnesses or whether it believes the
evidence establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
State v. Mire, 14-2295 (La. 1/27/16), ___So. 3d___,
___(2016WL314814). Rather, appellate review is limited to
determining whether facts established by direct evidence and
inferred from the circumstances established by that evidence
are sufficient for any rational trier of fact to
conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was
guilty of every essential element of the crime. State v.
Alexander, 14-1619 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/18/15), 182 So.3d
126, 129-30, writ denied, 15-1912 (La. 1/25/16), 185
So.3d 748. The weight given evidence is not subject to
appellate review; therefore, evidence will not be reweighed
by an appellate court to overturn a fact finder's
determination of guilt. State v. Cobb, 13-1593
(La.App. 1 Cir. 3/27/14), 144 So.3d 17, 24.
the defendant's identity as the perpetrator of a crime is
the key issue, the state is required to negate any reasonable
probability of misidentification. State v. Neal,
00-0674 (La. 6/29/01), 796 So.2d 649, 658, cert,
denied, 535 U.S. 940, 122 S.Ct. 1323, 152 L.Ed.2d 231;
State v. Carter, 14-0742 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/25/15),
167 So.3d 970, 976. Positive identification by only one
witness is sufficient to support a conviction. Neal,
796 So.2d at 658; Carter, 167 So.3d at 976.
relates to this case, second degree murder is the killing of
a human being when the offender has a specific intent to kill
or to inflict great bodily harm. See La. R.S.
14:30.1A(1). Specific criminal 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). Specific intent may be formed in an instant.
State v. Mickelson, 12-2539 (La. 9/3/14), 149 So.3d
178, 182. Because it is a state of mind, specific intent need
not be proven as a fact, but may be inferred from
circumstances surrounding the defendant's actions.
Mickelson, 149 So.3d at 182.
Brewer was granted immunity from prosecution and, at trial,
testified she was with the defendant and Erick Townsend on
the night of the murders. She explained that the two men
wanted pills, so late that night she drove them to a wooded
location in a car that belonged to the defendant's
sister, which she could only describe as green. The defendant
and Townsend exited the car and told her to wait down the
street. Brewer recalled Townsend carrying an opaque
drawstring bag. She claimed she became worried when they did
not quickly return and tried reaching them by cell phone, and
Townsend called her back and said they were returning to the
vehicle. She testified the defendant and Townsend came
running out of the woods dressed in different clothes,
wearing Jason and Scream costume masks and bloody latex
gloves. They got back into the car and the defendant screamed
at her to drive away.
testified she was scared and drove away with the defendant in
the front passenger seat and Townsend in the back passenger
seat. She recalled the two men arguing because Townsend
wanted to tell her what went on in the house. She stated she
turned and saw Townsend had guns on his iap, which he was
wiping with what she guessed was a black shirt. She also
noticed a scratch on the left side of the defendant's
neck. She said Townsend's bloody gloves were falling
apart and "[t]here was blood everywhere" and all
over Townsend, Brewer explained the defendant said to stop at
"the creek, " where Townsend threw three guns out
of the car. She stated while they were in the car the two men
removed the outer clothes they were wearing over their
original attire. When asked what happened to the outer
clothes, Brewer said she had no personal knowledge, but knew
what happened to the clothes because Townsend told
her.Brewer could not recall details about the
clothes the men were originally wearing.
testified she did not know the victims, did not know where
they lived, and did not go to their house on the night of the
murders, explaining that she let the defendant and Townsend
out of the car at a wooded area near the main road. She also
denied seeing the victims' house burning or smelling
smoke. However, she testified she knew about the fire. She
also indicated she never experienced a more terrorizing,
trial, Brewer acknowledged she previously gave inconsistent
and conflicting accounts of that night's events. She
testified she was arrested twice and gave two statements to
police consistent with her trial testimony. She testified
after giving the statements to police, the defendant's
parents drove her to defense counsel's office, where, in
an attempt to get the defendant (her husband and the father
of her child) out of jail, she said she lied to police,
telling them that she and the defendant were in Baton Rouge
at the time of the murders, and neither she nor the defendant
participated in the crimes. Though she acknowledged that in
statements to defense counsel she recanted her police
statements and executed an affidavit to that effect, Brewer
testified her trial testimony, which was consistent with her
statements to police, was truthful and she made a mistake
speaking with defense counsel. Brewer also acknowledged she
was subpoenaed to testify at trial and was given immunity
from prosecution. Brewer indicated that the immunity offer
essentially prohibited the state from using information
directly or indirectly derived from her trial testimony, but
did not ensure she could not be charged with a crime related
to the underlying events, which gave her reason to believe
she may face criminal charges. Brewer further acknowledged
that her statement to police that Townsend threw the guns
into the creek was made after police showed her pictures of
the creek where the guns were found.
state granted Britney Farrell immunity from prosecution and
called her as a witness at trial. Farrell testified the
defendant is the father of her two children, and though she
has no contact with him, she does have contact with his
family who visit the children monthly. She denied having
firsthand knowledge of the crimes, but admitted that she
contacted police and gave taped statements concerning the
defendant's involvement in the crimes. However, Farrell
stated she could not remember the contents of the statements.
testified she had recently reviewed tapes of her statements
and confirmed hearing herself tell police in December 2008,
the defendant told her he and Townsend went to the
victims' house to rob them. She confirmed hearing herself
tell police she was told Sims answered the door to the
defendant and Townsend, who were wearing masks, then ran down
the hall. Townsend panicked and shot Sims, then the defendant
shot Williams, who lay in bed. She confirmed hearing herself
tell police the defendant told her he and Townsend burned
down the house to avoid leaving evidence and, as an alibi,
would claim to have been in Baton Rouge. Additionally, she
confirmed she informed police the defendant had a silver
automatic gun, and Townsend had not told her anything.
admitted she heard herself on tape, and the defendant could
have told her all of that, but maintained she did not
remember him doing so. She confirmed that at the time of her
interview, the defendant and his family were seeking custody
of her children, and stated she could not remember if she
fabricated the statements to win custody - she did not
believe she lied, but testified she did not remember what she
said. She denied memory of telling police her decision to
report what the defendant told her was based on the
defendant's attempt to gain custody of the children, but
admitted she heard her voice on tape make that statement.
confirmed she gave a video recorded statement on March 29,
2009, where she stated the defendant never confessed anything
to her. Again, she admitted hearing her voice give the
statement, but denied memory of it. Farrell also acknowledged
she visited defense counsel's office, where she signed an
affidavit denying knowledge of the murders, denying
discussing the crimes with the defendant, and denying the
defendant confessed any criminal activity to her, but, again,
claimed she could not remember it.
stated she was subpoenaed to testify and after she was
served, the defendant's family took custody of her
children. She denied outside pressure to not remember her
statements. She acknowledged listening to the entirety of her
taped statements, and no one fussed at her or told her what
to say in the statements. She agreed she initiated contact
with police, but did not remember the statements themselves.
She acknowledged she probably remembered more when the
statements were made than at trial.
cross examination, Farrell acknowledged that her video
statement showed her telling police the defendant told her
nothing, consistent with the affidavit executed in defense
counsel's office. She also acknowledged that in the video
she stated she and the defendant were in a custody dispute
and were on bad terms. She maintained she could not remember
meeting with police or stating that the defendant never told
her anything. She admitted calling defense counsel after
being subpoenaed for trial and expressing concern that she
may get in trouble. She then, again, acknowledged the state
granted her immunity from prosecution.
state also presented testimony regarding the police
investigation. Detective Guy Magee, retired from the
Washington Parish Sheriffs Office, was lead detective and
testified regarding evidence collected at the scene of the
fire, including a possible copper bullet fragment and a fired
.380 bullet casing. Detective Magee explained numerous
individuals were interviewed, and the investigation initially
focused and Monica Simmons, Andrew James and Ricky Magee (no
relation to Detective Magee), who was interviewed multiple
times. Those three suspects were arrested for first degree
murder after Detective Magee completed affidavits of probable
Jim Miller of the Washington Parish Sheriffs Office testified
he participated in the murder investigation as a detective.
He said Britney Farrell called him months after the murders
and provided the information leading to her December 2008
statement that the defendant admitted he and Townsend
committed the crimes. The case remained open and the
investigation continued. He said Townsend was then arrested
on an unrelated charge and asked to speak with an
investigator. Detective Magee explained that in March 2009,
Townsend gave a handwritten statement; then in July 2009,
Townsend gave a recorded statement, which, prompted by a
question asked by Townsend, included discussion of possible
verdicts and the lesser offense of manslaughter.
Miller testified he spoke with Townsend on more than one
occasion, and information Townsend provided led police to
speak with other individuals, including Felicia Brewer.
Though Brewer claimed she made cell phone calls and spoke
with Townsend alter he exited the car on the night of the
murders, Detective Miller confirmed records for the phone
numbers Brewer provided did not include any relevant calls or
data for the requested time frame. Detective Miller noted the
cell phones were considered disposable, that Brewer provided
two phone numbers although there were three people, and
expressed uncertainty about at least one of the phone
numbers. Detective Miller also said information Townsend
provided led police to recover three guns from Jamieson
state presented testimony by Charles R. Watson, Jr., a
forensic scientist who testified as an expert in the field of
firearms examination. Based on evidence collected in the
victims' autopsies, Watson concluded each victim was shot
twice with different guns. Watson examined three firearms
recovered from the creek -two .380 caliber semi-automatic
pistols and a .22 caliber revolver - but could not determine
how long they were in the creek. Due to damage to the bullet
and cartridge casing fragments collected as evidence, he was
unable to confirm whether the bullets were fired from the
three guns in evidence. However, Watson did conclude each
victim was shot with a .22 caliber bullet and a .380 auto
than a year after the murders, Detective Miller obtained a
search warrant for a green Ford Escort believed to have been
used in the commission of the crimes. The vehicle was in the
back field of the house belonging to defendant's father
and, when it was seized, was missing the front passenger
seat. The defendant's father, Talmus Wilson, Sr., said he
owned the car, which was used by his three daughters and
other family members, and that he removed the passenger seat
to haul scrap to the junkyard. Mr. Wilson denied seeing cuts
or stains on the seat before removing it, or seeing anything
suspicious or out of the ordinary in the vehicle. Crime lab
testing revealed no trace evidence of blood in the vehicle.
case involves circumstantial evidence and the jury reasonably
rejects the hypothesis of innocence presented by the defense,
that hypothesis falls, and the defendant is guilty unless
there is another hypothesis which raises a reasonable doubt.
State v. Moten, 510 So.2d 55, 61 (La.App. 1 Cir.),
writ denied, 514 So.2d 126 (La. 1987). As the fact
finder, a jury is free to accept or reject, in whole or in
part, testimony of any witness. Moreover, when there is
conflicting testimony about factual matters, and resolution
depends upon a determination of the credibility of witnesses,
the matter is one of weight of evidence, not sufficiency. An
appellate court will not reweigh evidence to overturn a fact
finder's determination of guilt. State v.
Taylor, 97-2261 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/25/98), 721 So.2d 929,
932. Moreover, even if the record contains some evidence
which conflicts with testimony accepted by a trier of fact,
such evidence does not render the evidence accepted by the
trier of fact insufficient, State v. Quinn, 479
So.2d 592, 596 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1985).
the evidence presented in the light most favorable to the
state, particularly statements by Felicia Brewer and Britney
Farrell that implicated both the defendant and Townsend, and
evidence the victims were killed with bullets of calibers
consistent with the guns recovered from Jamieson Creek, we
cannot say the jury's determination that the state proved
all elements of second degree murder was ...