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State v. Moran

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 3, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
HANK ALLEN MORAN AKA - HANK MORAN

         APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. LANDRY, NO. 13-K-4735-D HONORABLE ADAM GERARD CASWELL, DISTRICT JUDGE.

          Earl B. Taylor, Jennifer Ardoin, Alisa Ardoin Gothreaux, Assistant District Attorneys, COUNSEL FOR: Plaintiff/Appellee - State of Louisiana.

          Annette Fuller Roach Louisiana Appellate Project P. O., Lake Charles, COUNSEL FOR: Defendant/Appellant - Hank Allen Moran aka - Hank Moran, Hank Allen Moran Louisiana State Prison Falcon III Angola.

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Sylvia R. Cooks, and Elizabeth A. Pickett, Judges.

          ULYSSES GENE THIBODEAUX CHIEF JUDGE.

         Defendant Hank Moran appeals his jury conviction for the first degree murder of his wife, Constance Moran. Before she was killed, Ms. Moran called police to report Mr. Moran had choked her. Officers responded and returned to the home after they were unable to locate Mr. Moran at a local park he frequented. When an officer returned, he found Mr. Moran crouching over his wife's body as blood seeped from her. Mr. Moran was charged with first degree murder pursuant to La.R.S. 14:30(A)(9)(a).[1] The State argued he killed his wife to prevent her from testifying about the domestic violence incident. On appeal, he argues the evidence did not support a guilty verdict and the trial court admitted inadmissible statements that require reversal of the verdict.

         We affirm the trial court's rulings and the jury's guilty verdict.

         I.

         ISSUES

         We must decide:

1. whether the trial court erred in denying Mr. Moran's Motion to Suppress statements he made after his arrest but prior to being advised of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966) and La.Const. art. 1 § 13;
2. whether the trial court erred in denying Mr. Moran's Motion in Limine and allowing statements made by Ms. Moran, who was unavailable to testify as she was deceased, in violation of Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354 (2004); and
3. whether there is sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict of first degree murder pursuant to La.R.S. 14:30(A)(9)(a).

         II.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Officers responded to a 911 call from Ms. Moran who reported that her husband had choked her. Officer Morris Leday encountered Ms. Moran about a half block from her house. Ms. Moran gave a written statement and orally told the officer her husband had threatened to kill her and himself if she told police he choked her. Additional officers arrived and searched the home for Mr. Moran to no avail. Officers then traveled to a local park to search for Mr. Moran based on Ms. Moran's information that he often went there. Before doing so, officers secured the home, searched around the property and under the home, and told Ms. Moran to remain inside with the doors locked. Unable to locate Mr. Moran at the park, officers returned to the home.

         When Officer Leday returned, he noticed the back door had been forced open. Upon entering the home, Officer Leday heard "thrashing" sounds coming from the bedroom. He went to the living room and observed Mr. Moran crouched over Ms. Moran with blood on the floor and her body. Officer Leday identified himself, demanded Mr. Moran to raise his hands, and ordered him to drop the knife. Mr. Moran dropped the knife after being ordered four times. He then grabbed a bottle of pills and swallowed a handful.

         While being escorted out of the home, he stated, "I bet now she'll listen." Later, while being examined by paramedics he told Officer Leday, "I did what I had to do, I did the job right, huh, officer? Did I do the job right officer?" Mr. Moran was transported to the Special Operations building for interrogation. As the interrogation room was being prepared, Officer Leday waited in the lobby area with Mr. Moran, who had not been given Miranda warnings yet. While waiting, Mr. Moran made statements to Officer Leday admitting to the killing, describing his method, and expressing the gratification he received from killing his wife. Mr. Moran stated, "[t]he last thing she told me was that she loved me. I looked at her straight in the eyes and I said, 'I love you too, baby, ' then I jugged her straight down in her esophagus."

         Mr. Moran was charged with first degree murder. He filed a number of motions to strike statements he gave Officer Leday before he was mirandized and to suppress Ms. Moran's written and oral statements. A jury found him guilty of first degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison at hard labor. Mr. ...


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