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State v. McCoy

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 10, 2017



          Paula C. Marx Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Nathaniel McCoy, Jr.

          Earl B. Taylor 27th JDC District Attorney Jennifer M. Ardoin Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.

          Court composed of D. Kent Savoie, Van H. Kyzar, and David E. Chatelain, Judges.


         The defendant, Nathaniel McCoy, Jr., appeals his manslaughter conviction. For the following reasons, we affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence.


         On April 30, 2014, a St. Landry Parish grand jury returned a true bill, charging the defendant with the second degree murder of Robbie White (White), a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1. The defendant was arraigned on June 26, 2014, where he entered a plea of not guilty. Jury selection occurred on May 3, 2016. Trial was continued until May 23, 2016. The trial took place over May 23 - 25, 2016. By a vote of ten to two, the jury found the defendant guilty of the lesser responsive verdict of manslaughter, a violation of La.R.S. 14:31.

         The defendant timely appealed his conviction and asserts two assignments of error. First, the defendant asserts that the trial court erred in allowing the introduction of "other crimes" evidence that was not timely provided to him; his contention is twofold: it violated the trial court's scheduling order and did not comply with the rules of discovery in criminal matters. Second, the defendant asserts that the State failed to prove that he killed White and challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support a manslaughter conviction.


         In accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, this court reviews all appeals for errors patent on the face of the record. After reviewing the record, we find one error patent.

         The court minutes show that the trial court failed to delay sentencing for twenty-four hours after it denied the defendant's "Motion for Judgment of Acquittal or in the Alternative Motion for New Trial."

         Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 873 provides:

If a defendant is convicted of a felony, at least three days shall elapse between conviction and sentence. If a motion for a new trial, or in arrest of judgment, is filed, sentence shall not be imposed until at least twenty-four hours after the motion is overruled. If the defendant expressly waives a delay provided for in this article or pleads guilty, sentence may be imposed immediately.

         There was no express waiver of the delay in this case; however, any error is harmless because the defendant does not argue excessiveness of his sentence on appeal and does not claim he was prejudiced by the lack of the delay. State v. Frank, 15-893 (La.App. 3 Cir. 5/25/16), 192 So.3d 888; State v. Cortes, 11-794 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/1/12), 84 So.3d 733.


         The defendant asserts the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the person who killed White. Thus, the defendant contends the evidence was insufficient to support the responsive verdict of manslaughter.

         "When issues are raised on appeal both as to the sufficiency of the evidence and as to one or more trial errors, the reviewing court should first determine the sufficiency of the evidence." State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731, 734 (La. 1992). The rationale is that "[w]hen the entirety of the evidence . . . is insufficient to support the conviction, the accused must be discharged as to that crime, and any discussion by the court of the trial error issues as to that crime would be pure dicta since those issues are moot." Id.

         The analysis for insufficiency of the evidence claims is well-settled:

When the issue of sufficiency of evidence is raised on appeal, the critical inquiry of the reviewing court is whether, after 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 proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560, rehearing denied, 444 U.S. 890, 100 S.Ct. 195, 62 L.Ed.2d 126 (1979); State ex rel. Graffagnino v. King, 436 So.2d 559 (La. 1983); State v. Duncan, 420 So.2d 1105 (La.1982); State v. Moody, 393 So.2d 1212 (La.1981). It is the role of the fact finder to weigh the respective credibility of the witnesses, and therefore, the appellate court should not second guess the credibility determinations of the triers of fact beyond the sufficiency evaluations under the Jackson standard of review. See State ex rel. Graffagnino, 436 So.2d 559 (citing State v. Richardson, 425 So.2d 1228 (La.1983)). In order for this Court to affirm a conviction, however, the record must reflect that the state has satisfied its burden of proving the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

State v. Kennerson, 96-1518, p. 5 (La.App. 3 Cir. 5/7/97), 695 So.2d 1367, 1371.

         As to the defendant's assertions that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he killed White, the supreme court in State v. Hughes, 05-992, pp. 5-6 (La. 11/29/06), 943 So.2d 1047, 1051, held:

[W]hen the key issue is the defendant's identity as the perpetrator, rather than whether the crime was committed, the State is required to negate any reasonable probability of misidentification. State v. Weary, 03-3067 (La.4/24/06), 931 So.2d 297; State v. Neal, 00-0674 (La.6/29/01), 796 So.2d 649. Positive identification by only one witness is sufficient to support a conviction. Weary, 03-3067 at p. 18, 931 So.2d at 311; Neal, 00-0674 at p. 11, 796 So.2d at 658; State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1311 (La.1988). It is the factfinder who weighs the respective credibilities of the witnesses, and this court will generally not second-guess those determinations. State v. Bright, 98-0398, p. 22 (La.4/11/00), 776 So.2d 1134, 1147.

         Moreover, in discharging our review function, we consider "all of the evidence" before the actual fact-finder. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789 (1979). The United States Supreme Court has explained that the standard of review for sufficiency of evidence is highly deferential to the fact-finder because it "gives full play to the responsibility of the trier of fact fairly to resolve conflicts in the testimony, to weigh the evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts." Id. "The criterion thus impinges upon 'jury' discretion only to the extent necessary to guarantee the fundamental protection of due process of law." Id.

         Similarly, "[a] reviewing court may impinge on the factfinding function of the jury only to the extent necessary to assure the Jackson standard of review." State v. Macon, 06-481, p. 8 (La. 6/1/07), 957 So.2d 1280, 1285. "It is not the function of an appellate court to assess credibility or re-weigh the evidence." Id. at 1286. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the source of the Jackson standard, does not countenance, much less require, that we re-weigh testimony and witness credibility. And "[i]n criminal ...

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