OF CERTIORARI TO COURT OF APPEAL FIRST CIRCUIT, PARISH OF ST.
was indicted for six counts of aggravated rape the state
alleged he committed when he was between 13 and 16 years old.
Children's Code article 305(A)(1)(a) automatically
divests the juvenile court of jurisdiction when a child is 15
years of age or older at the time of the commission of
aggravated rape and an indictment charging that offense is
returned. After the indictment was returned, the case was
transferred from the juvenile court to the district court.
The district court then quashed the indictment because, among
other reasons, defendant allegedly committed two of the
offenses when he was between 13 and 15 years old, and
therefore he was potentially younger than 15 years old at the
time. The state then filed an amended bill of information in
the district court charging defendant with six counts of
forcible rape committed over the same three-year span.
Defendant entered a dual plea of not guilty and not guilty by
reason of insanity and proceeded to a bench trial.
parties stipulated at trial that defendant committed the acts
constituting forcible rape as alleged by the state. Thus, the
only contested fact at trial was defendant's sanity at
the time of the offenses. The state also attempted to orally
amend the bill of information mid-trial to allege that all
six offenses were committed when defendant was at least 15
years old. After trial, the district court found defendant
guilty as charged on all counts and sentenced him to serve
six concurrent terms of 40 years imprisonment at hard labor
with the first two years of each to be served without benefit
of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The court of
appeal affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences.
State v. Harrison, 15-1044 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/23/15)
(unpub'd). In affirming, the court of appeal rejected
defendant's claim that the district court lacked
jurisdiction. The court of appeal erred to the extent that it
affirmed the convictions and sentences for counts one and
two, which the state originally alleged in the grand jury
indictment defendant committed when he was between 13 and 15
of the evidentiary focus at trial on the question of sanity,
the record is not well-developed with regard to the timing of
the offenses. However, it is clear that the state originally
alleged defendant committed two forcible rapes when he was
between 13 and 15 years old (and therefore potentially 13 or
14 years old at the time), and committed the remaining four
when he was 15 or 16 years old. For juveniles who are 14
years old, Children's Code article 857(A) authorizes
transfer from the juvenile court to the district court for
certain offenses after the juvenile court conducts a hearing
to determine if transfer is appropriate. No such hearing was
held here. For juveniles who are 13 years old, no provision
of the Children's Code authorizes transfer from the
juvenile court to the district court. Because the state
failed to establish definitively before the grand jury that
two of the offenses were committed when defendant was at
least 15 years old, the automatic transfer provision of
Article 305(A) could not confer jurisdiction on the district
court over those offenses. Because the timeframe alleged by
the state left it possible that defendant committed two
offenses when he was either 13 or 14 years old, jurisdiction
was either not transferrable to the district court or not
correctly transferred to the district court by the grand jury
indictment, notwithstanding the state's mid-trial efforts
to cure the lack of jurisdiction by orally amending the
subsequently filed bill of information.
long been established that lack of jurisdiction is a defect
fatal to a criminal prosecution:
And, so far as nullity resulting from absence of jurisdiction
is concerned, why that is a matter which in the words of this
court in the case of Decuir v. Decuir, 105 La. [481,
] 485, 29 South. [932, ] 934 [(1901)], "may be invoked
by any one at any time and anywhere."
State v. Nicolosi, 128 La. 836, 846, 55 So. 475, 478
(1911) (on rehearing). Because jurisdiction was not correctly
transferred from the juvenile court to the district court for
two counts, the convictions and sentences for those two
offenses are nullities. Therefore, we grant defendant's
application in part to vacate his conviction and sentences
for counts one and two. The application is otherwise denied
and defendant's remaining convictions and sentences for
four counts of forcible rape are not affected by this ruling.
IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, CONVICTIONS AND SENTENCES ON
COUNTS ONE AND TWO VACATED
JOHNSON, C.J., dissents in part and assigns reasons.
respectfully dissent from that portion of the majority's
opinion denying defendant's application relative to the
remaining convictions and sentences for four counts of
forcible rape. In my view, defendant has asserted a valid
argument for ineffective assistance of counsel relative to
the stipulation of guilt entered by his counsel at trial.
trial, the State offered a stipulation that the defendant
committed the acts as alleged in the bill of information,
introducing videotaped interviews of the victims as a factual
basis in support of the stipulation. Noting his review of the
videotapes, defense counsel informed the trial court that he
would enter into the stipulation based on his understanding
that, if called at trial, the witnesses would testify in
accordance with their statements. Thus, under these factual
circumstances, it is clear the stipulation was in actuality a
plea of guilt entitling defendant to the constitutional
protections provided in Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S.
238, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 (1969). I find it
noteworthy that defense counsel's stipulation went beyond
simply stipulating to the witnesses' testimony. Defense
counsel actually conceded defendant committed the acts.
Compare State v. Hall, 47, 564 (La.App. 2 Cir.
12/12/12), 108 So.3d 188, 195-96 and State v.
Harris, 470 So.2d 601, 603 (La.App. 1st Cir.
1985), writ denied, 477 So.2d 1123 (La. 1985).
a plea of guilty can be accepted, the trial court must
determine that the accused has a full understanding of what
the plea connotes and its consequences, specifically that the
defendant understands the nature of the charges, his right to
a jury trial, the acts sufficient to constitute the offense
for which he is charged and the range of possible sentences.
Boykin, supra; State ex rel. Jackson v. Henderson, 260 La.
90, 255 So.2d 85 (1971). As the Supreme Court noted in
Boykin, "a plea of guilty is more than a confession
which admits that the accused did various acts; it is itself
a conviction; nothing remains but to give judgment and
determine punishment." 395 U.S. at 242.
record does not disclose that the defendant voluntarily and
understandingly entered his pleas of guilty. In
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct.
2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), the Supreme Court set out a
two-pronged test for proof of ineffective assistance of
counsel: the defendant must show that his attorney's
performance was deficient and that the deficiency prejudiced
him so that the outcome would have been different absent
counsel's ineffectiveness. An error is considered
prejudicial if it was so serious as to deprive the defendant
of a fair trial or "a trial whose result is
reliable." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687.
Evaluated under these standards, I would find the actions of
defense counsel in entering the stipulation of guilt, without
ensuring defendant ...