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State v. Winters

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 17, 2017



          Annette Roach Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Bill Eric Winters

          Lafayette Parish District Attorney - 15th Judicial District Court Allan P. Haney Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Court composed of Shannon J. Gremillion, John E. Conery, and David E. Chatelain, [*] Judges.


         Defendant, Bill Eric Winters, was convicted of simple burglary, a violation of La.R.S. 14:62, and originally sentenced to serve seven years at hard labor. State v. Winters, 11-581, 12-205, 13-303 (La.App. 3 Cir. 7/24/13), 118 So.3d 104, writ denied, 13-1959 (La. 2/21/14), 133 So.3d 681. Defendant was then adjudicated a multiple felony offender based on eight prior felony convictions and sentenced to serve twelve years at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Defendant and the State appealed. This court held Defendant should have been sentenced under the habitual offender law in accordance with La.R.S. 15:529.1(A)(1)(c)(ii), [1] which mandates a life sentence. Defendant's sentence was remanded to the trial court for resentencing in accordance with that statute.

         On remand, the trial court resentenced Defendant to fourteen years at hard labor. The trial court also denied Defendant's motion to reconsider the fourteen-year sentence. Defendant has now appealed that sentence, arguing the proper sentence is the original seven-year sentence, or alternatively, the twelve-year sentence. The State has filed a brief indicating it does not oppose the current fourteen-year sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's fourteen-year sentence.


         Defendant committed simple burglary when he entered Oncologics, Inc. in Lafayette, Louisiana without authorization on a Sunday morning while the business was closed. One of the employees testified at trial that "her desk drawer was open and 'some Gobstoppers and some special dark chocolate' were missing from her desk, and her calendar on her desk had been moved." Winters, 118 So.3d at 109. An officer testified that he found Gobstopper candy in Defendant's possession at the time of his arrest.


         In accordance with La.Code CrimP. art. 920, all appeals are reviewed for errors patent on the face of the record. After reviewing the record, we find that there are no errors patent.


         In his sole assignment of error for this appeal, Defendant argues his fourteen-year sentence is excessive. In our previous decision in this case, this court discussed the State's argument for a mandatory life sentence and agreed that the statute at issue does provide for a mandatory life sentence under the habitual offender law as an eighth felony offender. Winters, 118 So.3d 104. However, this court also noted that the trial court "may deviate from that statutorily mandated sentence if it determines that a particular sentence (including one mandated by the Habitual Offender Law) is excessive under Article I, Section 20 of the Louisiana Constitution." Id. at 112. This court noted on original appeal that the trial court had not stated extraordinary circumstances to allow deviation from the mandatory life sentence.

         On remand, the trial court considered Defendant's "record of non-violent [sic] offenses[.]" The trial court also noted Defendant "may be a victim of legislative failure to assign sentences that are meaningful or tailored to the culpability of the offender, the gravity of the offense [, ] and the circumstances of the case." Further, the trial court stated that although Defendant "continues to show some disregard for the law, [he] will not benefit nor will our tax payers benefit by subjecting him to imprisonment for the remainder of his life without the benefit of parole or suspension of sentence." Reviewing Defendant's history, the trial court noted three of Defendant's siblings "died prematurely[, ]" and an expert witness had reported Defendant himself "was a victim of molestation . . . when he was just eight years old, and that [Defendant] began experiencing depression as a result." Additionally, at the sentencing hearing on remand, Defendant filed certificates showing his accomplishments during his incarceration. According to Defendant, he received a Spiritual Growth Certificate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary on July 13, 2016; five Certificates of Completion in Life Prep, Substance Abuse Education, and Living in Balance courses from the Rayburn Correctional Center from 2014 to 2016; a Certificate of Completion of the One Year Faith Based ...

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