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State v. Hawkins

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

May 17, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
GLYNN HAWKINS AND ALEX LEWIS

         APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 516-468, SECTION "I" Honorable Karen K. Herman, Judge

          Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. Donna Andrieu, Chief of Appeals Kyle Daly Christopher J. Ponoroff COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE/STATE OF LOUISIANA

          Powell Miller COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, GLYNN HAWKINS

          Holli Herrle-Castillo COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, ALEX LEWIS

          Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins

          Daniel L. Dysart Judge

         Defendant-appellant, Glynn Hawkins, appeals his convictions of second degree murder, discharge of a firearm during a violent crime and obstruction of justice, while defendant-appellant, Alex Lewis, appeals his conviction of second degree murder. In this appeal, Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Lewis both raise the issue of whether the trial court erroneously allowed evidence of their gang affiliation to be introduced at trial. In addition, Mr. Hawkins argues that the trial court erroneously allowed evidence of other crimes to be introduced at trial. Mr. Lewis raises the separate issue of whether there was sufficient evidence adduced at trial to support his conviction.

         Finding no merit to these assignments of error and for the reasons set forth more fully herein, we affirm the defendants' convictions and sentences.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On the afternoon of March 9, 2013, Bertrand Dezara was murdered in the courtyard of an apartment building in eastern New Orleans. Shortly before or around the time of the murder, the New Orleans Police Department was dispatched to the scene after a 911 call had been made and an aggravated burglary had been reported.

         Two days later, on March 11, 2013, a shootout occurred on Claiborne Avenue near Washington Avenue in New Orleans between the occupants of two moving vehicles. A handgun used during the shootout and recovered from the scene was determined to have been one of the guns used in the murder of Mr. Dezara.

         On May 28, 2013, Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Lewis were jointly indicted by an Orleans Parish grand jury for the second degree murder of Mr. Dezara.[1] Mr. Hawkins was also indicted on two other counts; namely, for the discharge of a firearm during a violent crime and for obstruction of justice. Both of the latter charges arose from the March 11, 2013 shootout on Claiborne Avenue.

         Defendants pled not guilty to the charges and filed motions to suppress the evidence and identifications, which were denied by the trial court. The State then filed a motion to allow Prieur [2] evidence as to Mr. Hawkins and a motion to allow introduction of evidence of gang association as to both of the defendants. The State's motions were granted and Mr. Lewis sought a supervisory writ of review as to the trial court's ruling on the admissibility of gang association evidence. This Court denied the writ application on August 18, 2014.[3]

         A jury trial was held in September, 2015 and defendants were found guilty on all counts. After motions for a new trial were denied, defendants waived delays and proceeded to sentencing. The trial court sentenced Mr. Lewis to life imprisonment at hard labor, without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. Mr. Hawkins received the same sentence on the second degree murder count. As to the conviction of the discharge of a firearm during a violent crime, Mr. Hawkins was sentenced to twenty years at hard labor, without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. Mr. Hawkins received the same twenty year sentence for his conviction of obstruction of justice. All of Mr. Hawkins' sentences were to run concurrently.

         The State then filed a multiple bill of information as to Mr. Hawkins based upon his convictions for discharge of a firearm and obstruction of justice. A hearing on the multiple bill was held on November 16, 2015, at which time the trial court adjudicated Mr. Hawkins to be a third felony offender. His prior sentences were vacated and the trial court re-sentenced him to eighty years at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence on the discharge of a firearm charge; and forty years at hard labor on the charge of obstruction of justice, also to be served without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. The trial court ordered these sentences to be served concurrently with each other and the sentence on the second degree murder conviction.

         Mr. Hawkins filed a motion for new trial which was denied by the trial court. This appeal followed.

         TRIAL TESTIMONY

         April 19, 2012 murder of Jeffrey Domingue

         Detective Justin Rice, who in April, 2012, was a detective with the homicide division of the New Orleans Police Department ("NOPD"), testified that, on April 19, 2012, he was the lead investigator of a homicide which occurred on Jackson Avenue at Carondelet Street. When he arrived at the scene, he found the victim, Jeffrey Domingue, slumped over in a vehicle which had crashed into a bus. The victim had been shot several times and was already deceased. Detective Rice obtained the license plate number of the suspect's vehicle, and also learned from eyewitnesses that there were at least four occupants of that vehicle at the time of the shooting.

         Detective Rice then determined that the suspect's vehicle had been rented from Avis Budget Rental by Norman Johnson. Detective Rice contacted Mr. Johnson who advised that he had rented the vehicle for Quilla Harris, his girlfriend's daughter. Detective Rice questioned Ms. Harris, who advised that she had allowed her cousin, Eric Harris, and his friend, "Glynn" to use the vehicle.

         Detective Rice determined that "Glynn" was likely Glynn Hawkins (because the Intelligence Division of the NOPD was aware that Eric Harris and Mr. Hawkins were associates of one another) and discovered that, on the date of the shooting, Mr. Hawkins was wearing a GPS ankle monitor. Detective Rice then obtained the records of Mr. Hawkins' GPS ankle monitor and learned that, at the time of Mr. Domingue's murder, Mr. Hawkins was located at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Carondelet Street. The records reflected that, around that time, Mr. Hawkins was moving at a fast pace, suggestive of his having been in a vehicle travelling at a high rate of speed on Carondelet Street.

         Mr. Hawkins was arrested in connection with Mr. Domingue's murder and pled guilty to accessory after the fact (See footnote 2, supra).[4] Mr. Hawkins was released from prison on January 30, 2013.

         March 9, 2013 murder of Bernard Dezara

         On March 9, 2013, Sergeant Arlen Barnes, who at the time was a member of the NOPD Task Force assigned to assist with patrols of the Seventh District, responded, around 2:54 p.m., to a 2:51 p.m. 911 phone call reporting an aggravated burglary at an apartment complex in eastern New Orleans. When he arrived, he encountered the decedent, Mr. Dezara, who showed no signs of life, lying adjacent to Building Q of the apartment complex.[5] Mr. Dezara's body exhibited several gunshot wounds. Sergeant Barnes notified the NOPD homicide division, and Detective Maggie McCourt, of the NOPD homicide division, arrived and took over the investigation.

         According to Detective McCourt, while the investigating officers attempted to locate witnesses shortly after Mr. Dezara's death, they were unable to do so. She then learned of the earlier 911 call which had reported the aggravated burglary and she directed two officers (Detective Jacob Lundy, a detective with the homicide division, and Detective Vaught) to the apartment from which the call was made (located in Building Q).[6] There, the officers found two individuals - Mr. Bryer and Lance Stewart. According to Detective Lundy, Mr. Bryer and Mr. Stewart both indicated that they did not know the identity of the man who had been shot in the courtyard. At that time, he considered Mr. Bryer and Mr. Stewart to be victims of the aggravated burglary.

         According to Detective Lundy, at the apartment, Mr. Stewart relayed that he had been sitting on the sofa talking on the telephone when Mr. Bryer entered the room with his hands up and a black male behind him with a gun. Both he and Mr. Bryer denied knowing of any connection between the aggravated burglary and Mr. Dezara's murder. However, several minutes after the perpetrators left the scene, he heard gunshots.

         Mr. Stewart advised that, after the aggravated burglary, he attempted to call the police "but his phone was acting crazy." He then called his "sister, " Corielle Brown, to report what had happened.[7]

         After being interviewed at the apartment, Mr. Bryer and Mr. Stewart were transported to the police station for interviews and were placed in separate interview rooms. Detective McCourt personally viewed the interviews and she testified that Mr. Bryer and Mr. Stewart gave consistent descriptions of the perpetrators. She also testified that she observed Mr. Bryer putting his ear to a wall, in an apparent attempt to hear what was taking place in the adjacent interview room.

         During the interviews, the officers were able to obtain telephone numbers of calls made from Mr. Stewart's phone. They later obtained a subpoena for those phone records in order to determine what calls were made before and after Mr. Dezara's murder. According to Detective McCourt, all but one call made from Mr. Stewart's phone were to a pre-paid cellular phone for which there were no records or subscriber information.

         Detective McCourt notified Mr. Dezara's next-of-kin, his mother, Sonja Miller, of the death of her son. Ms. Miller indicated that she wanted to retrieve her son's belongings from Corielle Brown's apartment (the very apartment from which the 911 call had been made and where Ms. Brown, Mr. Bryer and Mr. Stewart were found after Mr. Dezara's murder) and on March 11, 2013, Detective McCourt contacted Ms. Brown about Mr. Dezara's personal belongings. At that time, Detective McCourt learned from another officer with the homicide division that an individual whose nickname was "G-4" was a possible suspect in Mr. Dezara's murder. She then learned from Detective Rice (the lead investigator of the Domingue murder) that "G-4" was Mr. Hawkins.[8]

         The following day, March 12, 2013, Ms. Brown and Mr. Stewart met with Detective McCourt at the office of the homicide division. A photographic lineup was shown to Mr. Stewart and he positively identified Mr. Hawkins as one of the men who had entered his apartment on the day of Mr. Dezara's murder.[9] She then obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Hawkins.

         A couple of days later, Ms. Brown contacted Detective McCourt and provided her with photograph depicting three individuals; one was Mr. Bryer and the other was Mr. Hawkins. Detective McCourt did not recognize the third person; however, Detective Rice identified him as Mr. Lewis. Another photographic lineup was conducted with Mr. Stewart who positively identified the third person as the other person who had entered the apartment on the day of Mr. Dezara's murder - Mr. Lewis. Detective McCourt obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Lewis.

         Corielle Brown also testified at trial. She indicated that she lived in Apartment Q23 with Mr. Stewart and her daughter. While Mr. Bryer did not live with her, he would visit occasionally. The victim, Mr. Dezara (her boyfriend), had spent the night at her apartment on the evening before he was murdered. The next day, after Mr. Bryer and Mr. Stewart had left the apartment so that Mr. Bryer could apply for a job at a Wendy's restaurant, she too left to go to her mother's house to do some laundry. Mr. Dezara remained at the apartment.

         After being at her mother's house for a couple of hours, Ms. Brown received a phone call from Mr. Bryer, at which time he reported that her apartment had been burglarized. She returned to her apartment and encountered the police. While she had been unable to enter her apartment at the time, she was aware that Mr. Dezara had been shot. Ms. Brown admitted on cross-examination that, when Mr. Bryer called her, he told her that two men had broken into her apartment, took some money from her dresser and that Mr. Dezara had been shot. She also admitted that she did not advise the officers of this information initially when she was questioned at the station.

         According to Ms. Brown, on the night of the murder, Mr. Bryer commented that he "was going to the grave with it, " although she did not know what this meant.

         Ms. Brown testified that she and Mr. Stewart were later looking at some photographs on Instagram[10] when Mr. Stewart became upset and angry, having recognized some of the individuals in the photographs. She clarified later on cross-examination that Mr. Stewart was upset because he did not want to testify. However, Ms. Brown urged Mr. Stewart to tell the truth if he knew something. Ms. Brown also testified that she had numerous conversations with Mr. Bryer; in one of those conversations, Mr. Bryer told her that, on the day of the murder, he had invited two people over, but she did not know to whom he was referring.

         Lance Stewart confirmed Ms. Brown's testimony that Mr. Dezara had spent the night before his death at his and Ms. Brown's apartment. On the day of Mr. Dezara's murder, he was at the apartment with Mr. Dezara and Mr. Bryer. Mr. Stewart confirmed Ms. Brown's testimony that he and Mr. Bryer left the apartment so that Mr. Bryer could obtain a job application, at which point he saw Ms. Brown leave the apartment. Mr. Bryer then decided to return to the apartment. He borrowed Mr. Stewart's phone to make a call. Two men then arrived at the apartment and Mr. Bryer allowed them inside. One went to the bathroom and when he returned, Mr. Stewart saw him retrieve a gun from his pocket and cock it. Mr. Stewart heard Mr. Bryer tell the two men "to just go forward and do what they came to do."

         Mr. Stewart testified that the two men went in Ms. Brown's bedroom, where Mr. Dezara was located and brought Mr. Dezara out of the bedroom. They took him outside the apartment and within minutes, Mr. Stewart heard multiple gunshots. Being afraid, Mr. Stewart went into the bathroom and when he exited, he saw Mr. Bryer walking in the front door. Mr. Bryer told Mr. Stewart that the men had tried to rob the apartment. Mr. Stewart, in turn, called Ms. Brown and told her that the men had tried to rob the apartment.

         When the police officers arrived at the apartment shortly thereafter, Mr. Stewart reported that the two men had tried to rob the apartment. He testified that he related that story because, at the time, that is what he believed had happened, and what Mr. Bryer had claimed. Mr. Stewart provided the officers with a description of the two men who he did not personally know.

         Some time later, Mr. Stewart and Ms. Brown were looking at photographs on Facebook and Instagram and Mr. Stewart found a photograph with both of the men who had come to the apartment on March 9, 2013. He advised Ms. Brown that these were the two perpetrators and they contacted the police. Mr. Stewart was shown lineups at the police station and he identified Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Lewis as the two men who took Mr. Dezara out of the apartment and shot him. Mr. Stewart again positively identified Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Lewis at trial.

         Mr. Stewart admitted at trial, on cross examination, that the second statement he gave to the police varied from the first statement given on the date of the murder, in which he merely reported the aggravated burglary and indicated that Mr. Bryer had walked in with his hands up and the two perpetrators behind him. He testified that the second statement was the correct statement. He likewise testified that he was scared for his life and had not wanted to get involved, and he agreed that "these [are] the two faces [of Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Lewis] that [he is] going to remember for the rest of [his] life." He will remember these faces as those who "[brought] Bernard Dezara out and [shot] him in the middle of the courtyard at 3:00 p.m. on a Saturday."

         Frank Johnson, the owner of a barbershop, who has known Mr. Lewis since he was a child, testified that, on the day of Mr. Dezara's murder, Mr. Lewis was at his shop. Although he could not recall the precise time, he believed that Mr. Lewis arrived around 2:00 and left around 4:00. Mr. Lewis had brought his son with him to get a haircut and the two were going to a motor cross event that evening. Mr. Johnson admitted that he did not contact the police because he was unaware that Mr. Lewis had been charged in connection with Mr. Dezara's murder. However, Mr. Lewis' father approached him and asked if Mr. Lewis had been ...


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