OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, THIRD CIRCUIT, PARISH
Chadwick McGhee was found guilty as a principal to the simple
kidnapping of Jessica Guillot, La.R.S. 14:45, in response to
a charge of second degree kidnapping, La.R.S. 14:44.1.
Guillot disappeared in September 2013 after she was last seen
being dragged out of one vehicle by Donnie Edwards and Willie
Price and forced into a second vehicle in which Asa Bentley
was waiting. Bentley then choked and threatened the victim,
who begged for her life, as Edwards drove off with them,
following Price and defendant in the first vehicle. The court
of appeal found that, although the evidence showed
co-perpetrators Bentley, Edwards, and Price kidnapped the
victim, the evidence was insufficient to show that the
defendant was anything other than an unwitting bystander to
the crime. Because the court of appeal erred in its
application of the due process standard of Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61
L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), we grant the state's application to
reverse the court of appeal's ruling and remand for
consideration of the pretermitted assignments of error.
reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a
conviction, an appellate court in Louisiana is controlled by
the standard enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61
L.Ed.2d 560 (1979) . . . . [T]he appellate court must
determine that the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to convince a
rational trier of fact that all of the elements of the crime
had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt." State v.
Captville, 448 So.2d 676, 678 (La. 1984). The
Jackson standard does not permit a reviewing court
to substitute its own appreciation of the facts for that of
the factfinder. State v. Robertson, 96-1048, p. 1
(La. 10/4/96), 680 So.2d 1165, 1166. It is not the province
of the reviewing court to assess the credibility of witnesses
or reweigh evidence. State v. Smith, 94-3116, p. 2
(La. 10/16/95), 661 So.2d 442, 443. As explained in State
v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305 (La. 1988):
If rational triers of fact could disagree as to the
interpretation of the evidence, the rational
trier's view of all of the evidence most favorable to the
prosecution must be adopted. Thus, irrational
decisions to convict will be overturned, rational
decisions to convict will be upheld, and the actual fact
finder's discretion will be impinged upon only to the
extent necessary to guarantee the fundamental protection of
due process of law.
Mussall, 523 So.2d at 1310 (footnote omitted).
to an offense are defined as:
All persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether
present or absent, and whether they directly commit the act
constituting the offense, aid and abet in its commission, or
directly or indirectly counsel or procure another to commit
the crime, are principals.
La.R.S. 14:24. The court of appeal found the evidence
insufficient to show that the defendant, who was present at a
kidnapping, was aware that a kidnapping was going to occur or
had any intent to aid and abet in the commission of the
crime. In doing so, the court of appeal failed to view all of
the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution.
That evidence included not only the defendant's presence
at the crime scene but also his participation in stalking the
victim with Bentley.
was presented at trial to establish the following. On
September 7, Asa Bentley came to the victim's
mother's house looking for the victim and claiming the
victim had stolen something from him. The victim's mother
then walked to the victim's home and found it had been
ransacked. A few hours later, Bentley and the defendant
picked up Cecil Cooper (the victim's fiancé) from
work. The defendant repeatedly told Cooper that something bad
had happened the night before and the victim was in trouble.
Bentley then complained to Cooper that the victim had stolen
cocaine from him and stated that "somebody" was
going to have to pay him his money or "somebody"
would get hurt. After Cooper refused to pay and threatened to
call the police, the defendant and Bentley dropped him off at
the ransacked residence he shared with the victim, and they
careened away after hitting a vehicle on the property.
Bentley then met Tamika Williams at her apartment. The
defendant was not present. Bentley told Williams that the
victim had stolen cocaine from him and that when he found her
he was going to kill her. The victim was later spotted near a
shed and a phone call was made to Bentley informing him of
her location. Notably, when Bentley arrived to look for her
he was accompanied by the defendant, who one witness
testified was nearly always at Bentley's side. Together,
Bentley and the defendant entered the shed looking for the
victim. On Monday, September 9, Bentley picked Williams up
and they drove on Highway 1 while Bentley talked to his
brother, Willie Price, on the phone. Bentley slowed so that a
vehicle-containing Price, the defendant, Donnie Edwards, and
the victim- could pass him. The two vehicles then pulled over
and the victim was dragged into Bentley's car and
attacked as described above. The two vehicles drove off
together. After Bentley strangled the victim, the defendant
joined him in the vehicle in which the victim was killed.
Later that night Bentley reminded an upset defendant in front
of eyewitnesses that the defendant had to do anything Bentley
told him to do. When the defendant was interviewed by police,
he confirmed their characterization of him as "Asa's
boy" but denied he knew the victim stole cocaine from
Bentley or why Bentley was looking for her and he denied he
was present in the car with Price, Edwards, and the victim.
That statement was played for the jury.
defendant's close association with Bentley, his awareness
that the victim had stolen cocaine from Bentley, his
participation in attempting to recoup Bentley's loss from
the victim's fiancé, his participation in the hunt
for the victim, his presence in the vehicle that transported
the victim to Bentley, his presence during (and after) the
transfer of the victim to Bentley, and his denial of any
knowledge or involvement, we cannot say the jury's
determination that the defendant is a principal to the
kidnapping is irrational even though he remained in the car
during the moment the victim was handed over to Bentley.
Although a jury may not speculate "if the evidence is
such that reasonable jurors must have reasonable doubt,
" State v. Lubrano, 563 So.2d 847, 850
(La.1990) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted),
the state here presented sufficient evidence, which when
viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution under
the due process standard of Jackson v. Virginia, to
establish that the defendant aided and abetted in the
kidnapping of the victim. Accordingly we grant the
state's application to reverse the court of appeal's
ruling and remand to the court of appeal for consideration of
the pretermitted assignments of error.
Johnson, Chief Justice, dissents and assigns reasons.
respectfully dissent because I agree with the court of appeal
that the evidence was insufficient to prove ...