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State v. Ceasar

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

July 12, 2017



          John F. DeRosier 14th Judicial District Court District Attorney COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/RESPONDENT: State of Louisiana

          Coby Quinton Ceasar Louisiana State Penitentiary PRO SE: Coby Quinton Ceasar

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Elizabeth A. Pickett, and Shannon J. Gremillion, Judges.


         Relator, Coby Quinton Ceasar, was convicted of second degree murder in the July 28, 2010 shooting death of his stepfather, Patrick Myles, Sr. This court affirmed Relator's conviction finding the state presented sufficient evidence to meet its burden of showing Relator did not act in self-defense. State v. Ceasar, 14-141 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/1/14), 149 So.3d 301, writ denied, 14-2228 (La. 8/28/15), 175 So.3d 961. Relator filed an application for post-conviction relief in the trial court which the trial court denied on September 19, 2016. Relator contends the trial court erred in its treatment of the issues raised therein.[1]


         Relator contends that the trial court erred in failing to address his claim regarding prosecutorial misconduct because it was outside the purview of La.Code Crim.P. art. 930.3 which sets forth the grounds for post-conviction relief. Relator raises numerous examples of what he alleges was prosecutorial misconduct at his trial. First, Relator claims that during his opening statement, the prosecutor told the jury that the victim was a good man and that his vouching for the victim's character prejudiced Relator. Additionally, Relator contends the prosecutor misrepresented the facts of the case to the jury in his opening statement. Next, Relator claims the prosecutor failed to correct false testimony of a witness, testimony known by the prosecutor to be false. Relator also claims the trial court erred in allowing the prosecutor to question Relator's mother as a hostile witness. Essentially, Relator claims the prosecutor misrepresented facts at trial to present a false-positive image of the victim and a negative image of Relator to the jury in order to incite their prejudice against Relator.

         The trial court denied Relator's claims of prosecutorial misconduct as not falling within the purview of La.Code Crim.P. art. 930.3. Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 930.3 provides, in pertinent part:

If the petitioner is in custody after sentence for conviction for an offense, relief shall be granted only on the following grounds:
(1) The conviction was obtained in violation of the constitution of the United States or the state of Louisiana[.]

         In State v. Ortiz, 11-2799, p. 7 (La. 1/29/13), 110 So.3d 1029, 1034, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 174 (2013), the supreme court stated:

Grounds for post-conviction relief in Louisiana are primarily restricted to constitutional or jurisdictional violations, La.C.Cr.P. art. 930.3, and "the touchstone of due process analysis in cases of alleged prosecutorial misconduct is the fairness of the trial, not the culpability of the prosecutor . . . the aim of due process 'is not punishment of society for the misdeeds of the prosecutor but avoidance of an unfair trial to the accused.'" Smith v. Phillips, 455 U.S. 209, 219, 102 S.Ct. 940, 947, 71 L.Ed.2d 78 (1982) (quoting Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 1196, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963)).

         Likewise, this court has stated, "the . . . assignment, involving prosecutorial misconduct, should properly be raised in an application for post-conviction relief." State v. Kendrick, 96-1636, p. 18 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/25/97), 699 So.2d 424, 434, writ denied, 98-2159 (La. 12/18/98), 731 So.2d 280.

         Thus, we find that the trial court erred in failing to consider Relator's claims regarding prosecutorial misconduct raised in his application for post-conviction relief. As such, Relator's writ application as to this claim is granted, and the case is remanded to the trial court for consideration and ruling thereon.


         Relator claims the trial court erred in denying his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel that resulted when his attorney prevented him from testifying at trial after hearing the prosecutor's threat to introduce investigative reports about sexual abuse allegations against Relator. Relator claims his attorney made the decision that Relator would not testify, a decision that Relator alone had the authority to make.

         In support of his claim, Relator points to a transcript excerpt from an objection raised at trial during the testimony of the victim's estranged wife, Linda Myles. When defense counsel asked Ms. Myles whether she knew of the victim's criminal record, the prosecutor objected. During the course of the ensuing colloquy about the victim's prior bad acts/crimes, defense counsel mentioned his desire to present evidence of a child protection investigation stemming from the victim hitting Relator in the face with a belt. The prosecutor responded that the State could then present information that Relator sexually abused people living in the house with him and that it could provide reports, opening up the "whole can of worms." To this, defense counsel responded, "Not if my client doesn't testify."

         The trial court found that counsel's suggestion that Relator not testify falls within the scope of trial strategy. Further, the trial court found that Relator did not show that his counsel's actions were unreasonable or that he was prejudiced by thereby. Accordingly, the trial court found that Relator failed to meet the ...

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