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State v. Barron

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 9, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
KEITH BARRON Appellant

         Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 15-F3044 Honorable Carl Van Sharp, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Douglas Lee Harville Counsel for Appellant.

          ROBERT S. TEW District Attorney Counsel for Appellee.

          R. NICOLAS ANDERSON Assistant District Attorney.

          Before DREW, GARRETT, and COX, JJ.

          GARRETT, J.

         The defendant, Keith Barron, appeals his conviction for aggravated battery. For the following reasons, we affirm the conviction and sentence.

         FACTS

         In December 2015, Barron had an altercation with the victim, Tonya Ard, at the apartment they shared in Monroe. Barron cut Ard's throat and stabbed her numerous times in the abdomen. Ard survived the attack and identified Barron as the assailant. An arrest warrant was issued for Barron. He was found in Shreveport and arrested pursuant to the warrant. He was charged with attempted second degree murder. Barron claimed that he acted in self-defense.[1] Following a trial, the jury convicted Barron of the responsive verdict of aggravated battery. Motions for post verdict judgment of acquittal, arrest of judgment, and new trial were denied. Barron was sentenced to serve ten years at hard labor. He appealed, claiming there was insufficient evidence upon which to base the conviction and that the trial court gave an erroneous jury instruction on self-defense.

         SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

         Barron claims there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of aggravated battery. This argument is without merit.

         Legal Principles

         The standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the evidence claim is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Tate, 2001-1658 (La. 5/20/03), 851 So.2d 921, cert. denied, 541 U.S. 905, 124 S.Ct. 1604, 158 L.Ed.2d 248 (2004); State v. Carter, 42, 894 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1/9/08), 974 So.2d 181, writ denied, 2008-0499 (La. 11/14/08), 996 So.2d 1086. This standard, now legislatively embodied in La.C.Cr.P. art. 821, does not provide the appellate court with a vehicle to substitute its own appreciation of the evidence for that of the fact finder. State v. Pigford, 2005-0477 (La. 2/22/06), 922 So.2d 517; State v. Dotie, 43, 819 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1/14/09), 1 So.3d 833, writ denied, 2009-0310 (La. 11/6/09), 21 So.3d 297.

         The Jackson standard is applicable in cases involving both direct and circumstantial evidence. An appellate court reviewing the sufficiency of evidence in such cases must resolve any conflict in the direct evidence by viewing that evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. When the direct evidence is thus viewed, the facts established by the direct evidence and inferred from the circumstances established by that evidence must be sufficient for a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of every essential element of the crime. State v. Sutton, 436 So.2d 471 (La. 1983); State v. Speed, 43, 786 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1/14/09), 2 So.3d 582, writ denied, 2009-0372 (La. 11/6/09), 21 So.3d 299; State v. Parker, 42, 311 (La.App. 2 Cir. 8/15/07), 963 So.2d 497, writ denied, 2007-2053 (La. 3/7/08), 977 So.2d 896; State v. Robinson, 50, 643 (La.App. 2 Cir. 6/22/16), 197 So.3d 717, writ denied, 2016-1479 (La. 5/19/17), ___So. 3d___, 2017 WL 2784240; State v. Sullivan, 51, 180 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/15/17), 216 So.3d 175.

          The appellate court does not assess the credibility of witnesses or reweigh evidence. State v. Smith, 1994-3116 (La. 10/16/95), 661 So.2d 442. A reviewing court accords great deference to the fact finder's decision to accept or reject the testimony of a witness in whole or in part. State v. Eason, 43, 788 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/25/09), 3 So.3d 685, writ denied, 2009-0725 (La. 12/11/09), 23 So.3d 913; State v. Hill, 42, 025 (La.App. 2 Cir. 5/9/07), 956 So.2d 758, writ denied, 2007-1209 (La. 12/14/07), 970 So.2d 529; State v. Randle, 49, 952 (La.App. 2 Cir. 6/24/15), 166 So.3d 465; State v. Casaday, 49, 679 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/27/15), 162 So.3d 578, writ denied, 2015-0607 (La. 2/5/16), 186 So.3d 1162.

         The trier of fact is charged to make a credibility determination and may, within the bounds of rationality, accept or reject the testimony of any witness; thus, a reviewing court may impinge on the fact finder's discretion only to the extent necessary to guarantee the fundamental due process of law. State v. Casey, 1999-0023 (La. 1/26/00), 775 So.2d 1022, cert. denied, 531 U.S. 840, 121 S.Ct. 104, 148 L.Ed.2d 62 (2000); State v. Green, 49, 741 (La.App. 2 Cir. 4/15/15), 164 So.3d 331.

         Where there is conflicting testimony about factual matters, the resolution of which depends upon a determination of the credibility of the witnesses, the matter is one of the weight of the evidence, not its sufficiency. State v. Speed, supra; State v. Allen, 36, 180 (La.App. 2 Cir. 9/18/02), 828 So.2d 622, writs denied, 2002-2595 (La. 3/28/03), 840 So.2d 566, 2002-2997 (La. 6/27/03), 847 So.2d 1255, cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1185, 124 S.Ct. 1404, 158 L.Ed.2d 90 (2004). In the absence of internal contradiction or irreconcilable conflict with physical evidence, one witness's testimony, if believed by the trier of fact, is sufficient support for a requisite factual conclusion. State v. Randle, supra; State v. Francis, 51, 048 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1/11/17), 213 So.3d 1213.

         A battery is the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another. See La. R.S. 14:33. An aggravated battery is a battery committed with a dangerous weapon. See La. R.S. 14:34. "Dangerous weapon" includes any instrumentality, which, in the manner used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm. See La. R.S. 14:2. Aggravated battery is a responsive verdict to attempted second degree murder. La.C.Cr.P. art. 814(4).

La. R.S. 14:18 provides, in part:
The fact that an offender's conduct is justifiable, although otherwise criminal, shall constitute a defense to prosecution for any crime based on that conduct. This defense of justification can be claimed under the following circumstances:
. . . .
(7) When the offender's conduct is in defense of persons or of property under any of the circumstances described in ...

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