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State v. Bowers

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 9, 2017


         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 327218 Honorable Brady O'Callaghan, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Carey J. Ellis, III Counsel for Appellant.

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee


          Before MOORE, PITMAN, and COX, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         The defendant, Kevin Bowers, was charged with one count of second degree murder for fatally shooting Dajuan Kennedy, a violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1. After trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict of manslaughter, La. R.S. 14:31. Subsequently, Bowers was adjudicated a fourth-felony offender, and the court sentenced him to life imprisonment at hard labor, without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. Bowers' motion to reconsider sentence was denied. This appeal followed in which Bowers challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for the verdict of manslaughter. For the follow reasons, we affirm the conviction and sentence.


         During the early morning hours of August 28, 2014, Shreveport police officers were dispatched to the residence located at 4136 Jacob Street in response to a shooting reported by a 911 call. At the residence, they found DaJuan Kennedy lying face down in the driveway. Paramedics had already determined that Kennedy was dead. Including the victim and the defendant, there were five men present during the moments before and during the shooting who testified as witnesses to all or part of the incident.

         Jeremy Shepard, Kennedy's uncle, testified that he and his brother, Roderic Kennedy ("Roderic"), were living in their grandparents' house at 4136 Jacob Street the night that the shooting occurred. Shepard testified that he and Roderic were sitting on a little brick patio in the front of the house. Their nephew, DaJuan Kennedy, arrived around 10:30 p.m. The three men sat in the front yard, talking and drinking beer, and were later joined by Rajohn Chapman.

         Shepard testified that around midnight, Bowers drove by the house in a "burgundy Ford, " and Chapman flagged him down. Bowers remained in his vehicle while Chapman went out to the vehicle to talk with him. As Roderic approached the vehicle, Bowers accused Shepard of sending Roderic out. Shepard denied sending Roderic, but Bowers began calling Shepard and Kennedy "bitch-ass niggas." Kennedy was offended and challenged Bowers to a fight. Kennedy took off his white T-shirt, stepped onto the home's driveway and asked Bowers again whether he wanted to fight. Shepard testified that Bowers got out of his vehicle and walked toward Kennedy, but Shepard stepped between the two men and broke up the fight. Shepard pulled Kennedy into the front yard and forced him to sit down. Bowers returned to his vehicle and drove off, leaving Shepard, Roderic, and Kennedy in the front yard. Shepard said that he did not observe a gun or any weapon on Kennedy when he removed his shirt. When Kennedy sat down, he put on his shirt, he, Roderic and Dajuan resumed drinking, thinking that the trouble was over. Shepard said that Rajohn was no longer with them, but they were soon joined by another man, Elijah Patton, aka "Poobie."

         According to Shepard, five minutes later, Bowers returned to 4136 Jacob Street. He stopped at the front gate of the house. DaJuan and the defendant began having words again and DaJuan was ready to fight. Shepard testified that the defendant said, "y'all bitch-ass niggas really don't want to do this." He got out of the vehicle and walked toward the rear of the vehicle. Shepard stated that he was trying to grab his nephew's (DaJuan) arm and they took off running toward the back of the house. As Shepard and Kennedy ran toward the home, Shepard heard two gunshots. Shepard testified that Kennedy dropped, face first, to the ground after the second shot. Shepard saw Bowers return to his vehicle and drive away. DaJuan told him that he was hit and to call 911. Shepard called 911 and held Kennedy until the ambulance arrived. Shepard denied seeing Kennedy with a gun or removing a weapon from Kennedy's person. Shepard also noted that he was unaware of any prior altercations between Bowers and Kennedy.

         Elijah Patton joined the men just before the shooting occurred. He testified that he is a friend of the Kennedy family and was present when Kennedy was shot. Patton testified that he arrived at the house around 2:00 a.m. He said that as he pulled up to the home in his vehicle, Bowers drove away from the home. As Patton got out of his vehicle, he observed Roderic, Shepard, and Kennedy sitting at a plastic table in the front yard. Patton said that no one else was present.

         According to Patton, Kennedy appeared upset. The three men informed Patton of the argument between Kennedy and Bowers. About five minutes after Patton arrived, Bowers returned and jumped out of his vehicle. Bowers began calling the four men "niggas" and walked up to the fence that surrounds the home's front yard. Bowers turned back to his vehicle and retrieved something from the vehicle's trunk. Patton stated that he immediately ran toward the side of the home with Roderic, and as he ran, Patton heard two gunshots. Patton recalled that Kennedy and Shepard were walking toward Bowers when Patton ran away. When Patton returned to the front yard, he observed Kennedy face down on the ground of the driveway. Like Shepard, Patton testified that Kennedy did not have any weapons on him. Patton also testified that he did not hear anyone tell Kennedy to shoot Bowers, nor did he see Bowers with a weapon.

         Like Shepard and Patton, Roderic testified that he had been sitting in the front yard of 4136 Jacob Street for several hours the night of the shooting. Roderic was sitting with Kennedy and Shepard when they were joined by Chapman. Roderic stated that Chapman spoke with them for a few minutes before leaving, and Roderic went into the house to get some beer. When he returned to the front yard, Bowers had arrived and appeared to be arguing with Kennedy. Moments later, Bowers drove off just as Patton arrived. Roderic, Kennedy, Shepard, and Patton sat down and continued drinking in the front yard. A few minutes later, Bowers returned. According to Roderic, Bowers got out of his vehicle, mumbled to himself, opened his vehicle's trunk, and pulled out a rifle. Upon seeing the rifle, Roderic told everyone to run. Roderic testified that he ran to the backyard, and as he ran, he heard a gunshot, followed by a second gunshot about four or five seconds later. Roderic heard a scream and ran back to the front yard and saw Kennedy face down on the ground. Kennedy tried to lift his head, but Roderic instructed him not to move. Roderic then called 911, and Kennedy died while waiting for the ambulance. Roderic noted that Bowers fled the scene as Roderic returned to the front yard.

         Roderic denied that he had an argument with Bowers or asked him to return the scale he borrowed from Shepard. Roderic also testified that Kennedy was unarmed, and he did not tell Kennedy to shoot Bowers.

         Dr. Long Jin, the forensic pathologist who performed Kennedy's autopsy, testified at trial describing the path of the bullet and the cause of death. Dr. Jin stated Kennedy was shot in his left back. The bullet moved slightly upward, through Kennedy's spinal cord, right lung, diaphragm, and liver, and exited his right chest. Kennedy bled to death as a result of being shot. Dr. Jin found that the nature of the wound was consistent with someone running. Dr. Jin also testified that he believed Kennedy was originally lying face up on the ground because of abrasions on his body that are consistent with turning him over. Dr. Jin noted that there was no soot in the wound; therefore, Kennedy was not shot at close range.

         Several other non-eyewitnesses, police officers and detectives testified at the trial regarding what they learned, knew or witnessed near or after the shooting. Sergeant Carter, one of the several Shreveport Police Department officers who were dispatched to the scene, testified that he and Corporal John Madjerick located two shell casings in the front yard about 6 to 8 feet apart. The shell casings appeared to be 5.56 casings typically used in AR-15 type assault rifles. Apparently a third shell casing of the same caliber was found nearby. Cpl. Madjerick testified that he located a total of three spent cartridges and one live round at the scene.[1] One unfired cartridge was located near Kennedy's body in the driveway. Cpl. Madjerick testified that the live round, a 10-mm cartridge, was discovered under Kennedy's body as it was being removed from the scene. He stated that the bullet was typically used in a handgun. A gunshot residue test was not ...

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