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State v. Harrison

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 9, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
LESTER HARRISON Appellant

         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 290307 Honorable Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge

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

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

          MONIQUE YVETTE METOYER REBECCA ARMAND EDWARDS Assistant District Attorneys

          Before BROWN, GARRETT, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.

          BLEICH, J. (Pro Tempore).

         This criminal appeal arises from the First Judicial District Court, Parish of Caddo, State of Louisiana. The defendant, Lester Harrison, was convicted of attempted manslaughter, attempted disarming of a peace officer, and resisting a police officer with force or violence. He received a total sentence of 15 years' imprisonment at hard labor. No motion to reconsider sentence was filed. Harrison now appeals, arguing that his sentence is excessive. For the following reasons, we affirm Harrison's convictions and sentences.

         Facts

         On August 31, 2010, around 1:00 a.m., Lester Harrison was loitering at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Shreveport. When Romeo Hill, a bus station employee, asked Harrison to leave, he refused. Harrison even refused to leave when Hill said he would call the police. After seeing that Harrison was armed with a knife, Hill called 911.

         Matthew Holloway, who was then an officer with the Shreveport Police Department (the "SPD"), was on patrol downtown and responded to the call.[1] Shortly after he arrived at the bus station, Ofc. Holloway encountered Harrison and tried to conduct a pat-down, but Harrison was fidgety. As Ofc. Holloway attempted to place handcuffs on Harrison, Harrison began to fight him, and the men went to the ground. Harrison stabbed Ofc. Holloway with the knife, cutting his head in two places and puncturing his protective vest in five places. When Ofc. Holloway tried to stand up during the fight, Harrison reached for Ofc. Holloway's gun and the holster unsnapped. Officer Holloway was bloodied and testified that he was "literally fighting for his life." Hill again called 911 to send backup and testified that Harrison threw his knife under a bus when he saw other SPD officers arriving. Once the other officers arrived, they were able to subdue and arrest Harrison.

         On October 6, 2010, the state filed a bill of information charging Harrison with attempted first degree murder, attempted disarming of a peace officer, and resisting a police officer with force or violence. On Harrison's motion, the trial court appointed a sanity commission-he had a long history of suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, mild mental retardation, and cocaine dependence. On June 14, 2011, based on the opinions of both doctors who examined Harrison, the trial court determined that Harrison was not competent to proceed, and he was placed in the Feliciana Forensic Facility. Six months later, Harrison was found competent to proceed.

         On March 28, 2012, Harrison withdrew his plea of not guilty and entered a plea of guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Harrison filed notice of his intent to offer a mental defect defense based on his schizophrenia diagnosis. Thereafter, the state and the defense each filed motions to re-appoint the sanity commission. Harrison was evaluated by three court-appointed doctors throughout these proceedings: Dr. George Seiden, Dr. Marc Colon, and Dr. Richard Williams. Drs. Seiden and Williams concluded Harrison was competent to proceed, and he knew right from wrong at the time of the incident. However, Dr. Colon found that although Harrison was able to assist in his defense, at the time of the offense, Harrison did not understand the wrongfulness of his actions. Additionally, Dr. Mark Vigen evaluated Harrison on behalf of the defense. Dr. Vigen opined that Harrison was unable to assist counsel in his defense, noting he was not properly medicated at the time of the offense, and his symptoms of paranoia and limited cognitive abilities created a condition that distorted his perceptions and understanding.

         The trial court ultimately determined that Harrison was competent to proceed, and a jury trial was held on June 13-16, 2016. As to Count One, the jury found Harrison guilty of the responsive verdict of attempted manslaughter (violations of La. R.S. 14:27 and 14:31). As to Counts Two and Three, the jury found Harrison guilty as charged of attempted disarming of a peace officer (violations of La. R.S. 14:27 and 14:34.6) and resisting a police officer with force or violence (a violation of La. R.S. 14:108.2). Harrison filed a motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal and a motion for a new trial, arguing that the evidence presented established that he was insane at the time of the offense and unable to distinguish right from wrong. The trial court denied the motions at a subsequent hearing.

         On August 16, 2016, Harrison's sentencing hearing was held.[2] The trial court considered the factors of La.C.Cr.P. art. 894.1, noting that Harrison's offense was against a police officer, as well a crime of violence involving the use of a dangerous weapon. In mitigation, the trial court acknowledged Harrison's "substantial and documented history of mental illness." Ultimately, the trial court sentenced Harrison to 15 years' imprisonment at hard labor for the attempted manslaughter, 2½ years at hard labor for the attempted disarming of a peace officer, and 3 years at hard labor for the resisting a police officer with force or violence, with ...


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