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State v. Spikes

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 15, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JAMES J. SPIKES, JR.

         APPEALED FROM THE 22nd JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT WASHINGTON PARISH, LOUISIANA DOCKET NUMBER 128, 964 HONORABLE MARTIN E. COADY, JUDGE

          Warren L. Montgomery District Attorney and Matthew Caplan Assistant District Attorney Covington, Louisiana Attorneys for State

          Gwendolyn K. Brown Frederick Kroenke Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorneys for Defendant James J. Spikes, Jr.

          James J. Spikes, Jr. Collinston, Louisiana Pro Se.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, CJ., McDONALD, and CHUTZ, JJ.

          McDonald, J.

         The defendant, James J. Spikes, Jr., was charged by bill of information with possession of contraband in a state correctional institution, a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:402. He pled not guilty and, after a jury trial, was found guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced the defendant to four years imprisonment at hard labor. The State filed a habitual offender bill of information based on the defendant's prior convictions for illegal use of a weapon and possession of cocaine. After a hearing, the trial court adjudicated the defendant to be a third-felony habitual offender. The trial court vacated the previously imposed four-year sentence and resentenced the defendant to eight years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence. The defendant objected to the sentence as excessive. The defendant now appeals, designating one counseled assignment of error and one pro se assignment of error. We affirm the conviction, habitual offender adjudication, and sentence.

         FACTS

         On August 19, 2015, the defendant was an inmate housed at the Washington Parish Jail. On that date, corrections officers conducted a cell block "shake down, " wherein the cells were searched for contraband. During the searches, the inmates sat around tables in the day room. The defendant was sitting on one side of a table and another inmate was sitting across from him but with his back to the table. The other inmate leaned back and pushed a blanket over the surface of the table toward the defendant. The defendant then reached into his pocket, withdrew a cell phone, and placed it under the blanket. A corrections officer observed these actions and retrieved the cell phone. The incident was captured by a surveillance camera. The State then filed the instant charge against the defendant.

         COUNSELED ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         In his counseled assignment of error, the defendant argues that his eight-year sentence as a habitual offender is unconstitutionally excessive. Specifically, he contends the trial court should have departed from the mandatory minimum sentence.[1]

         The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Louisiana Constitution Article I, §20 prohibit the imposition of cruel or excessive punishment. Although a sentence falls within statutory limits, it may be excessive. State v. Sepulvado, 367 So.2d 762, 767 (La. 1979). A sentence is considered constitutionally excessive if it is grossly disproportionate to the seriousness of the offense or is nothing more than a purposeless and needless infliction of pain and suffering. A sentence is considered grossly disproportionate if, when the crime and punishment are considered in light of the harm done to society, it shocks the sense of justice. State v. Andrews, 94-0842 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/5/95), 655 So.2d 448, 454. The trial court has great discretion in imposing a sentence within the statutory limits, and such a sentence should not be set aside as excessive in the absence of a manifest abuse of discretion. See State v. Holts, 525 So.2d 1241, 1245 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1988). Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure article 894.1 sets forth the factors the trial court must consider when imposing sentence. While the trial court need not recite LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 894.1's entire checklist, the record must reflect the trial court adequately considered the criteria. State v. Brown, 02-2231 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/9/03), 849 So.2d 566, 569.

         The goal of LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 894.1 is the trial court's articulation of the factual basis for the sentence, not rigid or mechanical compliance with its provisions. Where the record clearly shows an adequate factual basis for the sentence imposed, remand is unnecessary even where the trial court has not fully complied with LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 894.1. State v. Lanclos, 419 So.2d 475, 478 (La. 1982). The trial court should review the defendant's personal history, his prior criminal record, the seriousness of the offense, the likelihood that he will commit another crime, and his potential for rehabilitation through correctional services other than confinement. See State v. Jones, 398 So.2d 1049, 1051-52 (La. 1981). On appellate review of a sentence, the relevant question is whether the trial court abused its broad sentencing discretion, not whether another sentence might have been more appropriate. State v. Thomas, 98-1144 (La. 10/9/98), 719 So.2d 49, 50 (per curiam).

         In State v. Dorthey,623 So.2d 1276, 1280-81 (La. 1993), the Louisiana Supreme Court opined that if a trial court were to find that the punishment mandated by the Habitual Offender Law, LSA-R.S. 15:529.1, makes no "measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment" or that the sentence amounted to nothing more than "the purposeful imposition of pain and suffering" and is "grossly out of proportion to the severity of the crime, " the court has the option, indeed the duty, to reduce such sentence to one that would not be constitutionally excessive. In State v. Johnson, 97-1906 (La. 3/4/98), 709 So.2d 672, 676-77, the Louisiana ...


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