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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

September 20, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
RAYNE WILLIAMS

         APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 511-729, SECTION "B" Honorable Tracey Flemings-Davillier, Judge

          LEON A. CANNIZZARO, JR., DISTRICT ATTORNEY KYLE DALY, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY PARISH OF ORLEANS, COUNSEL FOR APELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA

          HOLLI HERRLE-CASTILLO LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Rosemary Ledet, and Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins

          SANDRA CABRINA JENKINS, JUDGE

         On May 17, 2012, defendant Rayne Williams was charged by bill of information with one count of attempted second degree murder. On January 24, 2013, the State amended the bill to also charge Williams with one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. A bench trial was held, and Williams was found guilty of attempted murder only. Williams was sentenced to ten years at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence, with credit for time served. Williams appeals his conviction and sentence and assigns as error: (1) the absence of evidence of his knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to a jury trial; and (2) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction.

         We find there is no evidence in the record showing that Williams knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial. Accordingly, we remand this matter for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Williams knowingly and voluntarily waived this right. If either party wishes to raise any issues as a result of the evidentiary hearing and the trial court's ruling, the parties may do so. Because this matter is remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the jury waiver issue, we pretermit discussion of Williams's remaining assignment of error. Williams's right to appeal his conviction and sentence are preserved.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

         On May 17, 2012, the State charged Williams and two co-defendants with the December 19, 2011 attempted second degree murder of Winfield Brazile, in violation of La. R.S. 14:27(30.1). Williams was also charged with one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of La. R.S. 14:98(F). On July 9, 2012, Williams entered into a plea of not guilty and was advised of his right to trial by judge or jury. After the trial court's finding of no probable cause, Williams appeared with counsel in court on June 17, 2013 and proceeded to a bench trial. The bench trial recessed and resumed on February 21, 2014. On that date, the trial court found Williams guilty of attempted second degree murder. On June 3, 2014, the trial court sentenced Williams to ten years at hard labor, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence and with credit for time served. The State filed a multiple bill of information against Williams. On June 2, 2016, a motion for new trial was denied, and a motion for appeal was granted.

         DISCUSSION

         Williams asserts in his first assignment of error that the trial court erred when it allowed a bench trial in this matter without requiring a written motion, conducting a colloquy, or determining whether there was a valid waiver of the right to a jury trial on the record. We agree, finding the error requires the case be remanded for an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, we pretermit discussion of the post-trial error patent, and turn our attention to the jury trial waiver issue.

         Both the United States Constitution and the Louisiana Constitution guarantee an accused the right to a jury trial. U.S. Const. Amend. VI; La. Const. art. I, § 17. If the punishment that may be imposed on a defendant exceeds six months confinement, the Louisiana Constitution provides that the defendant shall be tried by a jury. In non-capital cases, a defendant may knowingly and intelligently waive his right to a trial by jury. La. Const. art. I, § 17(A); State v. Biddy, 13-0356, p. 20 (La.App. 4 Cir. 11/20/13), 129 So.3d 768, 780.

         Williams was charged with attempted second degree murder, a non-capital felony. Consequently, he was entitled to a jury trial unless he knowingly and intelligently waived this right.

         The waiver of the right to a jury trial cannot be presumed. State v. McCarroll, 337 So.2d 475, 480 (La. 1976); State v. Santee, 02-0693, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 12/4/02), 834 So.2d 533, 534. A waiver of the right to trial by jury is valid only if the defendant acted knowingly and voluntarily. S ...


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