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State v. Crawford

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

September 20, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
GEORGE CRAWFORD

         APPEAL ON APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 376-596, SECTION "G" Honorable Byron C. Williams, Judge

          JUSTIN CAINE HARRELL COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/RELATOR

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

          Court composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins

          SANDRA CABRINA JENKINS, JUDGE

         Relator/petitioner seeks review of the district court's March 31, 2017 judgment summarily denying his application for post-conviction relief. For the following reasons, we grant petitioner's writ application and remand to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the claims in his application for post-conviction relief.

         On January 7, 1997, petitioner and a co-defendant were convicted of the first-degree murder of Sherri Bailes and were sentenced to life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. On appeal, this Court affirmed both convictions and sentences. State v. Lindsey, unpub., 97-1098 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/10/99), 737 So.2d 978, writ denied, 48 So.2d 463 (La. 10/15/99).

         On October 12, 2000, petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief asserting four claims: 1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; 2) the State failed to produce Brady material; 3) ineffective trial counsel; and 4) ineffective appellate counsel. The State filed procedural objections to the application. After denying the State's procedural objections, the district court held an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the application and, subsequently, denied petitioner's application. Petitioner then sought review from this Court, which granted writs to review his claims for post-conviction relief but, ultimately, denied relief. State v. Crawford, 02-2048 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/12/03), 848 So.2d 615, writ denied, 03-1085 (La. 3/12/04), 869 So.2d 815.[1]

         On July 29, 2016, through counsel, petitioner filed his second application for post-conviction relief asserting two claims: 1) prosecutorial misconduct; and 2) actual innocence. In support of his claims, petitioner submitted an affidavit from Shirley Davis, one of the two eyewitnesses who testified at trial, dated and signed on June 8, 2016.[2] In the affidavit, Ms. Smith recants her trial testimony that she saw George Crawford on the night of Sherri Bailes' murder, and she attests that she felt pressured to identify him as the second shooter days after a NOPD detective showed her one photograph of a man named George Crawford as being a person who was with Larry Lindsey, whom she did know and identify as a shooter, during the murder.

         On February 7, 2017, the State filed procedural objections to petitioner's successive application based on La. C.Cr.P. arts. 930.4 and 930.8, arguing that petitioner failed to exercise due diligence in pursuing his claim involving the recantation of testimony or he inexcusably omitted his claim from his prior application for post-conviction relief. In response, petitioner filed a traverse and reply to the State's procedural objections.

         On March 31, 2017, the district court heard arguments on the State's procedural objections to petitioner's application for post-conviction relief. Petitioner's counsel argued that the recantation within Ms. Smith's affidavit is new evidence, sufficient to establish a new claim for relief and to be considered after an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the application. After hearing arguments from both parties, the district court summarily denied petitioner's application for post-conviction relief, stating that he failed to raise a new or different claim that can meet the standard articulated by La. C.Cr.P. art. 930.4, and that his claim of actual innocence is not sufficiently supported by the affidavit of Ms. Smith.

         Petitioner now seeks review of the district court's March 31, 2017 ruling denying his application for post-conviction relief following the hearing on the State's procedural objections to the application.

         First, in the district court's ruling in open court, we note that the district court incorrectly remarked that petitioner "filed two previous applications for post-conviction relief and his most recent application was denied on July of 2016." The record before us reflects that the instant application for post-conviction relief that the district court ruled upon is the second application filed by petitioner on July 29, 2016. Moreover, this is the first time that petitioner has raised these two claims for relief and submitted Ms. Smith's affidavit in support. Thus, we find the district court erred in granting the State's procedural objections to petitioner's application or summarily denying the application on the basis that it is impermissibly repetitive pursuant to La. C.Cr.P. art. 930.4.

         Petitioner also argues that the district court erred in summarily finding and ruling that petitioner's claims based on the recanted testimony of a trial witness are inherently suspect and incapable of supporting an application for post-conviction relief. For the following reasons, we find merit in this ...


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