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State v. Brumfield

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 21, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
MARLONE RASHEN BRUMFIELD

         On Appeal from the 22nd Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 567470 The Honorable William J. Burris, Judge Presiding

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

          David F. Gremillion Rachel Y azbeck New Orleans, Louisiana Attorneys for Defendant/ Appellant Marlone Rashen Brumfield.

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.

          PENZATO, J.

         Defendant, Marlone R. Brumfield, was charged by amended bill of information with aggravated obstruction of a highway, a violation of La. R.S. 14:96 (count one); possession of a schedule II controlled dangerous substance-cocaine, a violation of La. R.S. 4O:967(C) (count two); and third-offense possession of marijuana, a violation of La. R.S. 4O:966(E)(3) (count three). He pled not guilty. Prior to trial, the state severed count three. Following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty as charged on counts one and two. Thereafter, he filed motions for new trial and postverdict judgment of acquittal, both of which the trial court denied. The state filed a habitual offender bill of information, alleging defendant to be a fourth-felony offender with respect to both convictions.[1] Defendant denied the contents of the habitual offender bill and, after a hearing, the trial court adjudicated him to be a fourth-felony habitual offender on each count. On count one, the trial court sentenced defendant as a fourth-felony habitual offender to life imprisonment at hard labor, without probation or suspension of sentence. On count two, the trial court sentenced defendant as a fourth-felony habitual offender to twenty years at hard labor, without probation or suspension of sentence, concurrent with the sentence on count one. Defendant filed a motion to reconsider these sentences, which the trial court denied. Defendant now appeals, alleging three assignments of error. For the following reasons, we affirm the convictions, habitual offender adjudications, and sentence on count two; we amend the sentence on count one and affirm that sentence as amended.

         FACTS

         On the evening of August 26, 2015, officers with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs Office narcotics division utilized a "cooperating individual" (CI) to set up a controlled purchase of liquid promethazine and codeine. Defendant was the target of the investigation, and the sale was to occur in the parking lot of a Wendy's fast food restaurant on La. Hwy. 21 in Covington.

         Several St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs detectives parked in the area of the Wendy's in unmarked vehicles. Detectives Scott Thomas, Jason Prieto, and Roger Gottardi conducted surveillance from their vehicles located in adjacent parking lots. Detectives Bart Ownby and Jay Quinn sat inside a single vehicle in the Wendy's parking lot, intending to make contact with defendant. The CI and two unidentified detectives were located at the police station, where the CI maintained contact with defendant.

         Defendant arrived at the Wendy's in a white truck, and drove slowly around the parking lot. He then entered the Wendy's drive-thru line, but exited it before reaching the window. At some point while he was in the parking lot or the drive-thru line, defendant sent a text message to the CI, asking who the "white guy" was. The information regarding this text message was radioed to the detectives in the area. Shortly after sending the text message, defendant exited the Wendy's parking lot and began to drive down Stirling Boulevard.

         Once defendant exited the Wendy's parking lot, the detectives decided to effect a traffic stop of the vehicle. In an attempt to do so, the detectives began to maneuver their unmarked vehicles around defendant's truck to try to box it in and prevent him from fleeing. At that time, they had not activated their emergency lights or sirens. Once defendant was boxed in on three sides (front, back, and left), the detectives activated their emergency lights. In response, defendant applied the truck's brakes, causing the police vehicles to the left and front to continue onward without him. He cut from the right lane of traffic, turned through the left lane, jumped the median on La. Hwy. 21, and began to travel at a high rate of speed in the opposite direction, disregarding traffic signals. Defendant eventually entered I-12 and traveled eastbound at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. In doing so, he maneuvered his vehicle around several tractor-trailers and other passenger vehicles. In one particular incident, defendant cut in front of a tractor-trailer, causing it to slam on its brakes and the pursuing officers to drive on the interstate's shoulder to prevent a collision. As defendant continued to evade officers on I-12, he turned off his vehicle's headlights despite the darkness and time of day (approximately 9:45 p.m.). Defendant exited the interstate at U.S. Hwy. 190 in Covington and continued to drive at a high rate of speed, disregarding traffic signals, and driving on the shoulder and median. He reached the Claiborne Hill area, where he sideswiped a church van that was traveling in the middle lane. He then turned onto Boston Street (U.S. Hwy. 190 Business) and then onto Lee Lane. He entered the Boston Commons parking lot, where the vehicle ultimately struck the handicapped ramp of an area business. Defendant exited the crashed vehicle and began to flee on foot, but he was soon apprehended.

         After being apprehended, defendant was informed of his Miranda[2] rights and Deputy T.J. Schlesinger initiated an outer clothing pat down. Deputy Schlesinger felt what appeared to be a cigarette box on defendant's lower body. He received permission from defendant to remove the box, which was located inside defendant's underwear. Deputy Schlesinger opened the box with the defendant's permission and observed a substance that later tested positive as containing cocaine. Deputy Schlesinger also found a small quantity of marijuana in defendant's back pocket. A search of the vehicle driven by defendant revealed two bottles of red liquid. Chemical analysis of the liquid in these bottles indicated that the substance was diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Defendant did not testify at trial.

         SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

         When issues are raised on appeal as to both sufficiency of the evidence and other trial errors, the appellate court should first review the sufficiency of the evidence. State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731, 734 (La. 1992). In his second assignment of error, defendant contends that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for possession of cocaine. In particular, he argues that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly or intentionally possessed the cocaine. Defendant does not challenge his conviction for aggravated obstruction of a highway.

         A conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand, as it violates due process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; La. Const, art. I, § 2. In reviewing claims challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, this court must consider whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia,443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). See also La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B); State v. Ordodi, 2006-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660; State v. Mussall,523 So.2d 1305, 1308-09 (La. 1988). The Jackson standard of review, incorporated in La. Code of Crim. Proc. art. 821, is an objective standard for testing the overall evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. When analyzing ...


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