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State v. Guillory

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

October 11, 2017



          Earl B. Taylor District Attorney - 27th Judicial District Court Jennifer M. Ardoin Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE.

          Douglas Lee Harville COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Joseph McKinley Guillory, AKA Joseph Guillory

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, John E. Conery, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.

          JOHN E. CONERY, JUDGE.

         Defendant, Joseph McKinley Guillory, was charged by indictment filed on August 27, 2015, with the second degree murder of Haaymen Douresseau, Jr., a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1. On November 29, 2016, a jury found Defendant guilty as charged.

         A motion for new trial was filed on December 15, 2016. A hearing on the motion was held on March 16, 2017, and the trial court denied the motion. Defendant was then sentenced to life imprisonment, without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The sentence is to run concurrently with any sentence Defendant is presently serving.

         Defendant appealed and is now before this court asserting two assignments of error: 1) there was insufficient evidence to prove he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of second degree murder, and 2) the loss of exculpatory evidence denied his constitutional rights of confrontation and due process. For the following reasons, we affirm with instructions.


         On May 15, 2015, Defendant stabbed Haaymen Douresseau, Jr. on or near the sidewalk in front of Defendant's residence at Acadian Village Apartments. Mr. Douresseau died as a result of injuries from the stabbing. At trial, Defendant claimed that Mr. Douresseau was the aggressor and that the stabbing was justified because it was done in self-defense.


         In accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, all appeals are reviewed for errors patent on the face of the record. After reviewing the record, we find that there are no errors patent; however, the court minutes of sentencing require correction. The sentencing transcript indicates that Defendant's life sentence was imposed at hard labor, but this is not reflected in the court minutes of sentencing. "[W]hen the minutes and the transcript conflict, the transcript prevails." State v. Wommack, 00-137, p. 4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/7/00), 770 So.2d 365, 369, writ denied, 00-2051 (La. 9/21/01), 797 So.2d 62. Accordingly, we order the trial court to correct the sentencing minutes to accurately reflect that Defendant's sentence is to be served at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.


         In his first assignment of error, Defendant contends there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of second degree murder. We will first discuss the standard of review.

The standard of review in a sufficiency of the evidence claim is "whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found proof beyond a reasonable doubt of each of the essential elements of the crime charged." State v. Leger, 05-11, p. 91 (La. 7/10/06), 936 So.2d 108, 170, cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1221, 127 S.Ct. 1279, 167 L.Ed.2d 100 (2007) (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), and State v. Captville, 448 So.2d 676 (La.1984)). The Jackson standard of review is now legislatively embodied in La.Code Crim.P. art. 821. It does not allow the appellate court "to substitute its own appreciation of the evidence for that of the fact-finder." State v. Pigford, 05-477, p. 6 (La. 2/22/06), 922 So.2d 517, 521 (citing State v. Robertson, 96-1048 (La. 10/4/96), 680 So.2d 1165, and State v. Lubrano, 563 So.2d 847 (La.1990)). The appellate court's function is not to assess the credibility of witnesses or to reweigh the evidence. State v. Smith, 94-3116 (La. 10/16/95), 661 So.2d 442.
The factfinder's role is to weigh the credibility of witnesses. State v. Ryan, 07-504 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/7/07), 969 So.2d 1268. Thus, other than insuring the sufficiency evaluation standard of Jackson, "the appellate court should not second-guess the credibility determination of the trier of fact, " but rather, it should defer to the rational credibility and evidentiary determinations of the jury. Id. at 1270 (quoting State v. Lambert, 97-64, pp. 4-5 (La.App. 3 Cir. 9/30/98), 720 So.2d 724, 726-27). Our supreme court has stated:
However, an appellate court may impinge on the fact finder's discretion and its role in determining the credibility of witnesses "only to the extent necessary to guarantee the fundamental due process of law." State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1310 (La.1988). In determining the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a conviction, an appellate court must preserve " 'the factfinder's role as weigher of the evidence' by reviewing 'all of the evidence . . . in the light most favorable to the prosecution.' " McDaniel v. Brown, 558 U.S. 120, 134, 130 S.Ct. 665, 674, 175 L.Ed.2d 582 (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979)). When so viewed by an appellate court, the relevant question is whether, on the evidence presented at trial, "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319, 99 S.Ct. at 2789.

State v. Cofer, 16-871 pp.3-4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 4/5/17), 216 So.3d 313, 316-17.

         We will now review the law as it pertains to the crime charged, Defendant's claim of self-defense and his alternative claim that the responsive verdict of manslaughter is applicable.

"Second degree murder is the killing of a human being" with the "specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm[.]" La.R.S. 14:30.1(A)(1). "Specific criminal intent is that state of mind which exists when the circumstances indicate that the offender actively desired the prescribed criminal consequences to follow his act or failure to act." La.R.S. 14:10(1). . . .
[I]n a case in which defendant asserts that he acted in self-defense, the state has the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in self-defense. State v. Brown, 414 So.2d 726, 728 (La.1982). When defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence in such a case, the question becomes whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the homicide was not committed in self-defense.

State ex rel. D.P.B., 02-1742, p. 5 (La. 5/20/03), 846 So.2d 753, 756- 57 (footnote omitted).

         Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:20(A) states, in pertinent part:

A homicide is justifiable:
(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.
. . . .

         In State v. Fox, 15-692, p. 4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/3/16), 184 So.3d 886, 890, writ denied, 16-404 (La.3/13/17), [216] So.3d [800], this court stated:

"In examining a self-defense claim, it is necessary to consider: (1) whether the defendant reasonably believed that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm; (2) whether the killing was necessary to prevent that death or great bodily harm; and (3) whether the defendant was the aggressor in the conflict." State v. Mayes, 14-683, pp. 2-3 (La.App. 3 Cir. 12/23/14), 154 So.3d 1257, 1259, writs denied, 15-178, 15-220 (La. 11/16/15), 184 So.3d 24. Additionally, in determining whether the defendant had a reasonable belief that the killing was necessary, it is appropriate to consider "the excitement and confusion of the situation, the possibility of using force or violence short of killing, and the defendant's knowledge of the assailant's bad character." State v. Thomas, 43, 100, p. 5 (La.App. 2 Cir. 4/30/08), 981 So.2d 850, 854, writ denied, 08-1276 (La. 2/6/09), 999 So.2d 769.
"Manslaughter is [a] homicide which would be [first or second degree murder], but the offense is committed in sudden passion or heat of blood immediately caused by provocation sufficient to deprive an average person of his self-control and cool reflection." La.R.S. 14:31(A)(1). " ' Sudden passion' and 'heat of blood' are not elements of the offense of manslaughter; rather they are factors which serve to mitigate murder to manslaughter." State v. Vercher, 14-1211, p. 10 (La.App. 3 Cir. 5/6/15), 162 So.3d 740, 746, writ denied, 15-1124 (La. 5/20/16), 191 So.3d 1065. The defendant must prove these mitigating factors by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Guillory, 16-237 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/2/16), 206 So.3d 1153.

Cofer, 216 So.3d at 316-18 (alterations in original).


         We will now apply the law to the evidence at trial.

         Our review of the evidence begins with the testimony of Dr. Christopher Tape, who was accepted as an expert in medicine with a specialty in forensic pathology. Dr. Tape performed an autopsy on Mr. Douresseau on May 18, 2015. Dr. Tape testified there was a stab wound on Mr. Douresseau's left side under and slightly in front of the armpit, and a stab wound that went through the left arm. The wound to the side went into the chest cavity and down into the left lung. The depth of the stab wound to the chest was just under four inches. Dr. Tape testified that the wound to the arm was consistent with a defensive wound. Dr. Tape was further questioned about the wound to Mr. Douresseau's arm as follows:

Q. Could it be consistent with a wild left hand punch with the forearm being exposed with a stab occurring at the same time?
A. Perhaps.
Q. It could be, right?
A. Yes.
Q. So, then it's not necessarily defensive is it?
A. That's correct.
Q. So, there's no real sure way to say defensive? It just maybe [sic] indicative one way or the other?
A. That's why we use the language consistent.

         Dr. Tape testified Mr. Douresseau's blood alcohol level was .15 percent. He also had a cocaine metabolite, benzoylecgonine, in his system. Evidence strongly suggested Mr. Douresseau consumed the cocaine first. However, Dr. Tape testified there was no way to determine when the cocaine was ingested.

         Tobie Savoie, who had ten years of experience as Deputy Coroner for St. Landry Parish, examined Mr. Douresseau's body at the hospital on May 15, 2015 between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. Mr. Savoie noted that Mr. Douresseau had lacerations to his left arm and left chest. Mr. Savoie did not see any weapons in Mr. Douresseau's possession, though he did not specifically check for weapons. Mr. Savoie testified that a death certificate was prepared by Dr. Pavich, the coroner. Mr. Savoie agreed with Dr. Pavich's findings that the stab wound to Mr. Douresseau's left chest was fatal, and the wound to his left forearm was a defensive wound.

         Officer Corina Noblett testified that she was employed by the Eunice Police Department. She was on duty on May 15, 2015, and was dispatched to Acadian Village. Upon her arrival, she saw a black male laying on the ground and a black female, who was an off-duty registered nurse, doing chest compressions on the man. Officer Noblett took over chest compressions and was aided by Officer Mary Guillory.

         Officer Noblett did not see any weapons in the surrounding area and did not check Mr. Douresseau's body for weapons. She subsequently secured the scene, as there were people in the crime scene area that had to be moved. According to Officer Noblett, none of the onlookers got close to Mr. Douresseau during the time chest compressions were being performed.

         Officer Mary Guillory was employed by the Eunice Police Department on May 15, 2015, and rode with Officer Noblett to Acadian Village. Upon her arrival, Officer Guillory observed a male lying on the ground bleeding. Officer Noblett relieved a lady doing chest compressions, and people in the area around the man were "backed . . . off." Officer Guillory subsequently performed chest compressions on the man. Neither she nor Officer Noblett removed anything from the area, and she did not observe any weapons.

         Officer Guillory stated that a few people were still in the crime scene area after Mr. Douresseau was removed from the scene by emergency medical personnel but before crime scene tape was put up. After the ambulance left, Officer Guillory kept a crime scene log. Officer Guillory testified that all persons who entered the area after crime scene tape was put up were police officers.

         Robin Willis was an EMT with St. Landry EMS. Upon his arrival at Acadian Village, he saw a black male lying on the ground. The man, later identified as Mr. Douresseau, was bleeding and CPR was being performed. The man was subsequently placed in an ambulance and transported to the Acadiana Medical Center. Mr. Willis did not observe any weapons when the man was moved from the scene. He did not search for weapons, but testified that if there had been a weapon in the area, he would have noted it. Mr. Willis reported "a lot" of people, which would have been more than three or four, were present at the scene when he arrived. This included a mix of civilians and police officers.

         Kent Lavergne was employed by Acadiana Medical Center as a registered nurse in the emergency room (ER). He started an IV on Mr. Douresseau and helped physicians insert a chest tube. Mr. Lavergne testified that Mr. Douresseau's clothes were removed, placed in paper bags, and given to the Eunice Police Department. Mr. Lavergne testified that staff typically looked for items in clothing, and he did not find any weapons.

         Shannon Martel was employed by the Acadiana Medical Center ER as a registered nurse. He triaged Mr. Douresseau and did not find any weapons on his person. Mr. Martel indicated he normally looked for weapons on persons seeking treatment in the ER. However, a pat down would not have been conducted.

         Renee Fuselier was employed by the Eunice Housing Authority. Ms. Fuselier testified that Naomi Dupree, Defendant's girlfriend, had executed a dwelling lease that was to include the names of all individuals who would live in an apartment with Ms. Dupree. Ms. Dupree did not list Defendant's name on that lease, and the lease was terminated after the events of May 15, 2015. Ms. Dupree's lease also specifically excluded the possession of weapons of any kind, including knives. Ms. Fuselier testified that she had seen Defendant on the premises in the past, but she did not know he resided at the apartment. Mr. Douresseau's mother also leased an apartment at Acadian Village, and Mr. Douresseau's name was not listed on her lease either. Ms. Fuselier stated, however, that neither Defendant nor Mr. Douresseau were forbidden from being on the premises.

         Police contacted Ms. Fuselier about the events of May 15, 2015. She went with police to review video footage of the incident at the Housing Authority's security substation. The footage was located on a DVR. Police requested a copy of the footage. Ms. Fuselier did not know how to make a copy. Sergeant Nicholas Cooley used his cell phone to record the footage as it played. Ms. Fuselier was not contacted about the footage again until a week and a half before trial. The original DVR footage was not available at that time because the system automatically recorded over it two weeks to a month after the incident. All that was available was the recording of the video on Sergeant Cooley's cell phone.

         Skylar Vidrine was the only eyewitness called to testify by the State. Ms. Vidrine was Defendant's first cousin and was at his girlfriend's apartment on May 15, 2015. She was standing by Defendant next to the apartment when she first noticed Mr. Douresseau walk "up to the sidewalk." Ms. Vidrine's sister and Defendant's children, who were playing on the sidewalk, were also present. Ms. Vidrine thought Ms. Dupree was standing by the apartment door at the time.

         Ms. Vidrine assumed Mr. Douresseau was walking home when she saw him, as he lived two doors down from her at the apartment complex, and he was walking and talking to himself. The Defendant said something while the victim, Mr. Douresseau, was walking. Mr. Douresseau then stopped on the sidewalk and Defendant approached him. Ms. Vidrine then testified that Defendant asked Mr. Douresseau who he was talking to. Mr. Douresseau responded, but Ms. Vidrine did not recall what he said. She testified that she had trouble understanding Mr. Douresseau in the past. Mr. Douresseau continued to stand on the sidewalk and, according to Ms. Vidrine, he did not approach the Defendant.

         Ms. Vidrine was questioned about what occurred as follows:

Q. Okay. Uh, Haaymen Douresseau said something back. You didn't understand correct?
A. Yes, sir.
. . . .
Q. How far do you recall Mr. Joseph Guillory going towards Mr. Douresseau?
. . . .
Q. Okay. Did he go, did he go passed [sic] the middle sidewalk?
A. No. He… (inaudible). It was, it was between that middle sidewalk and that, his sidewalk by his apartment. He was right there.
Q. So, it would be, it would be considered his yard?
A. Yeah.
Q. Okay. If the, near the bicycle, where the bicycle was on the corner?
A. No response recorded.

         Ms. Vidrine was further questioned as follows:

Q. And when Joseph Guillory approached Haaymen Douresseau, did you see what Haaymen Douresseau did?
A. I don't remember.
Q, Did you watch your video this morning?
A. Yeah.
Q. Do you recall saying to the officer at the time that Haaymen
Douresseau put his arms like this?
A. Yeah.
Q. Is that what, is that what you saw?
A. Yeah.
Q. Did he have anything in his ...

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