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State v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

October 12, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
TROY MICHAEL JACKSON, JR.

         On Appeal from the 32nd Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Terrebonne State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 656, 389 Honorable John R. Walker, Judge Presiding.

          Bertha M. Hillman Louisiana Appellate Project Covington, LA Attorney for Defendant-Appellant, Troy Michael Jackson, Jr.

          Joseph L. Waitz, Jr. District Attorney Ellen Daigle Doskey Assistant District Attorney Houma, LA Attorneys for Appellee, State of Louisiana

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.

          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         Defendant, Troy Michael Jackson, Jr., was charged by amended grand jury indictment with first degree murder, a violation of La. R.S. 14:30(A)(1) (count one); obstruction of justice by tampering with evidence, a violation of La. R.S. 14:130.1(A)(1) (count two); and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a violation of La. R.S. 14:95.1 (count three). He pled not guilty. After a jury trial, defendant was found guilty as charged on all counts. Thereafter, the trial court denied defendant's post-trial motions for new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal. On count one, the trial court sentenced defendant to life imprisonment at hard labor, without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.[1] On count two, the trial court sentenced defendant to five years at hard labor. On count three, the trial court sentenced defendant to twenty-five years at hard labor, without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The trial court ordered all three sentences to run concurrently. Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of his sentences, which the trial court denied. Defendant now appeals, alleging one assignment of error.

         FACTS

         On the evening of February 23, 2013, Sergio Castellanos (the victim) went with his friends to a bar in Houma. While out at the bar, Castellanos met Ciegie Cheramie, who had gone to the bar with defendant and his girlfriend, Brandy Perdue. According to trial testimony, Cheramie, Perdue, and defendant went to the bar that night for Cheramie to meet someone and convince them to give her money or for Cheramie to meet someone to have sex with her for money. Ultimately, Castellanos left the bar with Cheramie, Perdue, and defendant.

         After leaving the bar, Cheramie drove Castellanos, Perdue, and defendant to at least one gas station and then around the Houma area. Castellanos was seated in the truck's passenger's seat, while defendant and Perdue sat in the truck's back seat. At some point as they drove, defendant pulled a gun and shot Castellanos three times, resulting in his death. The following morning, defendant directed Cheramie to call her brother, tell him she had shot someone, and ask for his help in disposing of the body. Cheramie's brother called the police after Cheramie came to his house and he observed something slumped in the passenger's seat of her vehicle. After visiting her brother, Cheramie dumped Castellanos's body in a grassy area on the side of Bayou Salle Road. Defendant took some clothing from the victim and the occupants of the truck, and he disposed of it in a waterway near Mechanicville.

         Defendant did not testify at trial, but the state introduced a recorded interview that he gave to the police. In this statement, defendant admitted to shooting Castellanos, but stated that he did so in order to protect Cheramie and Perdue. The state also introduced evidence of defendant's September 7, 2005 felony conviction for molestation of a juvenile.

         BATSON CHALLENGE

         In his sole assignment of error, defendant argues that the state improperly exercised peremptory challenges against two prospective jurors on the basis of race.

         In Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 93-98, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 1721-1724, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), the United States Supreme Court adopted a three-step analysis to determine whether the constitutional rights of a defendant or prospective jurors have been infringed by impermissible discriminatory practices. First, the defendant must make a prima facie showing that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges on the basis of race. Second, if the requisite showing has been made, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to articulate a race-neutral explanation for striking the jurors in question. Finally, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has carried his burden of proving purposeful discrimination. State v. Handon, 2006-0131 (La.App. 1st Cir. 12/28/06), 952 So.2d 53, 56. See also Foster v. Chatman, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 1737, 1747, 195 L.Ed.2d 1 (2016).

         To establish a. prima facie case, the defendant must show: (1) the defendant is a member of a cognizable group and the prosecutor exercised peremptory challenges to remove venire members of the defendant's race; (2) the challenge was peremptory rather than for cause; and (3) relevant circumstances sufficient to raise an inference that the prosecutor struck the venire person on account of his being a member of that cognizable group. See Batson, 476 U.S. at 96, 106 S.Ct. at 1723. Without an inference that the prospective jurors were stricken because they are members of the targeted group, the defendant is unable to make a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination, and his Batson challenge ...


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