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State v. Frank

Supreme Court of Louisiana

October 18, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
SKYLAR FRANK

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL THIRD CIRCUIT, PARISH OF ALLEN

          CLARK, J.

         This case presents the question of whether the court of appeal erred in applying Louisiana's jurisprudential "same evidence" test to find that defendant's conviction for attempted felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, La.R.S. 14:27 and 14:80, must be set aside in light of his conviction for malfeasance in office, La.R.S. 14:134, because it violates the prohibition against double jeopardy. Finding that no double jeopardy violation occurred, we reinstate defendant's conviction and sentence for attempted felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Furthermore, we find no significant difference between U.S. Const. Amend. V and La. Const. art. I, § 15 supporting the notion that Louisiana's constitution affords greater protection against double jeopardy than the federal constitution or requires this state's courts to apply two distinct tests-one federal and one state-to analyze double jeopardy claims. Therefore, Louisiana courts are bound only to apply the standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 52 S.Ct. 180, 76 L.Ed. 306 (1932), to protect against double jeopardy and can dispense with Louisiana's separate "same evidence" test.

         The State charged defendant, a former Oakdale police officer, with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, malfeasance in office, and obstruction of justice. The charges arose from an incident involving 15-year-old B.W. On May 23, 2014, B.W.'s uncle, Thomas Buxton, became concerned when he saw a police unit parked in front of his sister's Allen Parish residence, where he knew his niece was home alone.[1] Mr. Buxton entered the home and found a police gun belt and radio on the living room floor. In B.W.'s bedroom, he found defendant alone with B.W. She was in bed under the covers, and defendant was hiding behind the bedroom door with his shirt untucked and his belt undone.

         B.W. first told investigators that defendant went to the residence to force Hesikiah Hayward, her former boyfriend and defendant's cousin, to leave. She claimed Mr. Hayward fled when defendant began searching the home. She later recanted that account and stated that defendant concocted the story about Mr. Hayward. She also admitted that, before her uncle interrupted them, she had performed oral sex on defendant and was about to engage in sexual intercourse with him.

         Defendant told investigators he went to the residence to compel Mr. Hayward to leave and found his cousin hiding in a closet. He claimed he did not inform the dispatcher of his location because he did not want Mr. Hayward to get in trouble. He denied any sexual misconduct with B.W.

         Mr. Hayward told investigators he was not in the residence at the time of the incident, but had received text messages from B.W., asking him to say he was there when defendant arrived. Text messages on Mr. Hayward's phone confirmed this account.[2] Defendant had instructed B.W. to delete the relevant text messages on her cell phone.

         An Allen Parish jury found defendant guilty of attempted felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, malfeasance in office, and obstruction of justice.[3] The trial court sentenced him to four years imprisonment at hard labor (with all but one year suspended) on each conviction and ran the sentences concurrently.[4]

         The court of appeal affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for establishment of a payment plan for costs and fees. State v. Frank, 15-0893 (La.App. 3 Cir. 5/25/16), 192 So.3d 888. The majority vacated defendant's conviction for attempted felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile because it found that punishing defendant for that conviction and the malfeasance in office conviction violated double jeopardy, pursuant to this state's "same evidence" test. Frank, 15-0893, pp. 4-8, 192 So.3d at 891-93. In reaching that conclusion, the majority relied on, inter alia, the state's comment during closing argument that "[a]nd lastly we've proven beyond a reasonable doubt the third element of Malfeasance in Office through the testimony of [B.W.] saying that she performed oral sex on the defendant while he was on duty." Frank, 15-0893, p. 7, 192 So.3d at 893.

         Under Blockburger, there is no obstacle to convicting defendant of, and punishing him for, both attempted felony carnal knowledge and malfeasance in office. As noted by Judge Saunders in his dissent:

The two crimes in question, malfeasance and attempted carnal knowledge, do not, according to their definitions, appear to be the same offense. Attempted carnal knowledge occurs when a person, age seventeen or older, attempts to have sexual intercourse, with consent, with a person who is thirteen years of age or older but less than seventeen years of age, when the victim is not the spouse of the offender and when the difference between the age of the victim and the age of the offender is four years or greater.
La.R.S. 14:80; La.R.S. 14:27. It is sufficient that oral sex occurred. La.R.S. 14:80. Malfeasance in office is committed when a public officer intentionally refuses or fails to perform his lawfully required duty or intentionally performs his lawfully required duty in an unlawful way.
On their face, it is clear that there are several elements for attempted carnal knowledge that are not required to convict for malfeasance and vice versa. For example, for malfeasance in office, the State must show that Defendant was a public officer. No such showing is necessary for attempted carnal knowledge. Likewise, for attempted carnal knowledge, Defendant's age is a relevant fact that the State must establish, no such showing is necessary for a malfeasance in office prosecution. Thus, each offense requires proof which the other does not, and this case fails the Blockburger test.

Frank, 15-0893, pp. 1-2, 192 So.3d at 896.

         The present case arises, however, because Louisiana has also applied a "same evidence" test in addition to the Blockburger test. The impact of the "same evidence" test on this state's double jeopardy jurisprudence has not gone without criticism. Judge Drew in particular succinctly illuminated the problem with this troublesome test:

Three out of every four states settle Fifth Amendment claims of double jeopardy by simply applying the precepts of Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 52 S.Ct. 180, 76 L.Ed. 306 (1932), wherein a defendant can be convicted of two offenses arising out of the same criminal incident if each crime ...

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