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State v. Brothers

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 1, 2017


         On Appeal from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana No. 03-15-0596 The Honorable Michael R. Erwin, Judge Presiding

          Hillar C. Moore, III District Attorney Dylan C. Alge Assistant District Attorney Baton Rouge, Louisiana Appellee, State of Louisiana

          Bruce G. Whittaker New Orleans, Louisiana Defendant/ Appellant, Thaddius Brothers


          PENZATO, J.

         The defendant, Thaddius Brothers, was charged by grand jury indictment with second degree murder, a violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:30.1. He entered a plea of not guilty and, following a jury trial, was found guilty as charged. The defendant was then sentenced to a term of life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. He now appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence introduced by the State in support of his conviction. For the following reasons, we affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence.


         During the early morning hours of August 13, 2010, Baton Rouge Police Department officers were dispatched in response to a report of a nonresponsive male, later identified as the victim, David Mitchell, at an apartment complex on North Marque Ann Drive and West La Margie Avenue. The victim's body was located on the side of the apartment complex, and there were spots of blood located from the area near the victim's vehicle in the apartment complex parking lot to the location where the victim was found on the side of the complex. He was not wearing shoes, but a pair of slippers were located near his vehicle. Also located were a set of keys and the victim's driver's license. A white Firebird was parked near the victim's vehicle, and a spent projectile was located inside of the Firebird's broken taillight. Detectives recovered another spent projectile in front of the apartment complex. The bullets located in front of the apartment and in the Firebird's taillight were tested and compared to pieces of a projectile removed from the victim. Forensic scientist Charles Watson, Jr., determined that based on his observations, at least four shots were fired and it was "very possible" that all were fired from the same firearm.

          The coroner testified that the victim had been shot three times and that the cause of his death was multiple gunshot wounds to his torso and extremities. According to the coroner's testimony, the "kill shot" was that to the victim's upper back which exited through his right lateral chest region.

         In September and October of 2010, detectives received information from two sources, Calvin Moore and Darrell Butler, identifying the defendant as the shooter. In 2014, Baton Rouge Police Department Detective John Dauthier was assigned to investigate cold-case homicides. Detective Dauthier received a call from Baton Rouge Police Department Burglary Division stating that Courtney Lewis was under arrest and had information about a cold case. Detective Dauthier interviewed Lewis and an arrest warrant for the defendant was subsequently obtained.


         In his sole assignment of error, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the State in support of his conviction. Specifically, he contends that the only evidence establishing his identity as the perpetrator of the offense was hearsay. The defendant argues that the videotaped statements of Moore, Butler, and Lewis were made out of court, were not under oath, and were subsequently denied during trial.

         A conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand as it violates Due Process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; La. Const, art. I, §2. The standard of review for the sufficiency of the evidence to uphold a conviction is whether, 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. See La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B); Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); 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 into Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure article 821, is an objective standard for testing the overall evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. When analyzing circumstantial evidence, Louisiana Revised Statutes section 15:438 provides that the factfinder must be satisfied that the overall evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. State v. Patorno, 2001-2585 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/21/02), 822 So.2d 141, 144.

         When a conviction is based on both direct and circumstantial evidence, the reviewing court must resolve any conflict in the direct evidence by viewing that evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. When the direct evidence is thus viewed, the facts established by the direct evidence and the facts reasonably inferred from the circumstantial evidence must be sufficient for a rational juror to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of every essential element of the crime. State v. Wright, 98-0601 ...

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