from the Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Tensas, Louisiana Trial Court No. 93, 178 Honorable Michael
E. Lancaster, Judge
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT Carey J. Ellis, III for Appellant
OMAR LEWIS Pro Se
E. PAXTON District Attorney for Appellee
L. WATSON MOLLY F. McEACHARN JOHN D. CRIGLER, JR. Assistant
BROWN, GARRETT, and STONE, JJ.
Latilo Omar Lewis, was convicted of first degree rape,
attempted second degree murder, second degree kidnapping, and
simple robbery. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard
labor without benefits for rape, 50 years at hard labor for
attempted murder, 40 years at hard labor for kidnapping, and
seven years at hard labor for robbery. Defendant has appealed
his convictions and sentences. For the following reasons, we
affirm all of defendant's convictions and his sentences
for first degree rape, attempted second degree murder, and
simple robbery. However, defendant's sentence for second
degree kidnapping is vacated and remanded to the trial court
for resentencing. This case is also remanded to the trial
court for correction of the court minutes and compliance with
the sex offender notification requirements.
four-day trial began on October 10, 2016. Tensas Parish
Sheriff Ricky Jones testified that around 2:22 p.m. on
November 6, 2015, N.H. frantically ran into the sheriff's
office barefoot, wearing a pink nightgown and black jogging
pants. According to Sheriff Jones and Deputy Betty Spillman
Brown, N.H. was hysterical; she was crying and could barely
talk. The officers observed noticeable bruises on N.H.'s
face, neck and arms and saw that she had bloodshot eyes. N.H.
reported that a man who said that his name was Marcus Brown
had forced himself into her home that morning, tied her up
and sexually assaulted her all day. When he went into another
room, she was able to get loose, get her gun, and shoot him
when he returned to the room. Three minutes later, at 2:25
p.m., defendant, Latilo Lewis, called 911 from N.H.'s
home and advised that he had been shot.
officers arrived at N.H.'s house, which was about three
blocks from the sheriff's office, they found defendant
sitting in a chair in the living room. Defendant had a
perforating bullet wound to his upper right abdomen.
Paramedic Johnny Ogden determined that defendant's injury
was critical, and defendant was airlifted to the University
of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi.
Jones testified that the officers went past defendant into
N.H.'s bedroom, where they observed her disheveled bed
and drawers pulled out. The sheriff took photographs of the
scene, as did Investigator Mark Guy and Deputy Bob Stroud.
Sheriff Jones testified that they found one live round and
one spent round on the victim's bed, as well as a
projectile on the floor. He stated that, despite an extensive
search for N.H.'s gun, a .380 automatic, officers were
unable to locate the weapon. Deputy Evelyn Guy took
photographs of N.H.'s injuries at the sheriff's
office. Sheriff Jones identified the photos taken during the
investigation during his trial testimony.
Jones testified that, during the course of the investigation,
N.H. told officers that there was $500-$600 missing from her
purse. Deputy Stroud contacted authorities at the University
Medical Center in Jackson, who found $567 in defendant's
Joseph Police Chief Karl Jones also responded to the 911 call
made from N.H.'s house and was there when paramedics
arrived. Chief Jones saw the very distraught victim when he
went to the sheriff's office/jail. According to Chief
Jones, N.H. was crying uncontrollably and appeared to be in
shock. He also noticed bruising at her neck and wrists. Chief
Jones testified that the victim's brother called him on
November 7 and asked whether officers had found any money on
defendant because N.H. was missing $500-$600, which she had
collected for a church function. Chief Jones stated that he
and his department participated in the search for the
victim's gun, which went on for several days.
testified that around 7:30 a.m. on November 6, 2015, she
opened her front door to check the weather so she would know
what to wear that day. When she saw that there was a man
crouched down on her porch "like a lion getting ready to
pounce on his prey, " she tried to close the door, but
he forced or "barged" his way into her house. The
man grabbed N.H., threw her on the floor and told her to put
her hands behind her back. N.H. refused and fought back, but
the man choked her and she lost consciousness. When N.H. woke
up, her hands were tied behind her back. The man pushed N.H.
into her bedroom and repeatedly raped her as she begged for
him to stop. Over the course of about seven hours, the man
continued to rape N.H. as she was tied to the head of her bed
with a belt. N.H. stated that at one point, the man took
money (around $500-$600) from her purse which she had been
saving for her church anniversary. N.H. detailed several
conversations she had with the man, including the fact that
the man told her his name was Marcus Brown.
point, the man told her that he was hungry and went into the
kitchen, leaving N.H. tied to the bed. N.H. was able to
loosen herself and get her gun out of a filing cabinet she
used as a nightstand located next to the bed. When the man
came back into the bedroom, N.H. was standing on the bed with
the gun pointed at him. N.H. told the man to leave, but he
came closer, so she shot him. Although he was shot, the man
lunged at N.H. and wrestled the gun out of her hand. N.H.
testified that the man put the gun to her head and said,
"Now bitch, you'll know what it feels like to be
shot." The man pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed.
Another struggle ensued, and the man tied N.H. to the bed
again. She was eventually able to convince the man to untie
her so she could get him medical attention. N.H. left the
house and drove straight to the sheriff's office. N.H.
identified defendant as the man who repeatedly raped and
tried to kill her.
Michael Huff with the Hinds County Sheriff's Department
in Jackson, Mississippi, assisted in the investigation of
this case by obtaining search warrants and collecting
evidence from defendant while he was in the hospital in
Mississippi. On November 6, 2015, Huff obtained a search
warrant for defendant's clothing and a DNA sample.
Thereafter, once he received information that defendant
allegedly took money from N.H. during the incident, on
November 25, 2015, Huff obtained a second search warrant for
all property possessed by defendant at the time of his
admission to the hospital. As a result, $557 was recovered
recorded interview, defendant told officers that he was in a
relationship with N.H., which no one else knew about. On the
day of the incident, defendant said that he was spending time
with the victim, they had consensual sex one time, and then
N.H. started acting weird and shot him. Defendant stated that
the money found in his belongings was money he got from
selling weed. Defendant denied raping N.H. or putting the gun
to her head. Defendant's statement that he was in a
relationship with N.H. was not corroborated.
the incident, N.H. was taken to Riverland Medical Center for
a sexual assault examination. Dr. Rome Sherrod, who collected
evidence for the rape kit, testified that N.H. had bruising
on her neck and wrists consistent with being restrained, as
well as swelling and abrasions to her vagina, which were
consistent with forced or violent sexual activity. Dr.
Jessica Esparza, an expert in forensic DNA analysis,
testified that she conducted DNA testing of the items in the
rape kit and the DNA profile obtained from the sperm from the
vaginal swab, cervical swab, and vaginal washings. Dr.
Esparza testified that the DNA profile found on the items in
the rape kit was consistent with the DNA profile obtained
from defendant's reference sample. According to Dr.
Esparza, the probability of finding the same DNA profile in a
randomly selected person other than defendant was one in 6.11
quadrillion, which is more than the earth's population.
all of the testimony and evidence was presented, on the final
day of the four-day trial, defendant managed to escape from
his jailers as they were escorting him to the courthouse from
the jail, which is directly behind the courthouse. Outside
the presence of the jury, the trial judge noted that
defendant was still on the loose, and it had come to the
judge's attention that some of the jurors, who had been
looking out the windows in the jury room, observed defendant
as he was running. Defense counsel moved for a mistrial,
arguing that defendant was prejudiced when the jurors saw him
in police custody being escorted by two guards and possibly
witnessed his escape, and that proceeding with the trial in
defendant's absence was in violation of his right to be
present. The trial court denied the motion for mistrial,
noting that the jurors saw defendant in custody of law
enforcement officers in the courtroom all week and the court
took "great pains" to ensure that defendant was in
neat, clean, civilian clothing, and that the only restraints
he had on, which were on his legs, allowed him to walk with
little difficulty. Also, the trial court found that because
defendant had voluntarily absented himself, the trial could
proceed without his presence. Defense counsel requested that
the jurors be gauged to determine if they could still be fair
and impartial, but the court stated that it only intended to
tell the jury that Lewis had chosen not to be present for the
remainder of the proceedings and "leave it at
that." The trial court did so, and the trial resumed.
jury ultimately found defendant guilty as charged of first
degree rape, guilty of the responsive verdict of attempted
second degree murder, guilty as charged of second degree
kidnapping, and guilty of the responsive verdict of simple
robbery. Although his attorney was present, defendant was not
present at trial for the closing arguments, jury
instructions, or the reading of the jury's verdict.
defense filed a motion for post-verdict judgment of
acquittal, arguing that the evidence was insufficient, and a
motion for new trial, based on the denial of certain
objections to testimony during trial. At a hearing on October
26, 2016, the trial court denied the post-trial motions.
waived sentencing delays. After reviewing the pre-sentence
investigation report, the trial court sentenced defendant as
follows: life imprisonment at hard labor without benefits for
first degree rape; 50 years at hard labor without benefits
for attempted second degree murder; 40 years at hard labor,
with at least two years without benefits for second degree
kidnapping; and seven years at hard labor for simple robbery.
The trial court ordered the sentences to be served
filed a motion to reconsider sentence, arguing that his
sentences were excessive since he received the maximum
sentence for each offense. The trial court denied the motion
at a hearing on December 1, 2016. This appeal followed.
of the Evidence
not specifically designated as an assigned error, in the
closing section of his pro se brief, defendant contends that
the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions.
According to defendant, the state's case against him was
based on circumstantial evidence and rested solely on the
victim's account of the events. Defendant claims that the
facts of this case are "shady" and that it is hard
to imagine how he was able to take the gun from N.H. and
attempt to shoot her after she shot him, or that he would
have had time, in the span of three minutes, to hide the gun
and take N.H.'s money from her purse.
standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the
evidence claim is 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
proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560
(1979); State v. Tate, 01-1658 (La. 05/20/03), 851
So.2d 921, cert. denied, 541 U.S. 905, 124 S.Ct.
1604, 158 L.Ed.2d 248 (2004); State v. Sullivan, 51,
180 (La.App. 2 Cir. 02/15/17), 216 So.3d 175. This standard,
now legislatively embodied in La.C.Cr.P. art. 821, does not
provide the appellate court with a vehicle to substitute its
own appreciation of the evidence for that of the factfinder.
State v. Pigford, 05-0477 (La. 02/22/06), 922 So.2d
517; State v. Dotie, 43, 819 (La.App. 2 Cir.
01/14/09), 1 So.3d 833, writ denied, 09-0310 (La.
11/06/09), 21 So.3d 297. The appellate court does not assess
the credibility of ...