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State v. Stewart

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 15, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
JAMES STEWART Appellant

         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 340918 Honorable Katherine Clark Dorroh, Judge

          ANNETTE FULLER ROACH Counsel for Appellant.

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee.

          TOMMY JAN JOHNSON JASON WAYNE WALTMAN JOSHUA K. WILLIAMS Assistant District Attorneys.

          Before WILLIAMS, STONE, and COX, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         The defendant, James Stewart, was charged with aggravated flight from an officer, in violation of La. R.S. 14:108.1. Following a jury trial, Stewart was found guilty as charged and sentenced to serve five years at hard labor. Stewart now appeals his conviction and sentence, alleging the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction and his sentence is excessive. For the following reasons, we affirm the conviction and sentence.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         James Stewart ("Stewart") was arrested on May 16, 2016 and charged with aggravated flight from an officer in violation of La. R.S. 14:108.1. After a trial by jury, Stewart was found guilty as charged by a 10-2 vote. The trial court sentenced Stewart to the statutory maximum penalty of five years at hard labor.[1]

         Stewart's appointed counsel filed a motion to reconsider sentence claiming the evidence was insufficient to justify imposing the maximum sentence. The trial court denied the motion. Thereafter, Stewart filed a pro se motion to reconsider sentence, which the trial court also denied. Stewart now appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         Sufficiency of Evidence

         On appeal, Stewart does not dispute that he was guilty of flight from an officer or the issue of identity, but instead focuses on the evidence to support the aggravated aspect of the charged offense. Stewart argues the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a minimum of two of the aggravating factors listed in La. R.S. 14:108.1(D) applied to his case.

         The 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. The appellate court does not assess the credibility of witnesses or reweigh evidence. State v. Smith, 94-3116 (La. 10/16/95), 661 So.2d 442. A reviewing court accords great deference to a jury's decision to accept or reject the testimony of a witness in whole or in part. State v. Eason, 43, 788 (La.App. 2 Cir. 02/25/09), 3 So.3d 685, writ denied, 09-0725 (La. 12/11/09), 23 So.3d 913, cert. denied, 561 U.S. 1013, 130 S.Ct. 3472, 177 L.Ed.2d 1068 (2010); State v. Hill, 42, 025 (La.App. 2 Cir. 05/09/07), 956 So.2d 758, writ denied, 07-1209 (La. 12/14/07), 970 So.2d 529.

         Direct evidence provides proof of the existence of a fact such as a witness's testimony that he saw or heard something. State v. Lilly, 468 So.2d 1154 (La. 1985). Circumstantial evidence provides proof of collateral facts and circumstances, from which the existence of the main fact may be inferred according to reason and common experience. Id. When the state relies on circumstantial evidence to establish the existence of an essential element of a crime, the court must assume every fact that the evidence tends to prove and the circumstantial evidence must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. La. R.S. 15:438; Lilly, supra; State v. Robinson, 47, 437 (La.App. 2 Cir. 11/14/12), 106 So.3d 1028, writ denied, 12-2658 (La. 05/17/13), 117 So.3d 918. The trier of fact is charged with ...


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