APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT
ORLEANS PARISH NO. 510-042, SECTION "F" Honorable
Robin D. Pittman, Judge
A. Cannizzaro, Jr. District Attorney Donna R. Andrieu, Chief
of Appeals Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly Assistant
District Attorney Donald G. Cassels, III Assistant District
Attorney COUNSEL FOR STATE OF LOUISIANA.
Pritchard Rule XX Student Attorney Drew Lafontant Rule XX
Student Attorney Katherine Mattes COUNSEL FOR
composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Daniel L. Dysart,
Judge Tiffany G. Chase
A. LOMBARD, JUDGE
defendant/relator, Ryan Poree, seeks supervisory review of
the trial court's denial of his pro se
application for post-conviction relief. After consideration
of the oral and written arguments presented by the State and
on behalf of the relator in light of the record before this
court and the applicable law, we grant the relator's writ
application, reverse the trial court judgment denying the
relator's application for post-conviction relief, and
remand the matter back to the trial court for further
January 2012, the relator was charged by indictment with two
counts of second degree murder, one count of attempted second
degree murder, and one count of obstruction of justice in
violation of La. Rev. Stat. 14:30.1, 14:(27) 30.1, and
14:130.1, respectively. He pleaded not guilty and not guilty
by reason of insanity and, after a three day trial in
February 2014, was found guilty as charged on all counts. In
March 2014, the relator was sentenced to two terms of life
imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of probation,
parole, or suspension of sentence on the second degree murder
charges; forty-nine years at hard labor for attempted second
degree murder; and forty years at hard labor for obstruction
of justice. After an Anders brief asking only for review
of errors patent was filed by his appointed
appellate counsel, this court affirmed the relator's
conviction and sentence. State v. Poree, 2014-0691
(La.App. 4 Cir. 3/18/15), 166 So.3d 372, writ
denied, 2015-0741 (La. 3/4/16), 188 So.3d 1056.
October 2016, the relator filed a timely pro se
application for post-conviction relief which was denied by
the trial court in a judgment dated November 9, 2016. The
relator sought supervisory review of that decision and, after
review of the relator's writ application, this court
found that the trial court only addressed the issue of
whether defense counsel prevented the petitioner from
testifying in its denial of the relator's application and
was notably silent regarding the relator's claim that the
trial court itself also prevented him from testifying. After
finding the relator's other claims without merit, we
denied the writ in part but granted it in part for the
purpose of appointing the Tulane Law Clinic to represent the
relator on this issue and placing the matter on the docket
for oral argument.
to La. Code Crim. Proc. art. 930.3(1) post-conviction relief
shall be granted if the conviction was obtained in violation
of the state or federal constitutions.
recognized by both the federal and state constitution, a
criminal defendant's right to testify is fundamental.
Specifically, the state constitution provides in pertinent
part: "[a]n accused is entitled to confront and
cross-examine the witnesses against him, to compel the
attendance of witnesses, to present a defense, and to testify
in his own behalf." La. Const. art. I § 16. Both
state and federal jurisprudence recognize that "a
criminal defendant's right to testify is fundamental and
personal to the defendant" and the decision to
"testify in one's own behalf" is
"ultimately a decision for the accused to make."
State v. Hampton, 00-0522, p. 4 (La. 3/22/02), 818
So.2d 720, 723, on reh'g in part (6/7/02)
(citing Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 93 n. 1,
(1977) (Burger, C.J., concurring) (emphasis in
original). Therefore, "there is no rational
justification for prohibiting the sworn testimony of the
accused, who above all others may be in a position to meet
the prosecution's case." Hampton, supra
(quoting Ferguson v. Georgia, 365 U.S. 570, 582,
U.S. Supreme Court has been "unequivocal" in
holding that the U.S. Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments
guarantee a defendant's right to testify. Hampton,
supra (citing Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U.S. 44
(1987)). Specifically, the opportunity to testify is a
necessary corollary to the Fifth Amendment guarantee against
compelled testimony because it is only logical that the
reverse is true, i.e., "a criminal defendant cannot
be compelled to remain silent by defense counsel."
Hampton, 00-0522, p. 6, 818 So.2d at 724 (quoting
U.S. v. Teague, 953 F.2d 1525, 1531 (11th
Cir.1992) (en banc).) (emphasis in original).
Likewise, the defendant's right to testify is implicit in
the Compulsory Process Clause of the Sixth Amendment because
"logically included in the accused's right to call
witnesses whose testimony is 'material and favorable to
his defense' is a right to testify himself, should he
decide it is in his favor to do so" because in many
criminal cases "the most important witness for the
defense . . . is the defendant himself. Hampton,
00-0522, p. 6, 818 So.2d at 724-25 (citing Rock v.
Arkansas, 483 U.S. 44, 52 (1961) (emphasis in original).
Finally, the right to testify on one's own behalf is one
of the rights that is essential to procedural due process
and, thus, constitutionally required under the Fourteenth
Amendment. Hampton, 00-0522, p. 7, 818 So.2d at 725.
reiterated by the Louisiana Supreme Court in
Hampton, the denial of an accused's right to
testify is not amenable to harmless-error analysis because
the right " 'is either respected or denied; its
deprivations cannot be harmless.'"
Hampton, 00-522, p. 14, 818 So.2d at 729 (quoting
State v. Dauzart, 99-3471 (La. 10/30/00), 769 So.2d
1206, 1210-11. "Therefore, . . . whenever a defendant is
prevented from testifying, after unequivocally expressing his
desire to do so, the defendant has been denied a fundamental
right and suffers detrimental prejudice."
Hampton, 00-522, p. 14, 818 So.2d at 729.
case, the relator unequivocally expressed his desire to
testify numerous times before closing arguments and once
again after closing arguments. Specifically, the trial
transcript in the record shows three assertions by the
relator that he wanted to testify. First, the relator
interrupted the rebuttal testimony of Dr. Blue stating:
"I didn't understand, ya' heard me? Put
me on that stand." (Emphasis added). Defense
counsel immediately requested a short break to confer with
the relator and then Dr. Blue's testimony resumed.
However, the record transcript reveals that the relator
asserted his desire to testify twice again after Dr. Blue
finished his testimony:
MR. POREE: Ms. Pittman, I want up on that stand.