FROM THE THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
EVANGELINE, NO. 101974-FB HONORABLE CHUCK R. WEST, DISTRICT
Richard A. Spears, Taylor Street New Iberia, COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Reokenski Vodise Thomas a/k/a Reokenski
Brignac District Attorney Timmy J. Fontenot Marcus L.
Fontenot Nicole F. Gil. Assistant District Attorneys
Thirteenth Judicial District P. O. Drawer, COUNSEL FOR
APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.
composed of Elizabeth A. Pickett, D. Kent Savoie, and Van H.
defendant, Reokenski Vodise Thomas, appeals his convictions
for first degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30(A)(3),
and attempted first degree murder, violations of La.R.S.
14:27 and La.R.S. 14:30(A)(3). For the reasons herein, we
affirm the defendant's convictions but set aside his
sentences and remand the matter for resentencing.
OF THE RECORD
defendant was indicted by a grand jury for the first degree
murder of Joseph John, in violation of La.R.S. 14:30(A)(3),
when he had the specific intent to kill or inflict great
bodily harm upon more than one person, namely the victim and
his brother, Derricke John, and for the attempted first
degree murder of the victim's brother, in violation of
La.R.S. 14:27 and 14:30(A)(3), when he had the specific
intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon the same two
persons. The State then moved to consolidate the trial of the
defendant with that of the co-defendant, Hilton Wilson, who
was indicted on the same day as the defendant on the same
an eight-day jury trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts as
to each defendant, finding both guilty of the first degree
murder and attempted first degree murder of the victim and
his brother, respectively. Thereafter, the defendant was
sentenced to serve life in prison for the first degree murder
conviction and twenty-five years for the attempted first
degree murder conviction, with each sentence to be served
without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of
sentence and the sentences to run concurrently.  On appeal,
the defendant raises two assignments of error: (1) The trial
court erred in failing to grant a mistrial for two statements
made by a witness regarding other crimes committed by the
codefendant in contravention of La.Code Crim.P. art 770(2);
and (2) Based on the evidence produced at the trial, the
jurors could not reasonably have concluded that the defendant
was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
second assignment of error, the defendant asserts that the
evidence presented at trial was insufficient for the jury to
conclude that he was guilty of the crimes of first degree
murder and attempted first degree murder beyond a reasonable
doubt. Thus, we will address this assignment of error first.
When issues are raised on appeal both as to the sufficiency
of the evidence and as to one or more trial errors, the
reviewing court should first determine the sufficiency of the
evidence. The reason for reviewing sufficiency first is that
the accused may be entitled to an acquittal under Hudson
v. Louisiana, 450 U.S. 40, 101 S.Ct. 970, 67 L.Ed.2d 30
(1981), if a rational trier of fact, viewing the evidence in
accordance with Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307,
99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), in the light most
favorable to the prosecution, could not reasonably conclude
that all of the essential elements of the offense have been
proved beyond a reasonable doubt. When the entirety of the
evidence, including inadmissible evidence which was
erroneously admitted, is insufficient to support the
conviction, the accused must be discharged as to that crime,
and any discussion by the court of the trial error issues as
to that crime would be pure dicta since those issues are
State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731, 734 (La. 1992)
applying the sufficiency standard set out in Jackson v.
Virginia, AA3 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781 (1979), we also
recognize the following:
A determination of the weight of evidence is a question of
fact, resting solely with the trier of fact who may accept or
reject, in whole or in part, the testimony of any witnesses.
State v. Siiman, 95-0154 (La.l 1/27/95), 663 So.2d
27, 35. A reviewing court may impinge on the factfinding
function of the jury only to the extent necessary to assure
the Jackson standard of review. State v.
Bordenave, 95-2328 (La.4/26/96), 678 So.2d 19, 20, It is
not the function of an appellate court to assess credibility
or re-weigh the evidence. Id.
State v. Macon, 06-481, pp. 7-8 (La. 6/1/07), 957
So.2d 1280, 1285-86.
degree murder is the killing of a human being . . . [w]hen
the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict
great bodily harm upon more than one person." La.R.S.
Specific criminal intent is defined as "that state of
mind which exists when the circumstances indicate that the
offender actively desired the prescribed criminal
consequences to follow his act or failure to act."
La.Rev.Stat. 14:10(1). Specific intent need not be proven as
a fact, but may be inferred from the defendant's actions
and the circumstances of the transaction. State v.
Maxie, 93-2158, (La.4/10/95), 653 So.2d 526, 532.
Deliberately pointing and firing a deadly weapon at close
range are circumstances which will support a finding of
specific intent to kill. State v. Seals, 684 So.2d
368, 373 (La. 1996) (citing State v. Williams, 383
So.2d 369 (La. 1980); State v. Procell, 365 So.2d
484 (La. 1978)).
State v. Robinson, 02-1869, p. 8 (La. 4/14/04), 874
So.2d 66, 74, cert, denied, 543 U.S. 1023, 125 S.Ct.
Any person who, having a specific intent to commit a crime,
does or omits an act for the purpose of and tending directly
toward the accomplishing of his object is guilty of an
attempt to commit the offense intended; and it shall be
immaterial whether, under the circumstances, he would have
actually accomplished his purpose.
this eight-day trial, the jury heard extensive testimony and
was presented with much physical, photographic, and
documentary evidence. Derricke John testified that he and his
two brothers were at their home at 120 East Washington Street
in Ville Platte on the night of the shooting. He stated that
he and Joseph, who he referred to as "Smoke, " were
outside under the carport, while his other brother, Erricke,
was asleep inside the home. Derricke testified that suddenly
he and Joseph were being shot at as multiple gunshots rang
out and that they both began to run. He stated that Joseph
fell as he ran and that he began to run the other way into an
alley adjacent to the house. He said that he could hear and
feel the bullets fired in his direction. He further stated
that shortly prior to the shooting he saw a green Ford Taurus
pass in front of the house. Derricke testified that after the
shooting stopped he located his brother in the ally and found
him bleeding from a gunshot to his abdomen. He stated that he
ran into the house to wake Erricke, telling him that
"Smoke" was shot. He said that he then ran to the
Ville Platte Police station to report the shooting rather
than call 911, stating that he thought it would be quicker
since the station was only about a minute away if he hurried.
testified at trial that he was able to identify the defendant
as one of the shooters, although he admitted not telling the
authorities this on two other occasions. He also testified as
to an incident earlier in the evening on Laran Street in
Ville Platte, where the defendant fired a handgun at him and
his brothers as they drove away from the location of a verbal
altercation with the defendant. He was cross-examined
extensively by counsel for both defendants as to these prior
inconsistent statements and other potentially impeaching
John, the brother of the victims, testified that he was home
with his brothers at the time of the shooting. He stated that
he was inside asleep at the time, but was awakened by
Derricke telling him that "they" had shot Smoke. He
stated that he went outside, saw his brother, and then waited
until the authorities arrived. He said that he did not
witness any of the events of the shooting because he was
sleeping. He further testified about the Laran Street
incident and stated that the defendant shot at them earlier
as they pulled away in their vehicle following a verbal
Thomas testified that earlier on the night of the murder she
arrived at her home on Laran Street, at approximately 7:00
p.m., and observed two vehicles partially blocking the
driveway of her home. She stated that she saw Joseph John,
who she also referred to as "Smoke, " along with
his brother Erricke. She said that she asked them to move
their vehicles and they acknowledged her. Ms. Thomas
testified that she then saw the defendant walk out toward the
street with a handgun. She stated that she asked him not to
shoot because her daughter was at home, but he fired the gun
anyway in the direction of the Johns' vehicle as they
drove away. She said that she called the police to report the
shooting and retrieved a shell casing discharged from the
defendant's gun, which she gave to an officer upon his
Lucas Griffen, of the Ville Platte Police Department,
testified that he responded to the Laran Street shooting
incident and recovered a shell casing from Ms. Thomas that
she retrieved after the defendant fired it in the direction
of the Johns' vehicle. That casing was later turned over
to Detective Pat Hall, the lead Detective on the murder
Cody Savoy, formerly of the Ville Platte Police Department,
responded to the shooting on East Washington Street at
approximately 11:30 p.m. and assisted with securing the crime
scene He testified that he also responded to the scene of the
reported 7:00 p.m. shooting incident on Laran Street. He
reported that a shell casing was recovered by Officer Griffen
from Ms. Thomas from that crime scene.
Kyeishia Evans, of the Ville Platte Police Department,
testified that she and Officer Griffen arrived at the scene
on East Washington Street just after Officer Savoy. She
stated that she stayed with the victim in the ally, where he
was found bleeding from the gunshot wound to his abdomen. She
said that he was alive but unresponsive. She stated that she
held him and prayed for him until emergency medical personnel
arrived to transport him to the hospital, where he later died
from his wounds.
Terry Welke, a forensic pathologist, testified that he
performed the autopsy on the victim and that the cause of
death was a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He stated that he
removed a bullet fragment from the victim's fatal wound,
which he thought was a nine millimeter caliber slug, and
turned it over to Detective Pat Hall. He stated that he also
discovered a bullet fragment in the victim's forearm,
which was later identified as a .25 caliber bullet, but
concluded that this was not recent or related to the
Arvie, who lives in the area of the shooting on East
Washington Street, testified that she and Lunel Robinson were
at her home on the night of the shooting and that they heard
multiple gunshots outside at approximately 11:30 p.m. She
stated that they went outside onto her porch and observed two
persons running away from the direction of the shooting. Ms.
Arvie testified that she could not identify the persons
running. Mr. Lunel Robinson also testified
that he saw two men running away from the
scene shortly after they heard multiple shots fired. He
stated that one of the men
was taller than the other. However he said that he was unable
to identify the men as it was dark outside.
Joseph testified that after 10:30 p.m., on the night of the
shooting, he saw the defendants get out of a Green Taurus
automobile in an area close to the scene of the shooting on
East Washington Street. He stated that he saw the two men
walk away from the vehicle and, as he walked on, he heard
gunshots coming from East Washington Street. Mr. Joseph
testified that when he looked in the direction of the
gunfire, he saw two men shooting towards a house, and he
specifically identified the defendant as one of the shooters.
Although he saw both men shooting in the direction of the
murder scene, he was unable to identify the other shooter.
Semien, the former girlfriend of the co-defendant, testified
that she was with the co-defendant at their home on the night
of the shooting, until he left just after 10:00 p.m. She
testified that when he returned he told her he had been with
the defendant and that he had probably shot someone he
referred to as "Smoke, " ...