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State v. Meadows

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 10, 2018


         Appealed from the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Franklin, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2015-402F Honorable Terry A. Doughty, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Carey J. Ellis, III Counsel for Appellant

          BILLY R. MEADOWS, JR. Pro Se

          JOHN M. “MACK” LANCASTER District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          WILLIAM R. BARHAM AMANDA M. WILKINS Assistant District Attorneys

          Before WILLIAMS, GARRETT, and BLEICH (Ad Hoc), JJ.

          GARRETT, J.

         The defendant, Billy R. Meadows, Jr., was originally charged with second degree murder in the death of his girlfriend's two-year-old child. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he pled guilty to a reduced charge of second degree cruelty to juveniles, in violation of La. R.S. 14:93.2.3. The trial court later imposed the maximum sentence of 40 years at hard labor. The defendant appeals his sentence as excessive. We affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence.


         On July 21, 2015, the defendant's girlfriend left her young son in the defendant's care while she went to work. Several hours later, the defendant called and told her to return to the home they shared due to an emergency. She found the child cool to the touch, with blue lips and his eyes rolled back. She called 911, and the child was transported to the emergency room where he was pronounced dead. The child's stomach appeared swollen, and he had "visual bruises" on his body. Further examination revealed a discharge from his anal cavity.[1] Upon further examination of the child's anus, the doctor found evidence of sexual molestation. The defendant later gave differing versions to law enforcement officers of what transpired after the child's mother left for work. These included accounts wherein the child fell off a "pot" (apparently a commode or potty chair) or down the stairs, and that he had left the child alone in the residence only to return and find him unconscious under a coffee table. Thinking that the child was asleep, the defendant admitted kicking him. The defendant also provided inconsistent accounts of hitting the child with a belt in his genital area.

         On August 10, 2015, the defendant was charged by grand jury indictment with the second degree murder of the child, during the perpetration or attempted perpetration of cruelty to juveniles. On January 10, 2017, he pled guilty to the crime of second degree cruelty to juveniles in exchange for the dismissal of a misdemeanor charge of simple criminal damage to property. The state also agreed that the sentence would run concurrent with any other sentence previously imposed and that the defendant would be allowed credit for time served from the date of his arrest. Because of the sensitive nature of the crime, the state and the defense agreed to offer the investigative case report as the factual basis for the plea. That report outlined in great detail the facts recited above. After accepting the plea, the trial court ordered a presentence investigation (PSI) report.[2]

         On March 7, 2017, the defendant received the maximum sentence for second degree cruelty to juveniles, 40 years at hard labor. The trial court ordered that the sentence be concurrent with any other sentence, with credit for time served. Prior to imposing sentence, the trial court fully considered the contents of the PSI report, which had been reviewed by both the state and the defense. The trial court reviewed the facts of the matter, as well as the 34-year-old defendant's personal and educational history, noting that he dropped out of school in the ninth grade at age 16, was incarcerated at about age 18, and worked odd jobs. The defendant had four small children with three different women, but had never been married.

         The trial court considered statements from the child's mother, expressing the anger and mental suffering she endured because of the loss of her child, and from the child's grandmother, requesting justice for her grandson. It also took under advisement statements from several law enforcement officers, who requested the maximum sentence due to the severity of the crime.

         The trial court reviewed the defendant's criminal history, noting that he had no juvenile record, but was a fourth-felony offender.[3] The defendant's felony criminal history included a September 2000 conviction for simple burglary, for which he originally received a suspended six-year sentence; however, his probation was revoked. He also had convictions in November 2001 for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and simple burglary, for which he received concurrent sentences of 10 years at hard labor. Regarding these offenses, the trial court noted that the defendant was originally charged with aggravated burglary, a crime of violence, after he broke into a residence and stole money and guns. The defendant had a 2013 conviction for attempted possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and received a five-year hard labor sentence. The trial court also considered three misdemeanor convictions in 2011 and 2012.

         The trial court considered the defendant's failure to complete probation or parole at any time due to his continued commission of crimes, noting that he ...

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