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State v. Romero

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 21, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
KENNETH ROMERO

         APPEAL FROM THE THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF EVANGELINE, NO. 98015-FB HONORABLE CHUCK RANDALL WEST, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Trent Brignac District Attorney Nicole F. Gil Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Thomas E. Guilbeau Jason W. Robideaux COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Kenneth Romero.

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Elizabeth A. Pickett, and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.

          SYLVIA R. COOKS JUDGE.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 19, 2013, Defendant, Kenneth Romero, while driving his Dodge pick-up truck, struck the victim, Jonathon Ben. As a result of the injuries suffered from the collision, Mr. Ben died. Defendant did not stop and render any assistance to Mr. Ben, nor did he call the police or any emergency assistance. Instead he fled the scene.

         On February 5, 2014, Defendant was charged by bill of information with one count of vehicular homicide, in violation of La.R.S. 14:32.1, and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death, in violation of La.R.S. 14:100(C)(2). In anticipation of a plea agreement on March 3, 2017, the State amended the first count of the bill to negligent homicide, in violation of La.R.S. 14:32. At that time, Defendant pled guilty to negligent homicide and entered a plea in accordance with North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160 (1970) on the hit-and-run driving charge. Pursuant to Alford, trial counsel acknowledged for the record that he believed there was "sufficient and substantial evidence" of Defendant's guilt with respect to the hit-and-run driving charge without admitting guilt.

         On May 10, 2017, the trial court sentenced Defendant to serve three and one-half years at hard labor and a twenty-five hundred dollar fine for negligent homicide and eight years at hard labor for the hit-and-run driving, with a twenty-five hundred dollar fine and three years of his sentence suspended with five years of supervised probation. The sentences were to run concurrently.

         Defendant now appeals, raising a single assignment of error, namely, that the trial court erred in accepting Defendant's Alford plea when Defendant denied knowing his vehicle had struck the victim "without requiring the State to establish a substantial basis of guilt in the record." For the reasons discussed below, we find no merit to Defendant's assignment of error and affirm his convictions and sentences.

         ERRORS PATENT

         In accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, all appeals are reviewed for errors patent on the face of the record. The court minutes of sentencing require correction. For the offense of negligent homicide, the sentencing minutes reflect that the court imposed a sentence of three and one-half years at hard labor and that upon release, Defendant is to be placed on five years of supervised probation.

         The sentencing transcript indicates that on the negligent homicide charge, a hard labor sentence of three and one-half years was imposed with no portion of the sentence being suspended and Defendant not being placed on probation. "[W]hen the minutes and the transcript conflict, the transcript prevails." State v. Wommack, 00-137, p. 4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/7/00), 770 So.2d 365, 369, writ denied, 00-2051 (La. 9/21/01), 797 So.2d 62.

         Accordingly, the trial court is ordered to correct the sentencing minutes to accurately reflect ...


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