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State v. Kelly

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

February 21, 2018



          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Darren A. Allemand.


          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Hans J. Liljeberg, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore.


         Defendant, Troy C. Kelly, appeals his conviction and sentence for second degree murder. For the following reasons, we affirm and remand for correction of the Uniform Commitment Order.


         On June 19, 2014, a Jefferson Parish Grand Jury returned an indictment charging defendant, Troy C. Kelly, with the second degree murder of two-year-old S.B., [1] in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1. Defendant pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on June 20, 2014.

         On February 27, 2014, prior to his indictment and arraignment, defendant filed a Motion to Allow Independent Autopsy upon the body of S.B. On February 28, 2014, a commissioner heard oral argument and denied defendant's motion, noting that S.B.'s funeral was the following day, and finding that defendant failed to serve the coroner's office, the funeral home, or the mother of the deceased child with the motion. Thus, the trial court noted that, even if it granted defendant's motion, the court could not stop the burial from moving forward the following day. The trial court further noted that defendant would have the right to apply to have the body exhumed at a later date.

         On October 19, 2016, the State filed a notice pursuant to La. C.Cr.P. art. 719, notifying defendant that it intended to introduce the expert opinion testimony of Dr. Neha Mehta in the field of child abuse pediatrics. On October 25, 2016, defendant filed an opposition to the State's notice asserting Dr. Mehta did not possess the requisite expertise and knowledge needed to offer her opinion. On October 26, 2016, the trial court denied defendant's opposition to Dr. Mehta's expert testimony.

         Trial commenced before a twelve-person jury on February 14, 2017. On February 16, 2017, the jury returned a verdict of guilty as charged. On February 24, 2017, defendant filed motions for new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal, which the trial court denied on March 2, 2017. After defendant waived delays, the trial court sentenced defendant to life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Defendant filed a motion for appeal, which was granted by the trial court on March 7, 2017.


         On the morning of February 21, 2014, Alencia Batiste found her two-year-old son, S.B., unresponsive in his bed. Defendant, Alencia's boyfriend, was not in the apartment at the time. Upon discovering S.B., Alencia carried him into the kitchen and then called defendant to ask him to return home. Alencia attempted CPR on S.B. before running to get help from her neighbor, Audrey Wallace, and calling 9-1-1. Ms. Wallace also attempted to perform CPR on S.B. to no avail.[2]

         Jefferson Parish paramedic, Hanna Ravain, recalled entering the Batiste apartment at 7:25 a.m. to find Ms. Wallace performing CPR on S.B. with Alencia in the room. She recalled that Alencia was emotionless and provided little information regarding the circumstances of her son's condition. Ms. Ravain did not attempt CPR on the child as it was obvious he was deceased because she saw evidence of rigor and he was cold to the touch. She explained to the jury that rigor, the stiffening of the body, typically presents itself a couple of hours after death. Ms. Ravain further observed bruising to S.B.'s left arm, right shoulder, lower abdomen, chest and face, which in her experience was not consistent with CPR attempts. While outside and before leaving the scene, Ms. Ravain overheard Alencia's mother, Claudette Batiste, say to Alencia "[y]ou f**king killed him; I told you; I knew this was going to happen; you did this."[3]

         Homicide Detective Jean Lincoln of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office testified regarding his prior experience in the Personal Violence Division including his specialized training in the area of child abuse in connection with homicides. He explained that when he arrived on the scene, he immediately noticed bruising in the pattern of fingertip impressions present on S.B.'s chest.[4]

         Dr. Dana Troxclair, expert in the field of forensic pathology, performed the autopsy on S.B. She testified that the child presented with multiple contusions (bruises) to his body, including his scalp, chin, chest, arm, abdomen, and a hematoma (a collection of blood) underneath his scalp. She noted that rigor was present in the child's face and upper extremities, which typically begins to form within an hour or two after death. Dr. Troxclair explained that the bruises present on the child's chest and back were not the result of any lifesaving efforts such as CPR, but rather were possibly fingerprint marks caused from holding the child. She further opined that the bruises on the child were "fresh bruises" as indicated by their purple/red color, establishing they were likely sustained within 24 hours prior to his death. She further explained that the head injuries suffered by S.B. were not typical of self-inflicted wounds normally found on a child.

         Upon conducting the internal examination of S.B., Dr. Troxclair observed blood in his abdomen and noted he sustained fractures to nine of his ribs, causing a lacerated lung. She also discovered S.B.'s liver and spleen sustained lacerations caused by blunt force trauma to his abdomen, along with hemorrhage to his diaphragm also caused by blunt force trauma.[5] Dr. Troxclair further explained the blood found in S.B.'s abdomen was the result of his abdomen being forcefully pushed into his backbone. S.B.'s heart and kidneys were also pale in color due to the amount of blood loss, indicating that S.B. "bled out, " having lost a third of his total blood volume. Dr. Troxclair opined that a child could only live a couple of hours at most with the injuries S.B. sustained. Dr. Troxclair also opined that the injuries S.B. sustained did not occur from simply pulling the child out of the bathtub by his arm, but could have been caused by pulling the child from the bathtub and throwing him against a toilet. S.B.'s death was classified as a homicide with death caused by multiple blunt force injuries.

         S.B.'s mother, Alencia, testified that in addition to S.B., she has four other young children. On the night of February 20, 2014, she ran the water for her children's bath before leaving to go to the Dollar General Store, [6] leaving defendant with her children. When she returned she could not recall whether the boys were in bed, however, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She did recall S.B. was a little more "whiney" that night so she gave him a dose of Children's Tylenol. She testified that S.B. shared a room with his two older brothers, who were six and three years old at that time, and they all slept on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed. They would often jump from the top bunk down to the bottom; but, she was not aware of them engaging in this behavior on the evening at issue.[7] Alencia noted that after the children were in bed she heard them playing in their room. She recalled going into the room and seeing S.B. sitting up in bed "whining."

         Alencia went to the police station along with defendant for questioning after finding S.B. dead. She explained that defendant moved in with her approximately one month prior to her son's death and that her mother did not approve of him. She further testified that she never disciplined her children, which was a point of contention between herself and defendant. Alencia recalled an instance when another one of her sons spit on defendant, who then quickly grabbed the child and tapped him on the hand. Alencia told defendant to never put his hands on her children again. Alencia testified that she initially provided inconsistent answers to the police regarding what happened on the evening prior to S.B.'s death, including whether she or defendant bathed and/or dressed the children that night, because she was in shock over the death of her son.

         Deputy Gabriel Faucetta of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office interviewed defendant while the autopsy of S.B. was taking place. During the interview, defendant told Deputy Faucetta that on February 20, 2014, he arrived home from work around 4:00 p.m. The children were home with Alencia, they cooked dinner and then ate together as a family around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. Defendant initially told Deputy Faucetta that around 8:00 p.m., the three boys, including S.B., bathed and then played in their room while he and Alencia watched television in the living room. He explained that around 8:30 p.m., they told the boys to go to bed.

         When asked about the bruises on S.B.'s chest, defendant stated they were likely caused by falling out of the bed or the shower, explaining that S.B. and his brothers often engaged in horseplay with each other. Defendant denied disciplining the children. When told S.B. had numerous bruises, defendant stated someone must have punched or poked S.B. Defendant then recalled that two days prior to S.B.'s death, Alencia told him the boys were jumping off the bunk bed.[8] Defendant also stated that Alencia did not hurt S.B., explaining that Alencia does not hit her children.

         After Detective Faucetta advised defendant that the coroner discovered S.B. had multiple broken ribs, defendant again mentioned the boys were "horse playing" in their room before going to bed around 10:00 p.m. Detective Faucetta then told defendant that S.B.'s injuries were consistent with compressions. At first, defendant denied touching S.B., but then admitted he sometimes grabbed the boys by their arms.

         Later in the interview, defendant admitted that in the past he picked S.B. up by the torso, underneath his arms, and sternly asked him about his repeated bathroom accidents. He explained S.B. used to wet himself almost every day and he picked him up multiple times to bring him to the toilet. He expressed his frustration towards Alencia's "potty training" efforts, stating that he felt S.B. should not still be wearing diapers. Detective Faucetta discussed in more detail the injuries S.B. sustained, to which defendant stated that if he did hurt S.B., he did not intend to hurt him. He then explained that the night before his death, S.B. defecated in the bathtub. He stated that he made S.B. remove the waste from the bathtub with his hands and throw it in the toilet before Alencia returned home from the store, and then finished bathing and dressing the boys for bed.

         Detective Faucetta explained the importance of finding out what happened to S.B., at which time defendant said it was probably from him holding S.B. Then, when asked by the detective if he was rough with S.B., defendant admitted to squeezing S.B. He further revealed that he snatched S.B. from the bathtub by the arm when he defecated in the tub and tossed him into the toilet to get him out of his way. Defendant stated he got angry because the boys were playing in the feces in the bathtub. He then demonstrated the way in which he picked up S.B., placing both hands underneath S.B.'s armpits and around his chest area. He admitted he may have grabbed S.B. too hard when he pulled him out of the tub and S.B. hit the toilet on his side ribs. Defendant explained that S.B. made a whining sound like he was hurt and agreed his actions hurt S.B, even though he did not intend to hurt him when he threw him against the toilet. Defendant also admitted Alencia was at the store when S.B. defecated in the bathtub.

         When asked about Alencia's mother, Claudette, who often watched the children, defendant recalled arguing with Claudette because she did not chastise her grandchildren when two of them wet the bed. He also recalled an incident when he and Alencia first started dating when he "popped" S.B. because of a bathroom accident. Alencia told him she would not let him hit her kids. Defendant stated kids should be "whopped" if they are out of line.

         Later in the interview, defendant admitted his actions were more aggressive than he originally explained, further admitting that after he got home from work that afternoon he also "grabbed" S.B. because he wet himself. Defendant also admitted he did not tell Alencia about the incident in the bathtub because she would be mad if she knew he grabbed S.B. from the tub and threw him against the toilet. Defendant then stated that looking back he should have told Alencia what occurred because she could have called the ambulance.

         The next morning when he went to get S.B. out of bed and saw he was dead, defendant was worried about what happened the night before. Defendant claimed it was a mistake and he did not intend to hurt S.B. When asked by the detective how S.B. died, he stated it was from throwing S.B. into the toilet. He then agreed that he should go to jail for what he did to S.B., acknowledging that his actions killed S.B., but not intentionally. At one point during the interview, Detective Faucetta left room, and defendant said "Forgive me, Troy. I'm sorry, Jesus, I'm sorry momma, I didn't mean -I didn't mean to, I'm not like this, what am I doing with my life."

         Alencia's mother, Claudette Batiste, testified that she and her boyfriend, Simon Hicks, watched S.B. and his brother the day before he was killed. She explained that when she returned S.B. to Alencia's apartment, he had no marks on his body. She further recalled that S.B had a cold, but was not whining or in pain. The next morning, Claudette called Alencia to tell her to get S.B. ready for an outing at the zoo and about ten minutes later she received a call back from her daughter who was screaming that S.B. was unresponsive. When Claudette arrived at the ...

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