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State v. Martin

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

February 27, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
BRANDON RASHAD MARTIN

         On Appeal from the 22nd Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Trial Court Number 571, 999, Honorable Peter J. Garcia, Judge Presiding

          Warren L. Montgomery District Attorney Mary Watson Smith Assistant District Attorney Covington, Louisiana, Attorneys for Appellee, State of Louisiana.

          David F. Gremillion Rachel M.Yazbeck New Orleans, Louisiana, Attorneys for Defendant/Appellant, Brandon Rashad Martin.

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.

          PENZATO, J.

         The defendant, Brandon R. Martin, was charged by felony bill of information with three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, violations of La. R.S. 14:37.4 (counts one, two, and three); and possession of a firearm by a person convicted of certain felonies, a violation of La. R.S. 14:95.1 (prior to revision by 2017 La. Acts No. 281, § 1) (count four).[1] He entered a plea of not guilty and, following a jury trial, was found guilty as charged on counts one, three, and four, and guilty of attempted aggravated assault with a firearm on count two. He filed motions for new trial and postverdict judgment of acquittal, both of which were denied. The district court sentenced the defendant to ten years at hard labor on count one, five years at hard labor on count two, ten years at hard labor on count three, and ten years at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence on count four.[2] The district court further ordered all of the sentences to run concurrently. The State subsequently filed a habitual offender bill of information. After a hearing, the defendant was adjudicated a second-felony habitual offender as to count four.[3] The court then sentenced the defendant to forty years at hard labor without the benefit of probation or suspension of sentence.[4] The defendant now appeals, alleging four assignments of error. For the following reasons, we vacate the original sentence imposed on count four, and we affirm the defendant's convictions, habitual offender adjudication, and sentences.

         FACTS

         On January 19, 2016, the defendant drove to his father, James Martin's, home in Slidell, Louisiana, and confronted his father and two brothers, Jermaine Singleton and Randy Martin, the victims. The defendant, who had a gun, threatened to kill Jermaine. James and Randy tried to protect Jermaine, who was recovering from surgery, from the defendant. The defendant ultimately left the scene without firing his weapon.

         SUFFICIENCY

         In his third assignment of error, the defendant argues that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. Specifically, he contends that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was in possession of a firearm. The defendant notes that a firearm was not recovered and complains that the State's witnesses gave inconsistent statements regarding the firearm.

         When issues are raised on appeal, both as to sufficiency of the evidence and as to one or more trial errors, the reviewing court should first determine the sufficiency of the evidence. State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731, 734 (La. 1992). The reason for reviewing the 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 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 moot. Hearold, 603 So.2d at 734.

         On the other hand, when the entirety of the evidence, both admissible and inadmissible, is sufficient to support the conviction, the accused is not entitled to an acquittal, and the reviewing court must then consider the assignments of trial error to determine whether the accused is entitled to a new trial. If the reviewing court determines there has been trial error (which was not harmless) in cases in which the entirety of the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, then the accused must receive a new trial, but is not entitled to an acquittal even though the admissible evidence, considered alone, was insufficient. Hearold, 603 So.2d at 734. Accordingly, we proceed first to determine whether the entirety of the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant's convictions.

         A conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand as it violates Due Process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; La. Const, art. I, § 2. The standard of review for the sufficiency of the evidence to uphold a conviction is whether or not, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. at 319, 99 S.Ct. at 2789; see La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B); State v. Ordodi, 2006-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660; State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1308-09 (La. 1988). The Jackson standard of review, incorporated in Article 821, is an objective standard for testing the overall evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. When analyzing circumstantial evidence, La. R.S. 15:438 provides that the factfinder must be satisfied the overall evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. State v. Patorno, 2001-2585 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/21/02), 822 So.2d 141, 144.

         Aggravated assault with a firearm is an assault committed with a firearm. La. R.S. 14.-37.4A. Pursuant to La. R.S. 14:95.1A, "It is unlawful for any person who has been convicted of. . . any violation of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law which is a felony ... to possess a firearm or carry a concealed weapon." [Footnote omitted.] The defendant does not dispute his identity as the perpetrator of the offenses, and notes that he admitted that he committed simple assault. However, the defendant contends that because the State failed to prove he was in possession of a firearm, he should not have been found guilty of the charged offenses.

         According to Jermaine Singleton's trial testimony, the dispute arose because of Jermaine "putting [the defendant] out" of his house approximately four months prior to the instant offenses. Jermaine explained that after the defendant was released from prison for an unrelated offense, he allowed the defendant to stay at his home and work with him. However, when the defendant quit working with Jermaine and began bringing women into the home, Jermaine told him that he had to move out. The defendant became angry and attempted to fight with Jermaine, but Jermaine's wife stopped the dispute. Thereafter, on January 19, 2016, the defendant drove to their father's house and jumped out of the vehicle that he was driving. The defendant then walked up to Jermaine and threatened to beat him up and kill him. James and Randy attempted to stop the defendant, as Jermaine was recovering from a surgery. After the defendant pushed Jermaine's forehead with his finger, James pushed the defendant away from Jermaine. The defendant walked back toward the vehicle he arrived in, bent over in the vehicle, and walked back toward the victims. He stated that he was going to kill Jermaine. According to Jermaine, James and Randy were "steady pushing [the defendant] away from" him, and Jermaine told James to leave the defendant alone, but the defendant reached into his back pocket and pulled out a gun. When the defendant pulled out the gun, he pointed it "directly at [Jermaine's] forehead." The defendant continually told Jermaine that he was going to kill him, but did not pull the trigger of the gun, which Jermaine described as a black .38 revolver with a rubber handle. James and Randy again pushed the defendant away, and as the defendant began walking ...


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