Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for
the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana No.
07-13-0369, Sec. VIII The Honorable Trudy White, Judge
C. Moore, III District Attorney Dale R. Lee Assistant
District Attorney Baton Rouge, LA Attorneys for Appellee
State of Louisiana
Cynthia K. Meyer Louisiana Appellate Project New Orleans, LA
Attorney for Defendant/ Appellant Covonta Magee
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.
defendant, Covonta Magee, was charged by grand jury
indictment with second degree murder, a violation of La. R.S.
14:30.1, and pled not guilty. After a trial by jury, the
defendant was found guilty as charged. The defendant was
sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without the
benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
sentence. The trial court denied the defendant's
motion for new trial. The defendant now appeals, assigning
error to the trial court's denial of his motion to
suppress, his constitutional right to present a defense, and
the sufficiency of the evidence. For the following reasons,
we affirm the conviction and sentence.
December 22, 2012, officers of the Baton Rouge Police
Department (BRPD) were dispatched to the scene of a shooting
at 1511 Cristy Drive in Baton Rouge. The body of the victim,
Clara Seal, was located at the scene and transported to the
hospital by EMS. The victim's cell phone was also
recovered and collected. Chelsea Daigle, who referred to the
victim (whom she called C.J.) as her friend, indicated that
on the day in question, she told the victim that they were
going to Cristy Drive to obtain "roxies"
(Roxicodone pills) from someone who she referred to as
"T." However, Daigle was instead bringing the
victim to that location to meet "Vonta, " the
defendant. Once they arrived at Cristy Drive, they parked
their vehicle and entered the defendant's vehicle, which
was parked in reverse in a driveway. The victim sat in the front
passenger seat, while Daigle got in the back of the
defendant's vehicle. The defendant instructed Daigle to
look in the back of the vehicle for some pills. He then
demanded the victim to give him her possessions, and as she
refused, he pulled her jacket and repeated his demands. As
the victim attempted to exit the vehicle, the defendant shot
to Dr. William Clark, the Coroner of East Baton Rouge Parish,
the victim suffered gunshot wounds to the left arm just above
the elbow and the left flank area. The victim's cause of
death was determined to be the gunshot wound to the abdomen,
and the manner of death was homicide. At the autopsy,
Corporal Matthew Kelly of the BRPD crime scene division
collected the victim's clothing, DNA samples, and a
bullet removed from her abdomen, and sent the items to the
Louisiana State Police Crime Lab.
Logan Collins and Detective Steven Woodring of the BRPD
homicide division processed the scene of the shooting and
interviewed witnesses, including Brittany Kimble,
described the defendant's vehicle as a gray or brown 2000
Chevrolet Impala. The detectives further received information
leading to 3441 O'Neal Lane, the defendant's address.
After arriving at the address on O'Neal Lane, the police
located the vehicle and obtained a search warrant for
apartment C, identified as the defendant's apartment.
Upon executing the search warrant, the police recovered a
Taurus model 85 loaded silver revolver, and .38 special
ammunition, and a cell phone. The Chevrolet Impala was
processed and swabs of suspected blood from the passenger and
driver doors and baseboard were sent to the crime lab.
OF THE EVIDENCE
assignment of error number three, the defendant argues that
the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. The
defendant contends that the State was highly reliant on the
testimony of Daigle, who initially identified "T"
as the shooter. The defendant claims that Daigle's
testimony had many "glitches" and further describes
Daigle's testimony as biased, unreliable, and
self-serving. The defendant contends that Daigle identified
him as the shooter after the fourth police interrogation and
a third photographic lineup. Further, the defendant notes
that Daigle admitted to ingesting drugs on the night of the
shooting. The defendant also argues that Daigle's
testimony that the victim was shot as she exited the
passenger door of the vehicle is inconsistent with the
Coroner's testimony that there was a downward projection
of the bullet. The defendant notes that Daigle testified that
her charge would be reduced to armed robbery in exchange for
her testimony, further arguing that there was no evidence
that the victim was robbed. Finally, the defendant argues
that absent Daigle's testimony, the jury may have
believed that the gun did not belong to the defendant, noting
that other adults were in the apartment. Thus, the defendant
concludes that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that he committed second degree murder.
issues are raised on appeal contesting the sufficiency of the
evidence and alleging 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 sufficiency first is that the accused
may be entitled to an acquittal under Hudson v.
Louisiana, 450 U.S. 40, 43, 101 S.Ct. 970, 972, 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 proven 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 of trial error issues as to that crime would be
pure dicta since those issues are moot. However, when the
entirety of the evidence is sufficient to support the
conviction, the accused is not entitled to an acquittal, and
the reviewing court must then consider the other assignments
of error to determine whether the accused is entitled to a
new trial. If the reviewing court determines that 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 will be granted a new trial, but
is not entitled to an acquittal. See Hearold, 603
So.2d at 734.
conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand as it
violates Due Process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; La. Const,
art. I, § 2. The constitutional standard for testing the
sufficiency of the evidence, as enunciated in Jackson v.
Virginia, requires that a conviction be based on proof
sufficient for any rational trier of fact, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, to
find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt. See La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B); State v.
Ordodi, 2006-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660. In
conducting this review, we also must be expressly mindful of
Louisiana's circumstantial evidence test, which states in
part, "assuming every fact to be proved that the
evidence tends to prove, " every reasonable hypothesis
of innocence is excluded. La. R.S. 15:438. State v.
Wright, 98-0601 (La.App. 1st Cir. 2/19/99), 730 So.2d
485, 486, writs denied, 99-0802 (La. 10/29/99), 748
So.2d 1157 & 2000-0895 (La. 11/17/00), 773 So.2d 732.
Revised Statutes 14:30.1(A)(1) defines second degree murder,
in pertinent part, as the killing of a human being when the
offender has the specific intent to kill or inflict great
bodily harm. Specific criminal intent is 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.
R.S. 14:10(1). Though intent is a question of fact, it need
not be proven as a fact. It may be inferred from the
circumstances of the transaction. Thus, specific intent may
be proven by direct evidence, such as statements by a
defendant, or by inference from circumstantial evidence, such
as a defendant's actions or facts depicting the
circumstances. Specific intent is an ultimate legal
conclusion to be resolved by the fact finder. State v.
Buchanon, 95-0625 (La.App. 1st Cir. 5/10/96), 673 So.2d
663, 665, writ denied, 96-1411 (La. 12/6/96), 684
State bears the burden of proving those elements, along with
the burden to prove the identity of the defendant as the
perpetrator. State v. Draughn, 2005-1825 (La.
1/17/07), 950 So.2d 583, 593, cert, denied, 552 U.S.
1012, 128 S.Ct. 537, 169 L.Ed.2d 377 (2007). When the key
issue is the defendant's identity as the perpetrator,
rather than whether the crime was committed, the State is
required to negate any reasonable probability of
misidentification. A positive identification by only one
witness is sufficient to support a conviction. State v.
Weary, 2003-3067 (La. 4/24/06), 931 So.2d 297, 311,
cert, denied, 549 U.S. 1062, 127 S.Ct. ...