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State v. Ward

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 28, 2018



          Annette F. Roach Louisiana Appellate Project Post Office Box 1747 COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Cassandra Ward

          Hon. Asa Allen Skinner District Attorney Thirtieth Judicial District Court Post Office Box 1188 COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Marc T. Amy, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.


         Defendant, Cassandra Ward, was indicted for obstruction of justice for tampering with evidence, a violation of La.R.S. 14:130.1(A)(1)(a), on September 4, 2014. She was originally arrested for second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1, however, the grand jury indicted her on the lesser charge. Her co-defendant, Jose Israel Ayala, III, was indicted for second degree murder and obstruction of justice. Another co-defendant, Matthew David Andrews, was also indicted for obstruction of justice.

         Defendant originally entered a plea of not guilty but changed her plea to guilty as charged on September 2, 2016. Defendant had previously filed an amended a motion to suppress; that motion was dismissed at Defendant's request during the plea hearing. The trial court sentenced Defendant to thirty years at hard labor, with credit for time served, and ordered to pay $150 for preparation of her presentence investigation (PSI) report. Defendant filed a motion to reconsider her sentence, and the trial court denied it on July 5, 2017, indicating it had already considered the factors listed in Defendant's motion.

         Appellate counsel has filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396 (1967), alleging no non-frivolous issues exist on which to base an appeal and seeking to withdraw as Defendant's counsel. We grant counsel's motion to withdraw and affirm Defendant's conviction and sentence as discussed below.


         The State submitted this factual basis for Defendant's guilty plea at the plea hearing:

[D]uring a period of March 29th, 2014[, ] the defendant, Cassandra Ward, did obstruct justice in that she did tamper with evidence which was reasonably relevant to a criminal investigation or proceeding with knowledge that such acts or act, uh, would reasonably make or would have an effect on an actual or potential present, past, or future criminal investigation with the specific intent to distort the results of that criminal proceeding in that she did remove and, uh, move and did remove evidence of the second degree murder of James Stephens. In particular, the State would contend that the defendant was present at 2490 Bailey Road when the victim arrived at that location - Mr. James Stephens - and was killed by an individual and co[-]defendant named "Jose Ayala." This was the second degree murder of Mr. Stephens. After the defendant, Cassandra Ward, did, with the specific intent to distort results of the subsequent criminal investigation did tamper with evidence by aiding in the removal of the body of Mr. James Stephens from 2490 Bailey Road in Vernon Parish to a location off Highway 1211 in Vernon Parish, Louisiana. Thereafter she did return to 2490 Bailey Road, the murder scene, uh, located here in Vernon Parish and did proceed to clean evidence of the murder by using bleach, uh, to clean the porch of the home, by using bleach to - to clean - to clean blood from the premises, uh, ultimately, uh, having bleach make contact with her shoes and subsequently the State recovered those said shoes from Mrs. Ward. Also, the State would contend that she did, uh, take the weapons and the digging im - implements from that location and did dispose of them at a location over in Texas, which were ultimately recovered. Uh, the State would also contend that, at some point thereafter of March the 29th, 2014, that she did return to the body of Mr. Stephens located out at 1211 and did, at some point, along with the co[-]defendant did tamper with the body. Uh, subsequent to her arrest, she did give statements, uh, supporting the facts that I've, uh, recited here in this court, uh, on several occasions.

         Defense counsel did not dispute the recitation of the facts. When the trial judge asked Defendant directly if those facts were correct, she responded, "Yes, sir."


         In accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, we review all appeals for errors patent on the face of the record. After ...

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