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State v. Carman

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

February 28, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
DONOVAN CARMAN Appellant

         Appealed from the Forty-Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of DeSoto, Louisiana Trial Court No. 16CR27204 Honorable Amy Burford McCartney, Judge.

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Peggy J. Sullivan Counsel for Appellant.

          GARY V. EVANS District Attorney.

          GEORGE WINSTON, III Assistant District Attorney.

          Before WILLIAMS, STONE, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         Donovan Carman pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 40 years at hard labor. He now appeals, arguing his sentence is unconstitutionally excessive. For the following reasons, Carman's conviction and sentence are affirmed.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On December 28, 2015, Donovan Carman ("Carman") contacted his estranged girlfriend, Deidra Nichols ("Nichols"), to arrange the pickup of their two-year-old daughter, Emma. Nichols advised Carman he could not pick up Emma because it was "too cold" outside. Notwithstanding Nichols' objection, Carman left his job in Bossier City and drove approximately 22 minutes to the home of Nichols' parents in Stonewall, with whom Nichols and her three children resided.[1]

         After arriving at the Nichols residence and knocking on the door, Carman placed both hands into the front pocket of his hoodie. Nichols' elderly and disabled father, Bobby Nichols ("Bobby"), opened the front door and Carman pulled a gun from his pocket and shot Bobby in the head. Bobby subsequently died from the gunshot wound.

         On February 25, 2016, Carman was indicted for the second-degree murder of Bobby. On February 14, 2017, pursuant to a plea agreement, the State amended the indictment and filed a bill of information charging Carman with manslaughter to which Carman subsequently pled guilty. On May 18, 2017, a sentencing hearing was held and a presentence investigation (PSI) report was ordered. Thereafter, the trial court sentenced Carman to 40 years at hard labor. Carman timely filed a motion to reconsider the sentence, which was denied. On appeal, Carman argues his 40-year sentence, which is the maximum sentence for a conviction of manslaughter, is unconstitutionally harsh and excessive.

         DISCUSSION

         The trial court has wide discretion in the imposition of sentences within the statutory limits and such sentences should not be set aside as excessive in the absence of a manifest abuse of that discretion. State v. Williams, 03-3514 (La. 12/13/04), 893 So.2d 7; State v. Allen, 49, 642 (La.App. 2 Cir. 02/26/15), 162 So.3d 519, writ denied, 15-0608 (La. 01/25/16), 184 So.3d 1289. A trial judge is in the best position to consider the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a particular case, and, therefore, is given broad discretion in sentencing. State v. Allen, supra; State v. Zeigler, 42, 661 (La.App. 2 Cir. 10/24/07), 968 So.2d 875. On review, an appellate court does not determine whether another sentence may have been more appropriate, but whether the trial court abused its discretion. State v. Jackson, 48, 534 (La.App. 2 Cir. 01/15/14), 130 So.3d 993.

         As a general rule, maximum or near-maximum sentences are reserved for the worst offenders and the worst offenses. State v. Cozzetto, 07-2031 La. 02/15/08), 974 So.2d 665; State v. Hogan, 47, 993 (La.App. 2 Cir. 04/10/13), ...


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