FROM THE TWELFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF AVOYELLES,
NO. 2015-CR-190819-B HONORABLE WILLIAM BENNETT, DISTRICT
Sinquefield Matthew B. Derbes Winston White Assistant
Attorneys General COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana
J. Barker Christen Denicholas Law Offices of Paul J. Barker,
LLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Derrick Walker Stafford
J. Santana Law Offices of Eric Santana, LLC COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Derrick Walker Stafford
composed of John D. Saunders, Marc T. Amy, and D. Kent
D. SAUNDERS JUDGE.
Derrick Walker Stafford, was indicted on December 10, 2015,
for second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1, and
attempted second degree murder, violations of La.R.S. 14:27
and 14:30.1. On January 5, 2016, Defendant filed a
"Motion for Bill of Particulars." On February 3,
2016, the State filed a "State's Memorandum in
Opposition to the Defense Motion for Bill of
Particulars." On September 13, 2016, the State filed a
"Notice of State's Intention to Introduce Other
Crimes Evidence Under La.Code of Evidence Article 404(B) and
Supporting Memorandum of Law." Defendant responded to
the State's "Notice" on September 28, 2016, and
filed a "Memorandum in Opposition." Defendant also
filed a "Motion to Quash" and "Memorandum in
Support" on September 21, 2016. A hearing was held on
September 28, 2016, to address the above motions and
responses. The trial court denied the motion to quash and
granted the State's motion to introduce other crimes
trial selection commenced on March 13, 2017. On March 24,
2017, Defendant was found guilty of manslaughter, a violation
of La.R.S. 14:31, and attempted manslaughter, violations of
La. R.S. 14:27 and 14:31. On March 30, 2017, Defendant filed
a "Motion for New Trial and Memorandum in Support."
The motion was heard on the date of sentencing, following
which the motion was denied. Defendant waived all delay
requirements, and the trial court proceeded to sentence him.
was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment at hard labor for
the attempted manslaughter conviction and forty years
imprisonment at hard labor for the manslaughter conviction,
with the first twenty years without the benefit of probation,
parole, or suspension of sentence. The two sentences were
ordered to be served concurrently. Defendant filed a
"Motion to Reconsider Sentence" on April 20, 2017.
Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion.
has perfected a timely appeal, wherein he raises five
assignments of error, as follows: 1) The trial court erred in
denying Mr. Stafford's motion for a bill of particulars;
2) The trial court erred in denying Mr. Stafford's motion
to quash the bill of indictment in this case; 3) The trial
court erred in admitting evidence of prior bad acts that were
more prejudicial than probative; 4) It was error for the
trial court to deny the motion for mistrial based on the
introduction of a rape allegation against Mr. Stafford; and
5) Mr. Stafford's sentences of forty years and fifteen
years are unconstitutionally excessive.
Christopher Few's ("Mr. Few") car was stopped
following a traffic pursuit, Defendant and Officer Norris
Greenhouse ("Officer Greenhouse") fired at a
ninety-degree angle into the driver's side of the vehicle
while the victim sat in his car. Officer Greenhouse shot four
times, and Defendant shot fourteen times. Mr. Few was
wounded. His six-year-old son, Jeremy Martis
("Jeremy"), who was sitting in the front seat of
the car, was killed. Both officers were charged under
separate lower court docket numbers with attempted second
degree murder and second degree murder.
given at trial established that on November 3, 2015, Mr. Few
picked up his six-year-old son, Jeremy, from school. He and
his girlfriend, Megan Dixon ("Ms. Dixon"), dropped
the boy off at the house of Ms. Dixon's aunt, Erica
Slocum ("Ms. Slocum"), and went out to a bar in
Marksville. Shortly thereafter, they got into an argument,
and Ms. Dixon left the bar with some girlfriends. Mr. Few
left at the same time. He picked up his son from Ms.
Slocum's house. He then spied Ms. Dixon driving her
friend's van. When the van was stopped at a stop light,
he approached the van on foot and attempted to get Ms. Dixon
to get out and go home with him. The light changed, and Ms.
Dixon drove on. As she drove away, she heard sirens. Mr. Few
followed her briefly in his vehicle then passed her up with a
police car in pursuit. She indicated that Mr. Few gestured
towards Jeremy as he passed the van. She assumed he wanted
her to take Jeremy home. Mr. Few pulled his vehicle over
once, but she drove past him. Once again, while being pursued
by a police car, Mr. Few passed her while pointing at Jeremy.
However, she turned off to go to the casino with her friends.
Brouillette ("Officer Brouillette") and Defendant
were both officers with the Marksville City Police
Department. However, on the evening of November 3, 2015, they
were moonlighting for the Ward 2 City Marshal's Office.
The officers received a transmission from Officer Greenhouse
that he was in pursuit of a Kia SUV. The officers were close
to the area and soon spotted Mr. Few's vehicle. Officer
Brouillette turned his unit across the roadway in an attempt
to block Mr. Few, but Mr. Few drove off the roadway and
around the police unit. Officer Brouillette joined the chase
behind Officer Greenhouse. Officer Brouillette testified that
the chase was conducted at speeds approximately forty to
fifty miles per hour. Officer Greenhouse attempted to pass
Mr. Few to cut him off, but Mr. Few weaved his vehicle in a
manner to block Officer Greenhouse from passing him. Shortly
thereafter, Mr. Few entered a street that dead-ended, and he
stopped with Officer Greenhouse's unit stopped right
behind him. Officer Brouillette did not actually see Mr.
Few's vehicle back into Officer Greenhouse's unit or
the officer fall to the ground. He saw Mr. Few pull the Kia
forward. He stood next to Officer Greenhouse and Defendant as
they fired at Mr. Few's vehicle. While his gun was
pulled, he did not believe he was threatened, and he did not
fire his gun. He did not see Mr. Few with a weapon.
who was thirty-three years old at the time of trial,
testified that at the time of the shooting, he was acting in
self-defense and defense of another. Defendant explained that
after Mr. Few was stopped on the dead-end road, as he exited
the police vehicle, he saw Mr. Few back into Officer
Greenhouse's vehicle. Officer Greenhouse was able to get
out of the way, however. Mr. Few then pulled his vehicle
forward. At this point, Defendant had pulled his weapon and
gave a loud verbal command for Mr. Few to exit the Kia and to
show his hands. Defendant explained that he believed Mr. Few
was either going to run into the woods or he was going to
"ambush" them. Defendant insisted he never saw Mr.
Few put his hands up. However, when Mr. Few looked back at
the officers and backed towards them, Defendant "felt
[he] had no choice but to save Norris[.]" He believed
Mr. Few was using the vehicle as a dangerous weapon. While
Defendant stated he was not aware at the time of how many
times he fired his gun, he agreed the evidence established he
fired fourteen times and acknowledged that three of the
bullets that struck Jeremy were from his gun. He stated that
he did not intend to kill when he fired his weapon, only to
stop the threat. Defendant stated he did not know Jeremy was
in the front seat of the vehicle.
Parnell ("Lieutenant Parnell"), a lieutenant with
the Marksville City Police Department, also joined the chase
at speeds between twenty-five and thirty miles per hour. He
arrived last at the dead-end street and parked his unit in
such a way that Mr. Few had an "area where he could have
got out." Lieutenant Parnell got out of his unit and
stood between his unit and Officer Greenhouse's unit.
While he never saw Mr. Few back the Kia SUV into Officer
Greenhouse's unit or saw Officer Greenhouse fall to the
ground, as the lieutenant exited his vehicle, he saw the Kia
back up. This was when the shooting started. The lieutenant
never fired his gun, and he never saw Mr. Few with a gun. He
testified he was not in fear for his life.
jury also heard testimony for two crash scene
constructionists. It was established that Officer
Greenhouse's unit had been struck in the front end and
Mr. Few's Kia's rear end exhibited damage consistent
with backing into the police vehicle. The jury also heard
testimony from two Louisiana State Police Criminalistics
Laboratory ballistic analysts and firearm analysts who
testified regarding the shots fired into Mr. Few's
vehicle. Finally, the jury heard the testimony of an expert
in the use of force. The expert explained in detail why
physiologically it takes seconds after a suspect gives up for
an officer under stress situations to stop firing his weapon.
He testified that in a situation like what Defendant was
experiencing, it was easy to make a wrong call because the
mind does not receive all the information instantaneously.
OF ERROR NUMBERS 1 AND 2:
address assignments of error number one and two together, as
the alleged errors are interrelated. Defendant's first
argument is that the trial court erred when it did not order
the State to respond to his motion for bill of particulars
after he was arraigned with a short form indictment because
the State offered open file discovery. Defendant's second
argument is that because the State failed to respond to his
motion, the indictment was rendered
defective. We find no merit to these
hearing was held on September 28, 2016, wherein the following
motions were heard: "Defendant Greenhouse's Motion
for Bill of Particulars[, ] Defendant Stafford's Motion
to Quash and Motion to Consolidate[, ] and State of Louisiana
Prieur 404 Motion."
Greenhouse's counsel began the hearing with the argument
that the State should have responded to his motion for a bill
of particulars. He argued the State's strategy was to
convict Officer Greenhouse of second degree murder of Mr.
Few's son, Jeremy, using the "transferred
intent" theory. Officer Greenhouse's defense counsel
argued that because the State used a short form indictment,
which stated only that on November 3, 2015, Officer
Greenhouse committed the offense of second degree murder of
Jeremy, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1, there was
insufficient information provided to Officer Greenhouse to
prepare an adequate defense. Officer Greenhouse argued that
he did not learn how the State intended to prove his guilt of
second degree murder until the State submitted a proposed
jury instruction to the trial court which defined the killing
of someone by "transferred intent." Officer
Greenhouse requested that the trial court order the State to
respond to its motion for a bill of particulars to verify
that the element of transferred intent was going to be the
basis of its argument to the jury. Noting that the State gave
Officer Greenhouse open file discovery and that the
information sought regarding the question of the State's
theory of prosecution was satisfied during the hearing, the
trial court denied Officer Greenhouse's motion. We note
that Defendant never sought to join or adopt Officer
Greenhouse's motion requesting that the trial court order
the State to respond to its bill of particulars. Nor did
Defendant object in any way to the trial court's ruling.
Officer Greenhouse's motion was addressed, Officer
Greenhouse and Defendant were not co-defendants, and
Defendant did not adopt Officer Greenhouse's motion or
object to the trial court's denial of the motion. As
noted above, Officer Greenhouse's motion involved the
theory of "transferred intent" concerning the
shooting death of the six-year-old.
Defendant argued that his and Officer Greenhouse's cases
should be consolidated for the convenience of the defendants,
the witnesses, and the trial court. Officer Greenhouse,
however, objected, and the trial court denied the motion.
Defendant's motion for bill of particulars requested that
the trial court order the State to comply with the motion,
Defendant's motion was not addressed at the September 28,
2016 hearing; therefore, the trial court made no ruling
regarding Defendant's motion.
Accordingly, we find that Defendant's assignment of error
number one lacks merit.
trial court then took up Defendant's motion to quash the
indictment, which alleged that the State should have included
the phrase "specific intent" in the indictment
because it was an essential element of the crime of attempted
second degree murder. Defendant argues that had the State
responded to his motion for bill of particulars, his
constitutional right to specific notice of the nature and
circumstances of the charge against him would not have been
pertinent part, second degree murder is defined as "the
killing of a human being: (1) when the offender has a
specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily
harm[.]" La.R.S. 14:30.1. The attempt statute, La.R.S.
14:27, in pertinent part, provides:
A. Any person who, having a specific intent to commit a
crime, does or omits an act for the purpose of and tending
directly toward the accomplishing of his object is guilty of
an attempt to commit the offense intended; and it shall be
immaterial whether, under the circumstances, he would have
actually accomplished his purpose.
September 28, 2016, hearing, Defendant argued:
The case law is pretty clear, you have to prove the specific
intent to kill with attempted second degree murder. And the
case law also is further clear and the law is that the
indictment must state specific intent to kill must be in the
indictment . . . . They failed to even put that in there. And
so I'm supposed to just believe based on the indictment
alone because like I said they didn't do a bill of
indictment shall be a "plain, concise, and definite
written statement of the essential facts constituting the
offense charged. It shall state for each count the official
or customary citation of the statute which the defendant is
alleged to have violated." La.Code Crim.P. art. 464.
hearing, Defendant argued the indictment was defective and
should be quashed. He argued:
Now we read their documents Your Honor, and all it says is
that Mr. Stafford committed the offense of attempted second
degree murder by committing the offense of attempted second
degree murder. There's nothing alleged in there so if
you're looking on the indictment itself, the face of it,
just telling me that he did this is not enough. It's
The law is pretty clear, essentially it requires whether any
conceivable set of facts, as alleged in the bill of
information together with those specified in the bill of
particulars when particulars have been provided if found
credible by the trier of fact can support a conviction.
"You're looking at . . . you look at this indictment
essential element of attempted second degree murder is
specific intent to kill. "They failed to even put that
in there. And so I'm supposed to just believe based on
the indictment alone because like I said they didn't do a
bill of particulars. I can't ask the court to look at the
entire file, then we'd be getting into the merits of the
case. That's not what a Motion to Quash is for."
. . . .
And the law is clear even if it's just a technical
requirement. It has to say specific intent, those words have
to be in the indictment.
argument, the trial court ruled:
And in addition as stated in the prior motions, the law is
quite clear from the Louisiana Supreme Court that the normal
statutory requirements that the - - each essential element of
a crime be listed in an indictment is not required in a short
from indictment; especially considering when open file
discovery is granted. Motion to Quash is therefore denied;
objection to the ruling of the court is noted and error is
In State v. Lauff, 06-717, pp. 6-7 (La.App. 5 Cir.
2/13/07), 953 So.2d 813, 818, the fifth circuit stated:
Both the Louisiana Supreme Court and this Court have
consistently held that a motion to quash is, essentially, a
mechanism to urge pre-trial pleas, i.e. pleas which
do not go to the merits of the charge. State v.
Byrd, 96-2302 (La.3/13/98), 708 So.2d 401, 411,
cert. denied, 525 U.S. 876, 119 S.Ct. 179, 142
L.Ed.2d 146 (1998); State v. Billard, 03-319
(La.App. 5 Cir. 7/29/03), 852 So.2d 1069, 1074, writ
denied, 03-2437 (La.2/6/04), 865 So.2d 739. At a hearing
on such a motion, evidence is limited to procedural matters
and the question of factual guilt or innocence is not before
the court. Billard, supra. A court considering a
motion to quash must accept as true the facts contained in
the bill of information and in the bill of particulars, and
determine as a matter of law from the face of the pleadings
whether a crime has been charged. Id. While evidence
may be adduced on the motion to quash, such evidence may not
include a defense on the merits. State v. Byrd, 708
So.2d at 411. The question of factual guilt or innocence of
the offense charged is not raised by the motion to quash.
argues that "the only instrument the trial court could
rely on in deciding the motion to quash was the short form
bill of indictment, which is insufficient on its face with
the requested bill of particulars. Therefore, the trial court
erred in denying the motion to quash."
hearing, Defendant argued that the supreme court, in
State v. Bishop, 01-2548 (La. 1/14/03), 835 So.2d
434, supported his position that an indictment which alleged
attempted second degree murder must state that specific
intent to kill was an element of the crime. The trial court,
however, did not agree with Defendant's interpretation of
the case. As reported in the lower appellate court's
case, State v. Bishop, 34, 637 (La.App. 2 Cir.
7/24/01), 792 So.2d 886, writ granted, 01-2548 (La.
8/30/02), 824 So.2d 1162. the defendant and an accomplice
severely beat a man and left him lying in a field. The
defendant was convicted of attempted second degree murder.
Years later, after several post-conviction applications, the
defendant obtained a reinstatement of his previously filed
notice of appeal. The appellate court ruled that the state
failed to show specific intent to kill the victim and reduced
the conviction to aggravated battery. However, the supreme
court found the evidence was sufficient to show specific
intent to kill and reinstated the conviction of attempted
second degree murder. Bishop, 835 So.2d 434.
Therein, the supreme court noted that the jury
instructions regarding attempted second degree murder
given to the jury erroneously stated that in order to
convict, the state must prove "specific intent to kill
or to inflict great bodily harm." Id. at 439.
However, we did not find in the Bishop opinion where
the supreme court stated that an indictment charging
attempted second degree murder must include the phrase
"specific intent to kill."
State v. Coleman, 13-942, pp. 17-18 (La.App. 5 Cir.
5/14/14), 142 So.3d 130, 140-41, writ denied,
14-1224 (La. 1/23/15), 159 So.3d 1056 (footnote omitted), the
fifth circuit discussed the content of a sufficient
Article I, Section 13 of the Louisiana Constitution requires
that an indictment inform a defendant of the nature and cause
of the accusation against him. State v. Chairs,
12-363 (La.App. 5 Cir. 12/27/12), 106 So.3d 1232, 1240,
writ denied, 13-0306 (La.6/21/13), 118 So.3d 413.
This requirement is implemented by La. C.Cr.P. art. 464,
The indictment shall be a plain, concise, and definite
written statement of the essential facts constituting the
offense charged. It shall state for each count the official
or customary citation of the statute which the defendant is
alleged to have violated. Error in the citation or its
omission shall not be ground for dismissal of the indictment
or for reversal of a conviction if the error or omission did
not mislead the defendant to his prejudice.
La.C.Cr.P. art. 465 authorizes the use of specific short form
indictments in charging certain offenses, including second
degree murder. Chairs, 106 So.3d at 1240. Both this
Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court have consistently
upheld the constitutionality of these short forms.
Id. (citing Draughn, 950 So.2d at 624).
For instance, in Chairs, supra, the defendant, who
was convicted of second degree murder, argued on appeal that
the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash the
indictment. He argued in the motion that the short form was
constitutionally deficient due to its failure to specify
whether his prosecution was being pursued under the specific
intent theory or the felony murder theory of second degree
murder. Chairs, 106 So.3d at 1240. His indictment
read in pertinent part: ". . . on or about the 8th day
of November, 2009, the said ROGER D. CHAIRS . . . violated
R.S. 14:30.1 in that [he] did commit second degree murder of
a known juvenile (DOB 4/29/2002)." Chairs, 106
So.3d at 1241.
This Court determined that the defendant was fully aware of
the nature of the charges against him and concluded that the
trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the
defendant's motion to quash. Id. In reaching
this conclusion, this Court noted that the indictment
conformed to the short form provided in La.C.Cr.P. art.
465(A)(32) and that the defendant was provided with ample
discovery, including police reports, arrest warrants, search
warrants, crime lab reports, and statements of witnesses and
Likewise, in the instant case, the indictment complied with
the short form in La.C.Cr.P. art. 465(A)(32), as it provided:
". . . on May 7, 2007, the said CHARLES COLEMAN A/K/A
'BIRD" violated La. R.S. 14:30.1 in that he did
commit the second degree murder of Marlon Turner."
While the record reflects that defendant requested and was
provided with discovery, the contents of that discovery are
not evident from the record. Nevertheless, where defendant
does not complain of discovery violations and the indictment
complies with the short form, defendant was adequately
informed of the nature of the charges against him. Therefore,
we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court's
denial of defendant's motion to quash the indictment.
See State v. Love, 00-3347 (La.5/23/03), 847 So.2d
1198, 1206 ("An appellate court is allowed to reverse a
trial court judgment on a motion to quash only if that
finding represents an abuse of the trial court's
current case, the indictment read as follows:
On or about November 3, 2015, in the Parish of Avoyelles,
Derrick Walker Stafford committed the
offense(s) of LA R.S. 14:27(14:30.1); namely Second Degree
Murder by attempting to ...