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State v. Wells

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

March 14, 2018





          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore


         Defendant appeals his conviction for second degree murder. For the reasons that follow, defendant's conviction and sentence are affirmed.


         On July 20, 2016, a grand jury in the Twenty-Ninth Judicial District returned a bill of indictment that alleged defendant, Javon Wells, had committed second degree murder of Kendall Williams on or about May 4, 2016. On July 26, 2016, defendant pled not guilty at arraignment. The matter proceeded to a jury trial on May 23, 2017, and on May 25, 2017, defendant was found guilty as charged. Defendant's motion for new trial was denied on July 11, 2017, and, on that same date, he was sentenced to life in prison at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. This timely appeal followed.


         At trial, Isis Miller testified that she had been a classmate of the victim, Kendall Williams ("Williams"), at Destrehan High School, and that she and Williams had also dated prior to his death. Williams would visit Miller in New Sarpy and they would spend time together at her grandmother's residence or in the community park. Williams also had close friends in New Sarpy that he would spend time with, "Lamar, " and "Lou Donovan" who lived in close proximity to the park. Miller stated that she was not aware that Williams had any enemies who lived in the New Sarpy area.

         Miller was with Williams on the day he was killed, first at a graduation party and later at a pavilion in the park. After meeting for 45 minutes in the park, Williams walked her back to her grandmother's house and they made plans to go to the mall the following day. It was the last time that Miller saw him. Upon leaving her grandmother's house, she saw numerous policemen nearby. Later that evening, she learned that Williams had been shot in the head.

         On cross-examination, Miller testified that she had told detectives that she and Williams arrived at the park at 7:00 p.m. and spent approximately one hour there, prior to when he was shot. She did not recall seeing defendant, Javon Wells, at the park on that day.

         Lou' Donovan Wells ("Lou' Donovan") testified that he knew Williams, and had been friends with him for four years prior to Williams' death. Lou' Donovan was with Williams on the date he was shot and had spent time with him and others, including Lou' Donovan's brother, Lamar Walker, "under the gazebo" in New Sarpy. Lou' Donovan grew up in the area near the gazebo, and his home on East Hoover St. was nearby. To his knowledge, Lou' Donovan was not aware that Williams had any enemies in the area. Lou' Donovan stated that Williams was still at the gazebo with his friends when he left, and later he saw Williams walking with Isis Miller to her grandmother's house. Approximately 20 minutes after walking with Isis, Williams returned to the gazebo alone, and joined Lou' Donovan, "JJ"[1], Gerald Young, and his brother, Lamar Walker.

         Lou' Donovan saw defendant, who is his first cousin, approach the gazebo and the two briefly "dapped off, " which is a form of greeting. Lou' Donovan then started to return to his bench in the middle of the gazebo, when Williams was shot. Lou' Donovan did not see defendant draw a weapon before he shot Williams, who was looking at his phone at the time. He did see after the shooting, however, that defendant was holding a small gun in his hand. Williams and defendant did not argue just before the shooting. After shooting Williams, defendant walked straight back to the street and "just left." Lou' Donovan explained that the entire incident happened very quickly.

         Lou' Donovan testified that he believed his brother had "walked off" at the time of the shooting, but came back shortly thereafter to see Williams on the ground. JJ was standing behind the middle bench of the gazebo at the time the single shot was fired.

         Shortly after the shooting, Lou' Donovan was "in shock, " became very "emotional" and "overwhelmed, " and then took off his shirt and work hat, throwing them into the street. He stayed in that state until "Miss Branette" arrived and called the police using his cell phone. When the police arrived, they put Lou' Donovan and his brother, Lamar, in the back of a car and drove them to the police station. Lou' Donovan said that he was a little reluctant to name defendant, his cousin, as the shooter, but he told detectives the truth about what happened. Lou' Donovan did not recall if he told detectives that night whether JJ was present at the time of the shooting. Lou' Donovan had no doubt that defendant was the person who killed Williams. Lou' Donovan identified a map that was shown to him by the State, which he had used to show the detectives where everyone was located at the time Williams was shot.

         On cross-examination, Lou' Donovan denied telling detectives that he only "thought" defendant had killed Williams. Lou' Donovan stated that Williams had been back from walking Isis Miller to her grandmother's house for approximately 15 minutes before he was shot. He did not call 911 prior to the time that Branette Chopin arrived. Lou' Donovan said that he never told detectives that he "saw a guy with dreads" at the scene of the shooting, but rather that defendant had dreads (dreadlocks). When asked by defense counsel, Lou' Donovan admitted that he had to be arrested and held on a material witness bond to compel his trial testimony.

         On re-direct examination, Lou' Donovan testified that there was no clock underneath the gazebo. He also stated that he did not know anything about firearms, nor could he identify the gun defendant used to kill Williams.

         Lamar Walker ("Lamar") testified that he and Williams had known each other since sixth grade and that the two were close. Lamar and Williams were together on the day of the shooting at the gazebo across the street from the house where Lamar grew up. Lamar went to meet Williams after speaking with him on the phone and learning that Williams and his brother were going to get together in New Sarpy that day. Lamar met with Williams, his brother Lou' Donovan, and Gerald at the gazebo. At some point, Isis Miller came to meet Williams for approximately one hour around sundown. Williams walked Isis to her grandmother's house then returned to the gazebo. While Lamar started walking toward Williams inside the gazebo, he saw defendant standing over by his brother. Defendant was wearing a black shirt and had a dreadlock hairstyle. Lamar then saw defendant walk up to Williams and shoot him in the back of the head. Lamar only heard one single gunshot. ...

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