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State v. Gordon

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 28, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
MARK I. GORDON AKA MARK GORDON

          APPEAL FROM THE SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CONCORDIA, NO. 15-3799 HONORABLE KATHY JOHNSON, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Marty L. White Terri R. Lacy Assistant Attorneys General COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.

          Chad M. Ikerd Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Mark I. Gordon.

          Court composed of Marc T. Amy, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY, JUDGE

         The defendant was charged with three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of first degree vehicular negligent injuring. The defendant entered a guilty plea to three counts of vehicular homicide, and the State dismissed the negligent injuring charge. The trial court sentenced the defendant to eighteen years for each count of vehicular homicide, with the sentences to run consecutively. The defendant appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Trooper Brennon Russell[1] of the Louisiana State Police testified that, on October 1, 2015, he received a call on his police radio reporting a vehicular accident on U.S. Highway 84 near Wildsville, Louisiana. He explained that, upon arriving at the scene, he observed a pickup truck in a ditch and a tractor-trailer, which he described as a "log truck . . . that was off in the ditch as well with the back of the log truck laid over." Trooper Russell stated that three passengers from the truck were pronounced dead at the scene. Officers determined that the victims were a father, Richard Stewart, his teenage daughter, Vera, and his teenage son, George. A fourth passenger from the truck was transported from the scene to receive medical treatment.

         The police report states that the tractor-trailer was traveling at approximately 68 miles per hour when it crossed the centerline and struck the truck. Trooper Russell testified that, in the course of investigating the accident, he spoke to witnesses, including several people who told him that they had telephoned 911 to report the tractor-trailer prior to the accident. In particular, Trooper Russell recalled the statement of one witness, who told him that she had been behind the tractor-trailer for approximately ten to fifteen minutes before the accident:

[She] stated that she was behind the truck. Said that several vehicles had actually went around the truck in opposite lanes and also through the ditch to avoid hitting the truck head-on. She stated that the truck had been all over the road for quite some time and that she had called 911[.]

         Trooper Russell testified that, during his investigation, he located the driver of the tractor-trailer, whom he identified as Mark Gordon. Trooper Russell described the conversation that he had with Mr. Gordon:

When I spoke to Mr. Gordon . . . I asked him if he knew what was going on? He didn't know what was going on. He said he thought he just ran off the road. He was sweating and he couldn't concentrate on talking to me. He was talking about several other things and he was running around . . . he couldn't sit still. He couldn't talk to me straight . . . he didn't even realize what had happened is what I should say.

         In the police report, Trooper Russell details that "[Mr.] Gordon admitted to using Methamphetamine the day prior to the crash." The police report further states that Master Trooper Linda Vachula transported Mr. Gordon from the accident scene to the Concordia Parish Sheriff's Office, where he submitted to a urinalysis. The sample was given to the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory, which issued a scientific analysis report that states: "Amphetamine and Methamphetamine were detected in the specimen of urine labeled Mark I. Gordon."

         The State filed a bill of information charging the defendant, Mark Gordon, with three counts of vehicular homicide, violations of La.R.S. 14:32.1, and one count of first degree vehicular negligent injuring, a violation of La.R.S. 14:39.2. The defendant entered a guilty plea to three counts of vehicular homicide pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160 (1970), and the State agreed to dismiss the negligent injuring charge. The plea was considered an "open ended plea, " such that the defendant received no guarantee regarding the length of his sentences.

         Subsequently, a sentencing hearing was held, and the trial court reviewed the general sentencing guideline factors found in ...


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