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State v. Lyons

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

March 29, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JAMIE LYONS

          APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 529147; 530790, SECTION "D" Honorable Paul A Bonin, Judge

          Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. District Attorney Scott G. Vincent Assistant District Attorney Parish of Orleans COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT-STATE OF LOUISIANA

          John Walker Rick Orleans Public Defenders COUNSEL FOR RELATOR-DEFENDANT

          Court composed of Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods, Judge Tiffany G. Chase, Judge Dennis R. Bagneris, Pro Tempore

          Regina Bartholomew-Woods Judge

         Defendant-Relator, Jamie Lyons, seeks review of the district court's March 9, 2018 judgment granting the State permission to introduce evidence of Relator's other crimes, wrongs, or acts pursuant to La.C.E. art. 404(B) and State v. Prieur, 277 So.2d 126 (La. 1973), abrogated by State v. Taylor, 2016-1124 (La. 12/1/16), 217 So.3d 283.[1] For the reasons that follow, we grant Relator's writ, but deny relief.

         On May 16, 2016, the State charged Relator with two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, in violation of La.R.S. 37.4, and felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of La.R.S. 95.1, for conduct occurring on March 29, 2016. On September 29, 2016, the State charged Relator with felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of La.R.S. 95.1, and illegal discharge of a firearm, in violation of La.R.S. 14:94, for conduct occurring on August 10, 2016. The charges are to be tried separately.

         According to the State, on March 29, 2016, two females, T.D. and N.M., were engaged in a verbal altercation with the mother of Relator's children, N.J. Relator arrived at the scene and fired two shots at T.D. and N.M. N.M. stated that she and Relator had previously been in a relationship. A gunshot residue ("GSR") test on Relator returned presumptively positive, and nearby residents confirmed hearing gunshots around the time of the incident. On August 10, 2016, relator fired multiple shots at the mother of his child, R.F., as she drove away from him with the child and another minor. Both minors confirmed the incident, and another GSR test on Relator came back presumptively positive.

         The State subsequently filed notices pursuant to La.C.E. 404(B) regarding evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts ("404(B) evidence") it intended to introduce at Relator's trials on the charged offenses occurring on the dates above. While 404(B) evidence is generally inadmissible, exceptions do exist when the evidence is relevant to other, admissible purposes, "such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake or accident[.]" La.CE. art. 404(B)(1).

         Specifically, the State sought to introduce evidence of allegations from three prior instances. The first was a September 3, 2000 incident involving Relator's "known" but unidentified ex-girlfriend. The facts alleged that Relator grabbed her by the neck, forced her into a vehicle, and demanded she provide her current boyfriend's address. Upon locating the boyfriend, Relator allegedly shot at him three times with a shotgun. The second allegation concerned an October 15, 2009 incident in which Relator appeared at the home of his ex-girlfriend, N.J., who refused to answer her front door. Believing Relator to have left, she opened her door and was allegedly punched by Relator with a closed fist in the side of her head. The third incident concerned a May 22, 2013 incident in which the mother of Relator's children, R.F., alleged he grabbed her by the hair and punched her in the face. The two struggled over a screwdriver in Relator's hand, and Relator bit R.F. Additionally, the State sought to introduce evidence of the charged offenses occurring on March 29, 2016, at the trial on the offenses occurring on August 10, 2016, and vice versa.

          A hearing was held on March 9, 2018, with the State submitting its argument on the papers filed. Therein, the State argued the evidence would be relevant to "motive, intent, and absence of mistake or accident." The State suggested "all [the acts] show a pattern of domestic arguments that regularly culminate with [Relator] firing shots indiscriminately on the streets of New Orleans that has continued for almost twenty years. This demonstrates the Defendant's intent and absence of mistake or accident in other incidents." Though the State did not expand on its argument as it relates to Relator's motive, it did reference the common thread that all of the prior and charged acts involved women with whom Relator had an intimate relationship. Before the district court and this Court, Relator claimed his intent to defend himself against the charged offenses by arguing that the incidents did not occur, such that the intent exception would not apply. Relator further noted that none of the alleged prior bad acts resulted in a conviction, a point which the State did not dispute, though we note that "admissible evidence is not limited to only those instances where a conviction has resulted." State v. Williams, 2011-0414, p. 25 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/29/12), 85 So.3d 759, 774.

         The district court ultimately granted the State permission to introduce all of the proffered 404(B) evidence at each trial. The court found the allegations relevant to the issues of motive and absence of mistake or accident, relying upon the Louisiana Supreme Court's ruling in State v. Rose, 2006-0402 (La. 2/22/07), 949 So.2d 1236, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling in State v. Howard, 47, 495 (La.App. 2 Cir. 11/14/12), 106 So.3d 1038.

         ANALYSIS

          We review the district court's ruling for abuse of discretion. See State v.Garcia, 2009-1578, p. 55 (La. 11/16/12), 108 So.3d 1, 39. As noted, the district court relied upon Rose, ...


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