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State v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

April 11, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
DENNIS D. JACKSON

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 15-3720, DIVISION "N" HONORABLE STEPHEN D. ENRIGHT, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Anne M. Wallis

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, DENNIS D. JACKSON Prentice L. White

          DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, DENNIS D. JACKSON In Proper Person

          Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Fredericka Homberg Wicker, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          HANS J. LILJEBERG JUDGE.

         Defendant, Dennis Jackson, pleaded guilty to the amended charge of aggravated battery. The trial court sentenced defendant to ten years at hard labor. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the guilty plea, set aside defendant's conviction and sentence, and remand for further proceedings. Appellate counsel's motion to withdraw as attorney of record is granted.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 31, 2015, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed a bill of information charging defendant with attempted second degree murder in violation of La. R.S. 14:27 and La. R.S. 14:30.1. On August 17, 2015, defendant pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. On November 30, 2015, defendant filed a pro se motion for substitution of counsel complaining his court-appointed counsel was withholding evidence which could be used to "free" him. The trial court heard and denied this motion on April 28, 2016.

         On June 16, 2016, the State amended the attempted second degree murder charge to aggravated battery in violation of La. R.S. 14:34. On that same day, defendant withdrew his plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty under North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970), to the aggravated battery charge. The State agreed not to file a multiple offender bill of information with respect to this charge. After accepting defendant's guilty plea under Alford, the trial court sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement to ten years at hard labor.[1]

         On July 5, 2017, defendant filed a Uniform Application for Post-Conviction Relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and violations of due process. In support of his application, defendant attached excerpts of alleged statements from the victim and the victim's brother which he claimed as proof he did not commit the alleged crime. On July 13, 2017, the trial court dismissed the application for post-conviction relief without prejudice on the basis that it was premature. On August 10, 2017, defendant filed a pro se motion for an out-of-time appeal, which was granted on August 22, 2017. This appeal follows.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant's appointed appellate counsel filed an Anders[2] brief on defendant's behalf, asserting there is no basis for a non-frivolous appeal. Counsel also filed a motion to withdraw as attorney of record. Defendant filed a pro se supplemental appellate brief alleging his guilty plea was coerced. Defendant also references alleged favorable statements from the victim and other witnesses, and complains he did not have the opportunity to present this information in the lower court proceedings.

         The "best interest" or Alford plea is one in which the defendant pleads guilty while maintaining his innocence. In Alford, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a defendant may plead guilty, without foregoing his protestations of innocence, if "the plea represents a voluntary and intelligent choice among the alternative courses of action open to defendant[, ] . . . especially where the defendant was represented by competent counsel whose ...


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