FROM THE THIRTY-FIFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
GRANT, NO. 15-0930 HONORABLE WARREN D. WILLETT, DISTRICT
P. Lemoine District Attorney James D. White, Jr. Rhea Renee
Nugent Assistant District Attorneys Thirty-Fifth Judicial
District COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana
M. Ikerd Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Jacob Purvis
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D.
Saunders, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.
D. SAUNDERS JUDGE
Jacob Purvis, was convicted of aggravated arson, a violation
of La.R.S. 14:51, and sentenced to twelve years at hard
labor, with the first two years of the sentence to be served
without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
sentence, to run consecutively with any other sentence.
Defendant was also ordered to pay a $5, 000.00 fine, court
costs, and a $1, 000.00 fee to the Public Defender's
Office. The Defendant's conviction and sentence were
affirmed on appeal. State v. Purvis, 16-816 (La.App.
3 Cir. 4/12/17), 217 So.3d 470.
is before the court again as the result of a habitual
offender proceeding. On October 4, 2016, the State filed a
bill of information charging Defendant as a third felony
offender pursuant to La.R.S. 15:529.1. Defendant was
adjudicated a third offender at a hearing held on July 31,
2017. The trial court then vacated Defendant's
twelve-year sentence and sentenced him to serve forty years
at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or
suspension of sentence, which was a deviation from the
mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. Written reasons for
judgment were issued by the trial court on August 3, 3017. A
motion to reconsider sentence was filed on August 21, 2017,
and was denied. A motion for appeal was filed on August 21,
2017, and was granted.
appeal was lodged with this court on October 31, 2017.
Therein, Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in
sentencing him under the habitual offender sentencing scheme
that was operative prior to November 1, 2017.
facts supporting the underlying conviction of aggravated
arson were set forth in Purvis, 217 So.3d at 472, as
Defendant lived in a double-wide trailer with his mother,
uncle, sister, and his sister's two daughters. During the
morning of September 16, 2015, Defendant and his sister were
arguing inside the trailer when he allegedly threatened to
burn it down. He exited the trailer, threw a bug zapper
against the wall on the front porch, and walked to the side
of the house. A few minutes later, the trailer caught on fire
and ended in a total loss. The occupants inside the trailer
at the time, Defendant's sister, one of her daughters,
and his uncle, exited before it burned down. Defendant's
sister and her daughter received injuries from being burned
as they exited the trailer.
habitual offender hearing, the trial court found Defendant
had previously been convicted of operation of a clandestine
laboratory on March 20, 2009, and conspiracy to produce
methamphetamine on May 3, 2012. He was then sentenced as a
third offender on his conviction for aggravated arson. The
trial court gave the following reasons for its deviation from
the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment: "Mr.
Purvis, due to your age and due to the current push to reduce
the incarcerations . . . the Court does find that
imprisonment for your natural life without benefit would be
excessive." In its written reasons for judgment, the
trial court additionally stated: "Considering the
Defendant's age, his alleged addiction, combined with the
fact that he has both the mental and physical ability to be a
productive member of society, the trial court found that the
mandatory life sentence would be constitutionally excessive
under the circumstances."
only assignment of error, Defendant contends that the trial
court erred in sentencing him under the prior version of
La.R.S. 15:529.1. He argues that his conviction for
aggravated arson was not final at the time of his habitual
offender sentencing. Therefore, he should have been sentenced
under the new version of the statute, which applies to
offenders whose convictions "became final on or after
November 1, 2017." We find merit to this contention.
habitual offender statute in effect at the time Defendant
committed the offense of aggravated arson, was convicted
thereof, and was adjudicated a habitual offender and
sentenced accordingly provided, in pertinent part:
(3) If the third felony is such that upon a first conviction,
the offender would be punishable by imprisonment for any term
less than his natural life then:
(a) The person shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a
determinate term not less than two-thirds of the longest
possible sentence for the conviction and not more than twice
the longest possible sentence prescribed for a first
(b) If the third felony and the two prior felonies are
felonies defined as a crime of violence under R.S. 14:2(B), a
sex offense as defined in R.S. 15:540 et seq. when the victim
is under the age of eighteen at the time of commission of the
offense, or as a violation of the Uniform Controlled
Dangerous Substances Law punishable by imprisonment for ten
years or more, or any other crimes punishable by imprisonment
for twelve years or more, or any combination of such crimes,
the person ...