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State v. Domingue

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

April 18, 2018



          John Foster DeRosier District Attorney, Fourteenth Judicial District Court Cynthia Killingsworth Elizabeth Brooks Hollins Assistant District Attorneys COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.

          Annette Fuller Roach Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Michael Adam Domingue.

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy H. Ezell, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.


         On May 19, 2016, a Calcasieu Parish grand jury indicted Defendant Michael Adam Domingue for manslaughter, a violation of La.R.S. 14:31. The parties selected a jury on November 14, 2016; said jury began hearing evidence on November 15. On November 16, the jury returned a responsive verdict of negligent homicide.

         On February 15, the district court sentenced Defendant to five years, however, the transcript fails to show whether this time is to be served at hard labor.

         Defendant appeals, assigning four errors. For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's conviction, vacate Defendant's sentence, and remand to the district court for imposition of a determinate sentence.


         The victim Donald Dean Trahan, Jr., aka "T-Don, " and his girlfriend Jennifer Carlile lived in a trailer owned by Defendant. On March 22, 2016, Carlile went to a hospital with a broken nose and eye sockets, apparently the result of a beating from the victim. At about the same time that day, the victim was out fishing. Carlile returned to the trailer after her hospital visit; later Trahan arrived at the trailer and an argument ensued. Defendant came out of his room wearing a holstered handgun and ordered the victim to leave. The victim refused, and the argument escalated between the two men. At some point, the victim pulled off his hoodie; several witnesses interpreted this gesture as the beginning of a fight. Some witnesses said the victim advanced toward Defendant; there is no dispute the latter fired a lethal shot.


         In accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, all appeals are reviewed for errors patent on the face of the record. After reviewing the record, we find there is an error patent raised, which we address in Assignment of Error Number Three.


         In his first assignment of error, Defendant argues the evidence adduced by the State at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for negligent homicide. More specifically, he contends the State failed to prove he did not shoot the victim in self-defense. There is no dispute regarding whether Defendant shot the victim; the issue is simply whether the shooting was justified.

"In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, an appellate court in Louisiana is controlled by the standard enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). . . . [T]he appellate court must determine that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to convince a rational trier of fact that all of the elements of the crime had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Captville, 448 So.2d 676, 678 (La.1984) . . . . Furthermore, in a case in which defendant asserts that he acted in self-defense, the state has the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in self-defense. State v. Brown, 414 So.2d 726, 728 (La.1982). When defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence in such a case, the question becomes whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the homicide was not committed in self-defense. State v. Matthews, 464 So.2d 298 (La.1985).

State ex rel. D.P.B., 02-1742, pp. 4-6 (La. 5/20/03), 846 So.2d 753, 756-57 (footnote omitted).

The applicable statute, La.R.S. 14:20, states, in part:
A. A homicide is justifiable:
(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.
(2) When committed for the purpose of preventing a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or of great bodily harm by one who reasonably believes that such an offense is about to be committed and that such action is necessary for its prevention. The circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fear of a reasonable person that there would be serious danger to his own life or person if he attempted to prevent the felony without the killing.
. . . .
C. A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may ...

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