FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 525-331,
SECTION "J" Honorable Darryl A. Derbigny, Judge
A. Cannizzaro, Jr. DISTRICT ATTORNEY Donna Andrieu, Chief of
Appeals Kyle Daly, Assistant District Attorneys Parish of
Orleans, COUNSEL FOR STATE OF LOUISIANA.
Constance Hanes LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT P. O. COUNSEL FOR
composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Rosemary Ledet,
Judge Paula A. Brown.
A. BROWN JUDGE.
a criminal appeal. Defendant, Christopher Hutsell ("Mr.
Hutsell"), seeks review of his conviction of second
degree murder. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm Mr.
Hutsell's conviction and sentence.
25, 2015, Mr. Hutsell was indicted with one count of second
degree murder and one count of obstruction of
justice. A jury trial on the charge of second
degree murder commenced on November 9, 2015. On November 17,
2015, the jury found Mr. Hutsell guilty of second degree
murder, a violation of La. R.S.14:30.1. On February 4,
2015, Mr. Hutsell was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard
labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension
of sentence. This appeal follows.
March 2015, Mr. Hutsell and the victim, Julia Anderson
("Ms. Anderson"), had been in a romantic
relationship for about twenty-one or twenty-two days. Both
were part of a traveling community and were in New Orleans
during this time period. On March 19, 2015, around 10:00
p.m., the couple, along with their three dogs, were in the
parking lot of the McDonald's ("the
McDonald's") located on Elysian Fields Avenue in New
Orleans. Mr. Hutsell was fussing at Ms. Anderson and calling
her names. As the argument escalated, Mr. Hutsell stabbed Ms.
Anderson. Witnesses observed Mr. Hutsell exit the
McDonald's parking lot on foot and proceed to Mardi Gras
Truck Stop ("the Truck Stop") which was nearby. Mr.
Hutsell was apprehended by police around twenty minutes later
at the Carnival Club Casino and Sports Bar ("the
Casino") located less than one mile from the
McDonald's where Ms. Anderson was stabbed. Ms. Anderson died
as a result of the stab wound.
matter was tried by a jury, and the testimony elicited at
trial was as follows:
Robertson ("Mr. Robertson") testified that on March
19, 2015, he pulled into the parking lot of the
McDonald's on Elysian Fields Avenue and
parked. From his car, he observed a Caucasian
female sitting "Indian style" on the parking lot
block and an African-American male standing up next to her.
Mr. Robertson stated that the male and female were facing
toward him when he first pulled up, and, as he continued to
observe the couple, the male turned to the side. Mr.
Robertson described the male as "black, hippie, dreaded,
" and he looked like a homeless person. He did not see
any other "hippie-type people" around them. Mr.
Robertson did not recall any facial tattoos but explained the
male was dirty. Mr. Robertson recalled observing three dogs,
a skateboard, and a Timberland boot near the couple.
Robertson testified he could tell by facial expressions that
the man was "fussing" with the woman, but that the
woman, as she sat on the curb, was not having a conversation
with the male; she was responding "yes" or
"no". Mr. Robertson testified as to what he
witnessed in the following exchange with the State:
A. He [the African American male] go [sic] in his pocket, and
what I figured, he, like - - (making a quick hand motion) - -
punched in her neck, like with his fist.
Q. All right. So you saw him reaching into his pocket?
Q. At that moment, did you see what he actually pulled out of
A. No. I saw silver when he came back.
Q. All right. So he comes out of his pocket. What does he do
when he comes out of his pocket?
A. Touched her neck.
Q. Okay. And was it hard?
A. No. It was just like a -- like a push.
Q. Was it quick?
Robertson continued and explained that the woman grabbed her
neck, stood up, and tried walking towards Mr. Robertson, but
she collapsed. The woman asked him for his help and said
"[c]all the police." Mr. Robertson stated he was
confused at first because he had not seen blood. As the woman
spoke, she removed her hand from her neck and blood started
coming out. After seeing the blood, Mr. Robertson called
Robertson recalled the man who stabbed Ms. Anderson came to
the side of his vehicle and tried to talk to him. Mr.
Robertson told the man to "go ahead." Mr. Robertson
continued that the man grabbed a dog, a skateboard, and a
backpack and walked off. Mr. Robertson stated the man started
walking toward the overpass on Elysian Fields Avenue. Mr.
Robertson followed the man until the 9-1-1 operator told him
to stop. Mr. Robertson then returned to the McDonald's.
Robertson spoke with the police after the officers arrived at
the McDonald's. He was taken by the police to the Casino
to identify a suspect that was apprehended. From the police
car, Mr. Robertson identified the perpetrator. Mr. Robertson
testified that there was no doubt in his mind that the person
he identified was the person that stabbed the woman. In
court, Mr. Robertson identified Mr. Hutsell as the
Warren ("Mr. Warren") testified that he was at the
McDonald's the night of the stabbing. He was driving, and
Toreion Angelleti ("Ms. Angelleti") was a
passenger. There was a long line for the drive through that
night. Mr. Warren recalled a man, who was later identified as
Mr. Robertson, exited the McDonald's restaurant and asked
him if he had seen what happened. Mr. Warren looked and saw
the victim, a young Caucasian female, bleeding. He did not
witness the victim get stabbed. To help stop the bleeding,
Mr. Warren took off his shirt and gave it to Ms. Anderson.
According to Mr. Warren, when he first noticed the victim,
the perpetrator was standing a few inches from her and was
calling her a "THOT." When the State asked him what
he saw the defendant do on March 19, 2015, he responded,
"I saw this guy leaving this young lady for dead,
picking up his belongings, saying that she [sic] a THOT, she
is a ho, and just walking off. And that's when I
proceeded to get back in my car and follow him because I
couldn't let this guy get away."
Mr. Warren was trying to help the victim, he saw the
perpetrator gathering his belongings located behind the
victim. Mr. Warren recalled the perpetrator picked up a
skateboard, retrieved a dog, and walked towards the Truck
Stop located over the overpass or bridge. Mr. Warren returned
to his car, where Ms. Angelleti was still a passenger, and
followed the perpetrator. He drove to the Truck Stop and
waited for the perpetrator, whom he could still see on the
bridge. He explained the bridge was between the
McDonald's and the Truck Stop, and the perpetrator was on
the bridge for around five minutes. Mr. Warren testified he
did not let the perpetrator out of his sight.
Warren testified that he identified Mr. Hutsell as the
perpetrator that night. He explained that after he returned
to the McDonald's to give his statement to the police, he
went in a police vehicle to the Casino where Mr. Hutsell was
being held. The officers asked if he saw the perpetrator, and
Mr. Warren responded affirmatively. In court, Mr. Warren
identified the perpetrator as Mr. Hutsell.
Angelleti testified that she was a passenger in Mr.
Warren's vehicle when the couple went to the
McDonald's on March 19, 2015. Ms. Angelleti stated that
when they drove into the parking lot, she saw two people
arguing-an African-American male and a Caucasian female. She
described the male as wearing a hood or hat over his head
with dreadlocks hanging out, rugged or torn clothing, and a
jean jacket. Ms. Angelleti continued that she did not see a
white male with dreadlocks around the couple. She recalled
she rolled her window down, and she heard the male cursing
and calling the woman "bitches, whore." Ms.
Angelleti explained that when the male walked away from the
woman, the woman was in "panic mode, holding her
neck" and called for help. Ms. Angelleti testified that
she did not witness the woman get stabbed. Ms. Angelleti
stated that Mr. Warren exited the vehicle to give the victim
his shirt while she stayed in the car.
Angelleti and Mr. Warren followed the perpetrator. She
recalled the perpetrator had an army-type bag and a dog with
him. Ms. Angelleti stated that the perpetrator exited the
parking lot and walked onto the bridge on Elysian Fields
Avenue. Ms. Angelleti was of the opinion the perpetrator was
on the bridge for two to three minutes.
last place Ms. Angelleti saw the perpetrator was at the Truck
Stop. She testified that she was in a police vehicle when she
was brought to the Truck Stop where she identified the
perpetrator. In court, Ms. Angelleti identified Mr. Hutsell
as the perpetrator.
Johnson ("Ms. Johnson") was working at the
McDonald's on March 19, 2015. Her shift was from 10:00
p.m. to 6:00 a.m. When she arrived for her 10:00 p.m. shift,
she saw a man standing and a woman sitting down in the
parking lot. Ms. Johnson stated the couple was talking or
arguing; she could not hear them. She described the woman as
a dirty-looking Caucasian with brown hair, and she recalled
the woman had two dogs. She described the male as a
dirty-looking Caucasian man with dreadlocks. Although Ms.
Johnson testified that she told the police that the man was
Caucasian, on cross-examination, she admitted that she could
not tell the race of the man because he was dirty.
Johnson acknowledged the video from the surveillance camera
at the McDonald's showed her exiting the restaurant into
the parking lot around 11:19 p.m. At that time, Ms. Anderson
had been stabbed, and Ms. Johnson checked on the victim. Ms.
Johnson did not witness Ms. Anderson being stabbed.
FAMILY AND FRIEND
the identification of one of the dogs that was with the
victim the night of the stabbing, the police traced the
victim's mother, Jannene Anderson ("Ms. J.
Anderson"). Ms. J. Anderson identified the victim as her
daughter, Ms. Anderson. Ms. J. Anderson lives in Michigan
City, Indiana. She testified that the last time she saw her
daughter was the day after Christmas or New Years in 2014.
She acknowledged Ms. Anderson had a boyfriend name Gabriel
("Gabe") who traveled with her daughter. Ms. J.
Anderson stated Gabe, whom she described as being of mixed
nationalities, had dreadlocks. The last time she saw Gabe,
however, at Thanksgiving 2014, less than four months before
the victim was killed, his head was shaved, and he did not
Songer testified that she had known Ms. Anderson for about
five and a half years from being a part of the traveling
community. She also knew Mr. Hutsell, who she called
"Cosey, " from the traveling community. Ms. Songer,
Ms. Anderson, and Mr. Hutsell were in New Orleans in March
2015. Ms. Songer stated that Mr. Hutsell and Ms. Anderson
were in a relationship for approximately twenty-one or
twenty-two days before Ms. Anderson's death. During her
testimony, Ms. Songer identified a picture of Ms. Anderson
with Mr. Hutsell taken on March 12, 2015, in the French
Quarter. Ms. Songer testified that a few days
before March 12, 2015, Mr. Hutsell punched Ms. Anderson in
the eye and gave her a "busted lip." Ms. Songer
stated Mr. Hutsell frequently screamed at Ms. Anderson. Ms.
Songer recalled whenever she saw the couple in the French
Quarter, Mr. Hutsell would have a "tight rein" on
Ms. Anderson, he would yell at her, and he would "pull
her and then jerk her."
Songer testified she knew Gabe through Ms. Anderson, and that
she last saw him at the beginning of February 2015. She
recalled, at that time, Gabe's head was shaved. Ms.
Songer further stated that Gabe was in Florida on March 19
and 20 of 2015.
CALLS AND OFFICERS
first call came into 9-1-1 at 11:20 p.m., and an incident was
created at 11:22 p.m. In the 9-1-1 call, Mr. Robertson described
the perpetrator as a homeless male, dressed like a hippie,
with a pit bull dog, walking down the Elysian Fields Avenue
overpass. In addition to Mr. Robertson, others at the scene
called 9-1-1 to report the incident. The callers gave similar
descriptions of the perpetrator as Mr. Robertson: (1) the
perpetrator appeared homeless with dreads; (2) he was wearing
a black shirt with gray pants, and had a gray pit bull; (3)
the man and dog were walking down Elysian Fields Avenue over
the bridge; (4) a possible homeless African-American male
with something dark on his head, walking a dog down Elysian
Fields Avenue toward the Truck Stop; and (5) an
African-American male wearing black clothing, with
"dreads, " a backpack, carrying a skateboard, and
he had a pit bull dog.
James testified he was called to the scene on the night Ms.
Anderson was stabbed. He stated the first call reporting the
stabbing was received at around 11:22 p.m., and he arrived at
the McDonald's around 11:32 p.m. After speaking to the
witnesses at the scene, he drove one of the witnesses,
Antoinette Jones ("Ms. Jones"), over the Elysian
Fields' bridge toward the Casino and Truck
Stop. He recalled he was in his unmarked
vehicle. Detective James testified when he pulled into the
front of the Truck Stop, Ms. Jones identified the
perpetrator. Detective James testified he immediately
exited his vehicle, pulled out his gun, ordered Mr. Hutsell
to the ground, and handcuffed him. A backpack was recovered
from Mr. Hutsell. Detective James estimated Mr. Hutsell was
apprehended around twenty minutes after the victim was
Tanisha Sykes ("Detective Sykes") was the lead
homicide detective assigned to investigate Ms. Anderson's
death. Detective Sykes arrived at the
McDonald's within one or two hours after Ms. Anderson was
stabbed. The testimony of Detective Sykes reflected Ms.
Anderson was stabbed between 11:17 p.m. and 11:22 p.m. on
March 19, 2015.
Sykes identified witnesses at the crime scene, and these
witnesses provided descriptions of the perpetrator. Also, the
witnesses informed the officers the perpetrator left the
McDonald's and went to the Truck Stop. Detective Gus
James of the New Orleans Police Department apprehended the
suspect at the Casino. Detective Sykes testified that Mr.
Hutsell was identified as the perpetrator by three witnesses
that participated in a show-up identification procedure
conducted at the Casino. Detective Sykes indicated that the
Casino was less than a mile from the McDonald's and
estimated it would take a person about ten minutes to walk
from the McDonald's to the Casino.
Sykes stated that the McDonald's video surveillance
camera, which was focused on the area where the victim was
stabbed, was inoperable. However, another surveillance camera
at the McDonald's was working. The video showed an
unknown male giving the victim money around 11:03 p.m. The
detective testified that another surveillance camera at the
McDonald's showed- after the victim was stabbed around
11:17 or 11:18 p.m.-the perpetrator, with a dog, walk halfway
through the parking lot and throw a Timberland boot into the
driveway. The surveillance video also showed the
perpetrator leaving the parking lot and walking toward
Elysian Fields Avenue.
surveillance from the Truck Stop verified the perpetrator
went into the convenience store. Detective Sykes testified
that video surveillance footage from the Truck Stop showed a
subject, with a dog, walking from the direction of the crime
scene to the Truck Stop. The time stamp of the footage was
11:28 p.m., March 19, 2015. Detective Sykes stated that the
next portion of the footage showed the subject, who was
wearing a black hat and had dreadlocks, enter the store and
exit the cooler with a beer. According to the detective, the
footage showed the subject leaving the Truck Stop at 11:30
p.m. and walking with a dog in the direction of the
Sykes identified numerous photographs taken of the crime
scene by the crime lab. The photos depicted an Ozarka water
jug and a left Timberland boot recovered from the
McDonald's which were submitted for DNA testing. The
photos taken at the Casino, after Mr. Hutsell was
apprehended, depicted an army- green backpack, a skateboard,
a dog. and a black piece of material. Detective
Sykes stated that these items were consistent with the
descriptions of items provided by the witnesses.
taken at the time of Mr. Hutsell's apprehension, depicted
Mr. Hutsell with facial tattoos, dreadlocks, and wearing a
black t-shirt with a picture of the Three-Stooges on it and a
dirty, dark "green-ish blue jean vest" with silver
spikes on the front of it. Detective Sykes noted that Mr.
Hutsell's clothing and hairstyle were consistent with the
descriptions provided by the witnesses. Detective Sykes
admitted none of the witnesses stated the suspect had facial
of her investigation, Detective Sykes searched the area
between the McDonald's and the Truck Stop: the overpass,
below the overpass, the railroad tracks, and the area on both
sides of the canal. A weapon was not found. Defendant Sykes
noted that Mr. Hutsell had no blood on his clothes and no
visible wounds or blood on his hand. Additionally, a pocket
knife recovered from Mr. Hutsell was determined not to be the
Sykes testified that the victim was taken to the hospital
where she died as a result of the bleeding from the stab
wound; and, there was information received that the victim
did not stab herself. Detective Sykes testified that the
victim was identified as Ms. Anderson through one of the dogs
found at the crime scene.
Samantha Huber ("Dr. Huber"), who conducted the
autopsy on Ms. Anderson, testified as an expert in the field
of forensic pathology. Dr. Huber opined that Ms. Anderson
sustained a single stab wound that went behind the clavicle
and the first rib damaging the subclavian vessels (an artery
and a vein). The entry wound went from the front to the back
with a somewhat downward trajectory. Ms. Anderson died as a
result of the bleeding from the wound.
Hamilton ("Ms. Hamilton") testified she worked at
the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory as a DNA forensic
analyst. Ms. Hamilton conducted a DNA analysis of the mouth
of the Ozarka water jug which was recovered from the crime
scene. Ms. Hamilton testified that the analysis of the water
jug was consistent with being a mixture of DNA from Mr.
Hutsell, Ms. Anderson, and a third unknown person. Ms.
Hamilton explained the two most "statistically
significant DNA samples present" on the water jug were
from Mr. Hutsell and Ms. Anderson. Additionally, Ms. Hamilton
conducted a DNA analysis of the left Timberland boot
recovered from the parking lot of the McDonald's. The
analysis indicated Mr. Hutsell could not be excluded as a
contributor, and Ms. Hamilton affirmed she could say with a
reasonable degree of scientific certainty that Mr.
Hutsell's DNA was on the Timberland boot. Ms. Hamilton
acknowledged the victim's DNA was not found on Mr.
Mark Perlin, employed by Cyber Genetics-a company located in
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania-was accepted as an expert in DNA
evidence interpretation and the likelihood ratio. He
testified DNA testing indicated the DNA of Mr. Hutsell and
Ms. Anderson were on the handle of the Ozarka water jug found
at the scene of the offense, along with a very small amount
of DNA attributed from a third unknown source.
Pichon, an investigator for the Orleans Public Defender's
Office, testified that he timed how long it would take a
person to walk from the McDonald's to the Truck Stop
without stopping, as part of the investigation. He concluded
it would take eleven minutes and thirteen seconds. Mr. Pichon
testified that the stabbing occurred at 11:19 p.m., and in
his opinion, the earliest Mr. Hutsell could have gotten to
the Truck Stop was a little after 11:30 p.m.
review of the record for errors patent on the face of the
record reveals one error. See La. C.Cr.P. art. 920.
The district court erred in sentencing Mr. Hutsell
immediately after denying his motion for new trial and before
imposing sentence without abiding by the mandatory delay
required by La. C.Cr.P. art. 873. An explicit waiver of the
delay is required. State v. Kisack, 16-0797, pp. 6-7
(La. 10/18/17), 236 So.3d 1201. Nevertheless, the error is
subject to the harmless error analysis. Id.
"Absent a showing that prejudice resulted from the
failure to afford the statutory delay, reversal of the
prematurely imposed sentence is not required." State
v. Seals, 95-0305, p. 17 (La. 11/25/96), 684 So.2d 368,
380 (citing State v. White, 404 So.2d 1202
(La.1981). In the case sub judice, Mr. Hutsell was
convicted of second degree murder which carries a mandatory
sentence of life imprisonment without benefit of parole,
probation, or suspension of sentence; thus, we find the error
Hutsell assigns four errors, and we will address each
assignment of error separately.
OF ERROR NO. 1: INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE
Hutsell challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to convict
him of second degree murder.
issues are raised on appeal as to the sufficiency of the
evidence, and as to one or more trial errors, the reviewing
court must first determine the sufficiency of the evidence.
State v. George, 15-1189, p. 9 (La.App. 4 Cir.
11/9/16), 204 So.3d 704, 711 (quoting State v.
Marcantel, 00-1629, p. 8 (La. 4/3/02), 815 So.2d 50,
55). This Court, in State v. Hickman, 15-0817, p. 9
(La.App. 4 Cir. 5/16/16), 194 So.3d 1160, 1165-66 (quoting
State v. Brown, 03-0897, ...