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State v. Melancon

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

April 19, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
DUDLEY MELANCON, JR. -AKA- DUDLEY MELANCON

          APPEAL FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CALCASIEU, NO. 20942-16 HONORABLE DAVID ALEXANDER RITCHIE, DISTRICT JUDGE

          John F. DeRosier Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney Carla S. Sigler Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth B. Hollins Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Paula C. Marx Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Dudley Melancon, Jr.

          Court composed of Shannon J. Gremillion, Phyllis M. Keaty, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.

          SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE

         Defendant, Dudley Melancon Jr., was charged as a habitual offender on December 27, 2016. The bill of information alleged Defendant was previously convicted of second degree battery, a violation of La.R.S. 14:34.1, on March 9, 2009, and of simple robbery, violations of La.R.S. 14:65, on September 15, 2015, and on August 31, 2016.[1] The August 31, 2016 conviction for simple robbery is now pending before this court in docket number 17-943. All three felonies are statutorily identified as crimes of violence. La.R.S. 14:2(B)(6) and (23).

         At the March 24, 2017 hearing on the habitual offender bill, appointed counsel requested the trial court defer the matter pending appellate resolution of both simple robbery convictions. The trial court denied the request and sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

         Defendant filed a pro se motion to reconsider his sentence on May 5, 2017, on grounds his September 29, 2015 conviction in St. Landry Parish was the subject of a pending appeal. The trial court denied the motion in written reasons on August 14, 2017. Defendant now seeks review of his habitual offender adjudication and his statutorily-mandated life sentence.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NUMBER ONE

         Defendant argues the trial court erred in sentencing him to life in prison without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence where his predicate offenses are simple robbery and second degree battery, with imposed sentences of no more than seven years at hard labor. Defendant presented no witnesses at the habitual offender hearing.

         Louisiana Revised Statutes 15:529.1(A)(3)(b) provides that a third felony offender "shall be imprisoned for the remainder of his natural life, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence" when the three felonies are classified as crimes of violence pursuant to La.R.S. 14:2(B). Simple robbery and second degree battery are classified as crimes of violence. La.R.S. 14:2(B)(23) and (6). Thus, La.R.S. 15:529.1 requires Defendant to be sentenced to life imprisonment without benefits.

         Although a trial court should give great deference to a statutory sentence, it may:

declare a sentence excessive under Article I, Section 20 of the Louisiana Constitution, although it falls within the statutory limits provided by the Legislature. State v. Sepulvado, 367 So.2d 762, 767 (La.1979). In State v. Dorthey, supra, this Court recognized that this power extends to the minimum sentences mandated by the Habitual Offender Law. Id. at 1280-81. However, this power should be exercised only when the court is clearly and firmly convinced that the minimum sentence is excessive.

State v. Johnson, 97-1906, p. 6 (La. 3/4/98), 709 So.2d 672, 676. The trial court may only depart from the statutory minimum "if it finds that there is clear and convincing evidence" to rebut a "presumption of constitutionality." Id. The nonviolent nature of a defendant's criminal history by itself does not rebut that presumption. In order for a defendant to ...


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