Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 322, 662 Honorable
Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Sherry Watters, Counsel for
C. COOLEY, SR. Pro Se.
E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney, TOMMY J. JOHNSON MONIQUE
Y. METOYER MEKISHA S. CREAL Assistant District Attorneys,
Counsel for Appellee.
PITMAN, STONE, and COX, JJ.
Caron Cooley ("Cooley") was convicted by a
unanimous jury of the second degree murder of Karen Johnson,
in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1. His motions for
post-verdict judgment of acquittal and new trial were denied.
Cooley was sentenced to life imprisonment without benefits.
He now appeals. For the following reasons, Cooley's
conviction and sentence are affirmed.
the evening of April 7, 2014, Yolanda Bailey, a resident in
the victim's neighborhood, made a 911 call reporting a
woman's scream and two gunshots in the vicinity of Valley
View Drive in Shreveport, Louisiana. Ms. Bailey testified
that she heard a woman's piercing scream, as if pleading
for her life, followed by a gunshot. Ms. Bailey then called
911. After she hung up, she heard a second gunshot.
officers found a deceased female under the carport of a
residence on Valley View Drive. The woman was lying on her
back with apparent gunshot wounds to the head. Medics
determined that she was deceased and the coroner was
notified. Several officers of the Shreveport Police
Department testified about clearing and securing the scene,
as well as gathering and photographing evidence. The
officers' testimonies established that there was a black
Mercedes vehicle parked askew in the front yard with the
engine running. The contents of a woman's purse were
scattered on the bed in the master bedroom. Among the
contents was identification, which belonged to Karen Johnson.
Karen's slippers were by the open door leading to the
officers' testimonies also established that Karen's
son arrived at the scene very distraught and provided them
with the name "Tony, " another name used by Cooley.
Ballistics confirmed that shell casings found near
Karen's feet were fired from the gun recovered during the
investigation. It is not disputed that the gun belonged to
Cooley and that he and Karen were together when she was
killed. It is also not disputed that, after Karen was shot,
Cooley left the scene in her vehicle, a white sedan. He ran
the vehicle off a nearby road and got stuck in the mud in a
field behind a residence. Police located the vehicle on the
night of April 7 and had it towed to central storage.
record indicates that the field where the white sedan was
stuck was behind Jerome Cooley's ("Jerome")
residence, a cousin of Cooley. Cooley went to Jerome's
house and spoke with Jerome and his wife, Shelley. Jerome
testified that he and Cooley were very close. He stated that
when Cooley arrived, Cooley had a gun and told him that he
thought he had "hurt her." Shelley testified that
she heard Cooley say "that he thought he might kill
her." Cooley asked Jerome to contact the police because
he wanted to turn himself in and did not want to get hurt in
the process. Jerome testified that he called Officer Mike
Edwards, who was a friend of his and on the Shreveport Police
force. Jerome and Shelley gave Cooley a cigarette (which
Shelley testified had blood on the side of it), beer, and
Edwards testified that he and Jerome Cooley were friends and
in a trucking business together. He received a call from
Jerome around 10:30 p.m. on April 7, asking him to come to
Jerome's residence. When Officer Edwards arrived, he
found an assault rifle on the cab of a small pickup truck.
Officer Edwards testified that, as he retrieved the rifle, he
heard a young man, whom he identified as Cooley, say
"All she had to do was let go of the gun." Officer
Edwards advised Jerome that he needed to take Cooley to the
station and Jerome told Cooley to put down his cigarette and
beer and go with the officer. Officer Edwards handcuffed
Cooley and transported him to the police station. Pictures of
the gun and Cooley's muddy pants were introduced and
published to the jury during Officer Edwards' testimony.
Long Jin, an expert in forensic pathology, testified about
the autopsy and stated that the cause of Karen's death
was homicide; specifically, two gunshot wounds to the head.
The first shot entered her temple area and the second shot
was in the forehead. Dr. Jin testified that soot marks on the
skin indicated that the barrel of the gun was touching the
skin when fired. The temple shot was angled slightly from the
front to the back and traveled left to right. There were no
defensive wounds on Karen's body and no signs of
Tracy Mendels testified that she participated in the
gathering and photographing of evidence at the scene.
Particularly relevant to this appeal, Corp. Mendels observed
oil and grit debris from the carport concrete on Karen's
body and clothing. Corp. Mendels testified that this
indicated that Karen was rolled or moved at some point before
she was found.
Jennifer White testified that she recovered two cell phones
from inside the residence. Corp. White also testified that,
without manipulating the body, she noticed projectile
fragments in the victim's hair. She stated that after
Shreveport firemen cleaned the carport of biological matter,
she noted and photographed two defects in the otherwise
smooth slab of concrete. The defects were at least two inches
wide and near where Karen's head had been. A third defect
was found in the wall. Regarding the assault rifle that was
later located, Corp. White observed hair and blood splatter
on the rifle. Photographs of the defects and gun were
introduced and published to the jury.
Upadhyay, the custodian of records for AT&T, testified
regarding one of the cell phones that was recovered from the
residence, a Samsung AT&T phone, which Mr. Upadhyay
identified as a "go phone." The phone number, or
subscriber information, for the phone was (318) 402-5844. Mr.
Upadhyay provided a detailed description of how finding
subscriber information and locating a phone by cell signal is
done. The subscriber information, a mobility usage report,
and NELOS (Network Event Location Services) report were
introduced into evidence for the AT&T phone during his
Shannon Mack testified next and was accepted by the court as
an expert in forensic cell phone analysis. Lt. Mack testified
that she completed a forensic download of the two cell phones
in this investigation. The second cell phone was an
off-brand, manufactured by Huawei. The telephone number
assigned to that phone was (318) 990-8920. She testified that
the Samsung phone's number was saved in the contacts of
the Huawei phone as "Cooley Baby." After analyzing
the data from the two phones, Lt. Mack testified that there
were "32 call detail records" (texts and phone
calls) between the phones from 6:00 a.m. to 8:29 p.m. on
April 7, 2014. Specifically, she testified that there was a
lot of activity between the phones during the early morning
hours that day and the final contact between the phones was
at 8:29 p.m. On cross-examination, Lt. Mack stated that the
only phone she was asked to tie to the Valley View address
was the Samsung AT&T phone and that phone's last
location on April 7 was the Valley View location.
Johnson, Karen's daughter, also testified. Briana was at
her grandmother's home with Karen the afternoon and
evening before the shooting. Briana testified that Karen
received multiple calls on her cell phone, but she did not
answer. Briana confirmed that Karen's cell phone number
was (318) 990-8920 (the Huwae). Briana looked at the phone
and saw that Cooley was the caller and Briana told her mother
to answer the phone. Briana testified that Karen went into
another room and answered the phone. Briana could not hear
what was being said, but testified that her mother's tone
was elevated. After the call, Karen stayed one or two minutes
and then left. Briana testified that "eight or
nine" minutes later, her phone started "blowing
up" with calls about something happening to her mother.
She went to her mother's home, but never saw her alive
addition, the state presented the testimony of two of
Cooley's former girlfriends. First, Tonya Williams
testified that she and Cooley were in an "off and
on" relationship for about seven years starting in 2005.
Tonya explained that the two were living together in April
2008, and had a conversation one evening about ending the
relationship, which made Cooley unhappy. The next morning,
Cooley approached Tonya about having sex and she refused. He
asked her to speak to him in the bedroom and Tonya again
brought up ending the relationship. Tonya testified that
Cooley grabbed her around her neck, choking her, and bit her
hand, drawing blood. The two struggled and he straddled her
back, with her on her hands and knees, and dug his fingers
into her eye sockets. Tonya was screaming and her daughter,
who was 11 years old, came into the room and left again to
retrieve a weapon. Cooley continued gouging her eyes and
forced her to lie down on her stomach, after which he hit her
across the back of the head with a radio. At some point,
Cooley left the residence and Tonya, whose eyes were
bleeding, sought medical attention at the emergency room.
Cooley was convicted and sentenced for this offense. The
minutes were introduced into evidence. On cross-examination,
Tonya conceded that the relationship resumed after Cooley was
released from jail and the relationship ended in 2012.
Simmons testified that she was in a relationship with Cooley
in 2003 that lasted a year or less. When Erica decided to end
the relationship, she stopped speaking with Cooley. Erica
testified that on April 1, 2003, Cooley came to her place of
employment, Lifeshare Blood Center, and watched her close.
Erica asked a friend to walk with her to her car and Cooley
followed. Erica told Cooley she did not want to talk to him,
but Cooley calmly and persistently asked why she was ending
the relationship with him. Erica responded that Cooley had
thrown three of her phones in toilets and that he "knew
what he had done." Erica testified that she then told
him she had to pick up her kids and he got in the car with
her. Cooley told her that he would ride with her and talk,
and Tonya could bring him back to his car. She agreed. The
two drove to the daycare and picked up Tonya's two
children, ages one and three, and Tonya put them in car seats
in the backseat. Erica testified that they continued to talk
and Cooley fluctuated between being apologetic and loving and
irate about her telling him it was over.
went by her apartment complex to speak with the manager
because, unbeknownst to Cooley, she was having the locks
changed. Cooley remained in the car. After Erica spoke with
the apartment manager and returned to the car, Cooley told
her that he would pay for replacement phones and they went to
Walmart. While checking out, Cooley refused to pay for the
phones and the two argued. The children were in the store
with them. Erica testified that when they got back to her
car, Cooley began "sweet talking" again and
apologized, saying that he did not have the money right now
for the phones, but would pay her for them. Erica testified
that she was angry and told him that she was going to leave
him in the parking lot, but Cooley talked her into taking him
to his car.
Erica was driving, she continued to tell him it was over.
Erica testified that Cooley became irate, hitting the
dashboard and the steering wheel. Erica testified that she
called her best friend to try to ignore Cooley, but Cooley
yanked the steering wheel causing the car to move into the
path of oncoming traffic. Erica testified that Cooley said,
"I will kill all of us in this MF." As Erica tried
to avoid hitting another car, Cooley said, "Bitch, the
only way out of this relationship is to die out." The
next thing Erica remembered was Cooley grabbing her cell
phone and repeatedly punching her in the side of her face
with it. Erica stated that there was blood everywhere and she
remembered hearing her kids screaming and seeing blood
splatter on their faces. Erica blacked out and regained
consciousness at Willis Knighton hospital.
has undergone two facial surgeries and a retinal detachment
surgery as a result of the injuries inflicted by Cooley. She
testified that the entire right side of her face is metal and
she has headaches daily, for which she takes medication.
Cooley was convicted of second degree battery for the offense
against Erica. The minutes of that prosecution were
introduced into evidence. The state rested at the conclusion
of Erica Simmons' testimony.
very thorough discussion between the trial judge, Cooley, and
Cooley's counsel, Cooley elected to testify and was the
only witness for the defense. Cooley provided the following
version of events.
April 7, 2014, Cooley had decided to go to Texas to visit a
second woman with whom he was romantically involved. Karen
was aware of this other woman and was angry. While Cooley was
at home (the residence on Valley View Drive) that evening
packing for Texas, Karen came home and the two argued. Cooley
testified that Karen "blew" and made "for a
little old argument." He stated that Karen repeatedly
told him to call that bitch and tell her he was not coming.
stated that he had the "AK" on the bed to pack to
take with him and Karen reached for the gun. Cooley testified
that the two "tussled" over the gun and he
"used his body" to position himself to take the gun
from her and he tossed it to the head of the bed. She reached
for the gun again and Cooley grabbed the gun. Cooley
testified that Karen then ran and blocked the bedroom door
shouting at him to call the bitch and "tell her you
ain't coming." Cooley turned his back to Karen and
went through the doorway. Cooley stated that Karen was
slapping him and trying to prevent him from leaving and he
was trying to get outside.
testified that he told Karen, "I didn't stop you
from where you was all day today, so you not going to stop me
from where I'm going." Cooley intended to leave
immediately, but could not find the car keys. Because he
"got to get Karen out of the way, " he slammed her
up against the living room wall with his body and she fell.
When she got up, Karen walked out of the house and he kept
looking for the car keys. Cooley testified that, at that
point, he decided he should not be in the house:
If I stay in this house with this woman here, I know
what's fixin' - she ain't going to stop. Karen
needed me to put my hands on her so she could tell police I
beat her up. That's what she did. And I'm not giving
stated that he could see Karen outside through a large window
and she was standing with her arms folded and was
"hot." Cooley took the clip out of the gun and went
outside. Karen began yelling at him and snatched the gun from
under his arm and began putting it together. The two then
tussled for the gun and as Karen "laid there and she
inserted the bullet into that chamber. I got ...