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State v. Poirier

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

July 11, 2018



          Michael Gregory COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Natasha Poirier

          Keith Stutes Emilia Salas Pardo 15th Judicial District Attorney Office, Lafayette Parish COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Court composed of Shannon J. Gremillion, John E. Conery, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.


         Defendant, Natasha Poirier, was arrested on May 9, 2018, for second degree battery and false imprisonment of her mother, violations of La.R.S. 14:34.1 and La.R.S. 14:46, respectively, which took place on April 25, 2018. A contradictory hearing (also known as a Gwen's Law hearing) occurred on May 14, 2018. Following the presentation of evidence and argument by counsel, the trial court denied bail and issued a protective order against Defendant in favor of the victim.

         Defendant filed notice of intent to seek supervisory review by this court on May 22, 2018, and a return date of June 14, 2018 was set by the trial court. Defendant's writ was timely filed. In her application, Defendant contends the trial court abused its discretion in denying her request for bail because the State failed to produce sufficient evidence to establish that she was presumptively guilty of the charges against her, a danger to others, or a flight risk. Defendant also asserts thatthe trial court erroneously shifted the burden of production to her while also preventing her from presenting relevant evidence, which denied her the right to be free from excessive bail and her right to a fair hearing under the due process clauses of the Louisiana and Federal Constitutions. For the following reasons, Defendant's writ application is denied.


         At the Gwen's Law hearing, the State made argument to the trial court and admitted several exhibits; it did not call witnesses. In its argument, the State asserted that on the morning of April 25, 2018, Defendant hit her mother with a closed fist, strangled her until she nearly asphyxiated, and then prohibited her from leaving the residence. Four and a half hours after the incident occurred, the victim managed to escape and called 911. Police responding to the domestic disturbance call noted contusions to the victim's face and bruising all over her body. Photographs of the victim's injuries were admitted as State's Exhibit 1. According to counsel, officers spoke to a witness who stated she heard the victim calling out for help and saw Defendant dragging the victim across concrete. Allegedly, the witness approached Defendant and asked if the victim needed help, but Defendant declined, stating "[they] were fine."

         During its argument, the State informed the trial court that Defendant pled guilty in 2015 to a 2011 simple battery of her mother. Evidence of that prior conviction was admitted as State's Exhibit 2. The State also advised the trial court that Defendant had been arrested in 2005 for domestic abuse battery, pled guilty to a drug offense in 2004, and had previously been convicted of criminal mischief and a marijuana offense. Counsel stated that warrants for Defendant's arrest had been issued because she failed to appear for court after being arrested in 2005, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2015. Finally, Defendant's jail packet, including the affidavit supporting the arrest warrant for the instant charges, was introduced as State's Exhibit 3.

         Defendant called Calvin Paul St. Julien, Jr., to testify on her behalf. St. Julien testified that he had two children with Defendant and had known her at least twenty years. He and Defendant were in a romantic relationship and saw each other daily at the time of the offenses. St. Julien testified that Defendant had a history of drug addiction, which began approximately fifteen years earlier, and that Defendant entered a treatment program approximately a year earlier. St. Julien believed Defendant had begun using drugs at some point in the year after leaving the treatment program and was using drugs at the end of April 2018. He also assumed Defendant was using drugs during the time of her prior convictions.

         St. Julien testified that Defendant suffered from mental illness and would stop taking her prescribed medication, which often coincided with resumption of her illegal drug use. St. Julien testified that Defendant was one hundred percent better when she was on her medication and that Defendant checked herself into "Vermilion" and got back on the proper medication for her mental illness after the April 25, 2018 incident. St. Julien did not know of Defendant fighting or getting into trouble when she was off drugs.

         No other evidence was presented at the hearing. During closing arguments, defense counsel requested that the trial court set reasonable bond and if Defendant was unable to make bond, she be released to an in-patient mental health program or alternatively home incarceration conditioned on her participation in out-patient drug treatment and regular mental health treatment. The trial court denied the request, stating:

[T]he evidence that you [(defense counsel)] have presented is that this lady has a mental health condition, this lady has a substance abuse disorder . . .
. . . .
[H]ouse arrest with electronic monitoring is insufficient for a person who has this kind of criminal history, and who has a mental health diagnosis and a substance abuse disorder diagnosis.
This lady -- the evidence does indicate that this lady presents a significant danger to her mother, and for that reason I will order that she be detained without bond. I am going to order that there be a protective order issued in this case that would be valid for two years.


In her first assignment of error, Defendant contends the State failed to produce sufficient evidence to establish she was presumptively guilty of the charged crimes, a ...

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