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State v. Brooks

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 24, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
MICHAEL JOSEPH BROOKS, JR.

          On Appeal from the Thirty-Second Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Terrebonne State of Louisiana Docket No. 703889 Honorable John R. Walker, Judge Presiding

          Joseph L. Waitz, Jr. District Attorney Ellen Daigle Doskey Assistant District Attorney Houma, Louisiana Counsel for Appellee State of Louisiana.

          Bertha M. Hillman Louisiana Appellate Project Covington, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellant Michael Joseph Brooks, Jr.

          Michael Joseph Brooks Angola, Louisiana In Proper Person.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         Defendant, Michael Joseph Brooks, Jr., was charged by grand jury indictment with one count of molestation of a juvenile (under the age of thirteen years), a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:81.2 (count 1), and two counts of aggravated rape (of a victim under the age of thirteen years), violations of LSA-R.S. 14:42 (prior to amendment, which redesignated aggravated rape as first degree rape) (counts 2 and 3). He entered a plea of not guilty and, following a jury trial, was found guilty as charged on counts 1 and 3; he was found not guilty on count 2. Defendant filed a motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal, which was denied. On count 1, defendant was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence; on count 3, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently. Defendant now appeals, designating one counseled assignment of error and two pro se assignments of error. We affirm the molestation of a juvenile conviction and sentence; we affirm the aggravated rape conviction, amend the sentence to include that it be served at hard labor, and affirm as amended.

         FACTS

         The mother of eight-year-old daughter S.W.[1] married defendant in February of 2009. They lived in Houma. Before the marriage, S.W.'s mother and defendant lived together for two years, each with children from previous relationships. According to S.W., when she was in the first grade (prior to her mother's and defendant's marriage), defendant put his finger in her vagina when she was taking a bath. At the time, she did not tell anyone of the incident. Several years later, according to S.W., when she was eleven years old, she and defendant were in a closet at their home in Dularge. There, defendant vaginally raped S.W. At the time, she did not tell anyone of the incident. In 2013, when she was thirteen years old and attending Evergreen Junior High School, S.W. told a guidance counselor what defendant had done to her. The school then contacted S.W.'s mother, who informed the police. Defendant did not testify at trial.

         COUNSELED AND FIRST PRO SE ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         In his sole counseled assignment of error, defendant argues the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed molestation of a juvenile or aggravated rape and, as such, the evidence was insufficient to support either conviction. In his pro se assignment of error, defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for molestation of a juvenile and aggravated rape.

         Counseled Sufficiency Assignment of Error

         A conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand as it violates Due Process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; LSA-Const. art. I, § 2. The standard of review for the sufficiency of the evidence to uphold a conviction is whether or not, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). See LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 821B; State v. Ordodi, 06-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660; State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1308-09 (La. 1988). The Jackson standard of review, incorporated in Article 821, is an objective standard for testing the overall evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. When analyzing circumstantial evidence, LSA-R.S. 15:438 provides that the factfinder must be satisfied the overall evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. See State v. Patorno, 01-2585 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/21/02), 822 So.2d 141, 144.

         At the time of the offense, LSA-R.S. 14:42 provided, in pertinent part:

A. Aggravated rape is a rape committed upon a person sixty-five years of age or older or where the anal, oral, or vaginal sexual intercourse is deemed to be without lawful consent of the victim because it is committed under any one or more of the following circumstances:
(4) When the victim is under the age of thirteen years. Lack of knowledge of the victim's age shall not be a defense.

         Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:41 provides, in pertinent part:

A. Rape is the act of anal, oral, or vaginal sexual intercourse with a male or female person committed without the ...

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