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State v. Stokes

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

September 26, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
RUFFIN STOKES

          APPEAL FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF IBERIA, NO. 07-000681 HONORABLE EDWARD LEONARD, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE

          M. Bofill Duhe District Attorney W. Claire Howington Assistant District Attorney Counsel for Appellee: State of Louisiana

          Richard A. Spears Attorney At Law Counsel for Defendant/Appellant: Ruffin Stokes

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Phyllis M. Keaty, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          PHYLLIS M. KEATY JUDGE.

         On April 5, 2007, Defendant, Ruffin Stokes, was charged with armed robbery, a violation of La.R.S. 14:64. A jury trial commenced on February 8, 2010, following which Defendant was found guilty as charged. Defendant was sentenced on April 19, 2010, to seventy-five years at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Defendant, pro se, timely filed a Motion to Reconsider Sentence. Several weeks later, on May 21, 2010, defense counsel filed a Motion to Reconsider Sentence or, Alternatively, Notice of Appeal. Following a July 30, 2010 hearing, the trial court denied Defendant's motions to reconsider sentence.[1] On June 1, 2016, Defendant filed a "Motion to Set Status Conference" to determine the status of the "unperfected appeal which was filed in this matter on May 21, 2010." At the conclusion of an August 10, 2016 hearing, the trial court granted Defendant an out-of-time appeal without objection by the State.

         Defendant is now before this court asserting in his sole assignment of error that the trial court's imposition of seventy-five years imprisonment was constitutionally excessive. He argues that the trial court "did not sufficiently take into account mitigating factors nor did it appropriately tailor the sentence to the defendant for the crime committed." For the following reasons, we vacate Defendant's sentence and remand this matter to the trial court for resentencing.

         DISCUSSION

         The facts of this matter, which are uncontested for purposes of this appeal, were recited in the State's appellee brief:

On December 21, 2006, Charles and Angela Fus[i]lier were working at their hair salon. Three men with their faces covered rushed into the salon, waiving guns and demanding money. Although his face was covered, Charles and Angela recognized the defendant, Ruffin Stokes. The defendant pointed his gun at Angela and demanded money. Angela tried to give him what she had, but the defendant pointed the gun at Charles, who threw whatever cash he had in his pocket at the defendant. When Charles could not comply with the defendant's demand for more money, the defendant pointed his gun at Charles' and Angela's three-year-old son. Charles testified that he would rather have died than let the defendant kill his son. Charles tackled the defendant, and, during the struggle, the gun went off, firing a shot into the ceiling.

         In State v. James, 15-414, pp. 2-4 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/7/15), 175 So.3d 1176, 1178, writs denied, 15-2059 (La. 1/9/17), 208 So.3d 876, and 15-2044 (La. 1/9/17), 214 So.3d 858, this court discussed the standard for reviewing excessive sentence claims, as follows:

[Louisiana Constitution Article] I, § 20 guarantees that, "[n]o law shall subject any person to cruel or unusual punishment." To constitute an excessive sentence, the reviewing court must find the penalty so grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime as to shock our sense of justice or that the sentence makes no measurable contribution to acceptable penal goals and is, therefore, nothing more than a needless imposition of pain and suffering. The trial court has wide discretion in the imposition of sentence within the statutory limits and such sentence shall not be set aside as excessive absent a manifest abuse of discretion. The relevant question is whether the trial court abused its broad sentencing discretion, not whether another sentence might have been more appropriate.
State v. Barling, 00-1241, 00-1591, p. 12 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1/31/01), 779 So.2d 1035, 1042, writ denied, 01-838 (La.2/1/02), 808 So.2d 331 (citations omitted).
. . . .

         Even though a penalty falls within the statutory sentencing range, it may ...


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