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State v. Lewis

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

September 26, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
CAMERON LEWIS Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 338, 903 Honorable Katherine C. Dorroh, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Edward K. Bauman Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney, JASON W. WALTMAN TRENISHA J. HILL TOMMY J. JOHNSON Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before MOORE, PITMAN, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          PITMAN, JUDGE

         A jury convicted Defendant Cameron Lewis of second degree murder. The trial court sentenced him to the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's conviction and sentence.

         FACTS

         On April 14, 2016, a grand jury charged Defendant by indictment with second degree murder in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1, alleging that on February 22, 2016, he murdered Bryan Savage.

         On November 3, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to suppress recorded and unrecorded statements he gave to law enforcement officers on the grounds that they were not freely and voluntarily given, that the officers did not fully and adequately advise him of his constitutional rights and that they were made as a result of improper promises and inducements. On June 22, 2017, the trial court conducted a free and voluntary hearing, finding that Defendant's statements were freely and voluntarily made after he was advised of his rights, and denied the motion to suppress statements.

         Also on November 3, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence. He sought to suppress items seized from a Honda Accord, which belonged to his wife Sanchasity Lewis, on the grounds that law enforcement officers did not have consent to search, the items were not in plain view, the search was not incident to an arrest and no exigent circumstances existed. Defendant argued that the subsequent search warrant was defective because it was secured after the search had begun; and, therefore, any evidence seized pursuant to the warrant should have been excluded. A hearing on the motion to suppress was held on November 14, 2017. On January 10, 2018, the trial court denied the motion to suppress.[1]

         A jury trial began on January 8, 2018. Cpl. Eric Mayes of the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office testified that between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. in the morning on February 22, 2016, he responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle on Woolworth Road. He drove up to a white Chevy Avalanche, which was parked on the side of Woolworth Road. The driver of the Avalanche drove away, and he followed and initiated a traffic stop. He approached the driver, whom he identified in court as Defendant. Defendant advised that he was parked on the side of the road because he was having a problem with his vehicle. Cpl. Mayes requested Defendant's driver's license, proof of insurance and proof of registration. Defendant produced his State of Louisiana identification card and a proof of registration and then searched the Avalanche for his proof of insurance. At this time, Cpl. Mayes heard sirens and observed fire vehicles driving on Woolworth Road. His partner then arrived at the scene of the traffic stop, and Cpl. Mayes asked Defendant to exit his vehicle. While Cpl. Mayes spoke with his partner, Defendant drove away. Cpl. Mayes and his partner engaged in a high-speed pursuit of Defendant's vehicle but called off the pursuit when Defendant's vehicle was no longer in sight. The traffic stop and Defendant's flight were recorded by the camera in Cpl. Mayes's vehicle, and video of this recording was introduced into evidence and played for the jury. Cpl. Mayes testified that he was then informed of a fire at the house on Woolworth Road where he had responded to the call about the suspicious vehicle. He reported to the house and learned that there was a deceased person inside. He noted that the middle portion of the house had collapsed on itself, that there was fire and water damage on the inside of the house and that the deceased was lying on the floor of the living room.

         Officer Brian Michael of the Shreveport Police Department testified that on the evening of February 22, 2016, he came upon an abandoned white Ford truck at a park. He discovered that the truck was a stolen vehicle and was involved in a homicide investigation. He obtained a search warrant for the truck and remained with it until the crime scene unit arrived.

         Officer Jason Saiz of the Shreveport Police Department testified that at approximately 1:00 a.m. on February 23, 2016, he received a message from dispatchers that suspects in a homicide were possibly at a hotel in the Shreveport area and were driving a white Avalanche. He discovered a white Avalanche parked at the Merryton Inn. Officers determined that the VIN matched that of the Avalanche involved in the homicide investigation.

         Detective Marlon Clark of the Shreveport Police Department testified that on February 23, 2016, he responded to the Merryton Inn. He stated that Defendant, Amanda Williams[2] and Sanchasity Lewis had been taken into custody and that officers searched the hotel rooms they had occupied. Under the mattress in Amanda's room, officers found a sock containing foreign and commemorative coins. In Defendant and Sanchasity's room, officers found a key to a Honda vehicle. Det. Clark located a green Honda Accord in the parking lot of the hotel, determined that the key worked for that vehicle and impounded it. He noted that Defendant and Sanchasity were married and owned the Accord. Det. Clark testified that he went to the impound yard at the crime lab to investigate the Accord and a white Ford F250, which was the victim's work truck. Sanchasity gave written consent for a search of the Accord. Within its driver's side door, officers found a key to the F250. Also within the Accord, officers found a bag with bottles of medication with the victim's name on them, a wallet and a small caliber bullet.

         Det. David Bonillas of the Shreveport Police Department testified that he was the primary investigator in this homicide case. He described the condition of Mr. Savage's body at the scene and noted that he was wearing only his underwear and a gold chain, he had blood coming from his nose and he had a wound to his upper chest area. He described what he observed at the house, noting the fire damage and that it appeared someone had gone through all of Mr. Savage's belongings and strewn paperwork everywhere. He testified that members of Mr. Savage's family advised that a television, two safes and various firearms were missing from the house and that Mr. Savage's F250 was also missing. They informed him that a woman named Bailey or Amanda was a home sitter for Mr. Savage. During Det. Bonillas's testimony, security footage from Sam's Town Casino recorded on February 22, 2016, was introduced into evidence and viewed by the jury. The video and photographs showed Defendant and Amanda arriving at and departing from the parking garage at different times in the Avalanche, the Accord and the F250.

         Det. Bonillas also testified that he interviewed Defendant at the police station on the morning of February 23, 2016, several hours after his arrest. Defendant denied any involvement in the homicide and stated that Lee Lewis was responsible. He also interviewed Amanda, and she stated that she did not know Lee Lewis. Based on these inconsistent statements, he interviewed Defendant on February 24, 2016. An audio and video recording of this interview was played for the jury. During the interview, Defendant at first denied involvement, but he then admitted to being inside the house and repeatedly stated that he did not kill Mr. Savage. He explained that Amanda was a sitter for Mr. Savage and knew that the house would be "an easy lick." He and Amanda entered the house and went separate ways-he stole two televisions, and she took coins and prescription medication. He stated that Amanda shot Mr. Savage with the .22 or .25 caliber pistol she had when they entered the house. Defendant admitted to setting the fire with lighter fluid to "cover [their] tracks."

         Following the interview at the police station, Det. Bonillas drove Defendant to the crime scene, and they walked through the house. This was recorded, and the video was played for the jury. In the video, Defendant detailed how he and Amanda broke into the house and went to different areas of the house. Defendant heard Mr. Savage "holler" and heard a "pop." He then saw Mr. Savage lying on his back on the floor, and he was breathing and moaning and looking at Defendant. Defendant then found lighter fluid and started a fire using his lighter. Defendant removed two televisions from the house and put them in the Avalanche. Defendant saw Amanda with a gun when they arrived at the house and noted that it was an automatic.

         On cross-examination, Det. Bonillas testified that Amanda was also charged with second degree murder. He noted that she was a suspect in a previous burglary of Mr. Savage's house. He stated that in November and December 2015, Amanda was a sitter for Mr. Savage's father, who lived with Mr. Savage.

         Corporal Betsy Huey Pickett of the Shreveport Police Department testified that she investigated the crime scene. She described the condition of the house and how fire damage, including the ceiling collapsing, impacted the investigation. She stated that it appeared that someone had ransacked the house and that items were strewn about.

         Corporal Jennifer White of the Shreveport Police Department testified that she investigated the crime scene and recovered a spent cartridge casing, which appeared to be .22 in caliber.

         Joshua McCollum, an arson investigator with the Shreveport Fire Department, testified that he investigated the house on Woolworth Road, which included taking photographs and collecting samples of debris.

         Bruce Stentz, a forensic chemist with the North Louisiana Crime Lab, testified that he analyzed four samples collected at the scene. He found ignitable liquids on two of the samples.

         Dr. Long Jin, an expert in the field of forensic pathology, testified that he performed the autopsy on Mr. Savage. He determined the manner of death to be homicide and the cause of death to be a single perforating gunshot wound to the left chest. He noted that the bullet penetrated Mr. Savage's aorta, which caused significant blood loss. He testified that Mr. Savage likely lived "several minutes" after being shot. He opined that Mr. Savage expired prior to the fire. He stated that he did not observe any smoke in Mr. Savage's airway, and the toxicology reports did not show any carbon monoxide. He observed burns on 15 to 20 percent of Mr. Savage's body surface.

         On January 10, 2018, a unanimous jury convicted Defendant as charged of second degree murder.

         On January 24, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for new trial. He argued that the trial court erred in denying his motions to suppress, that it erred in including in the jury instructions any reference to the offense of aggravated arson and that the verdict is contrary to the law and evidence. He also filed a motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal. In the alternative, he argued that he should be convicted of the lesser included offense of manslaughter. These motions were addressed at a hearing on January 24, 2018, and the trial court denied the motions. Defendant waived sentencing delays, and the trial court sentenced him to the statutory mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.

         Defendant ...


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