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State v. Hicks

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

October 17, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JORDAN T. HICKS

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 13-1904, DIVISION "J" HONORABLE STEPHEN C. GREFER, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Juliet L. Clark

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, JORDAN T. HICKS Gwendolyn K. Brown

          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          MARC E. JOHNSON, JUDGE.

         MEJ

         JGG

         JJM

         Defendant/Appellant, Jordan Hicks, appeals his convictions for two counts of second degree murder from the 24th Judicial District Court, Division, "J". For the following reasons, Defendant's convictions and sentences are affirmed.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 11, 2013, a Jefferson Parish Grand Jury indicted Defendant and co-defendant, Ernest L. Payne Jr., [1] with two counts of second degree murder, [2] violations of La. R.S. 14:30.1. [3] Defendant pleaded not guilty to the charged offenses at his arraignment on May 29, 2013. Following numerous continuances, trial commenced before a 12-person jury as to both Defendant and co-defendant Payne on May 16, 2017. On May 19, 2017, Defendant was found guilty as charged on both counts. [4]

         On June 2, 2017, Defendant filed a motion for new trial, arguing that because the trial court would not allow the "privately hired attorney to represent defendant," the trial court prevented him from choosing his own representation, and as a result, he was entitled to a new trial. This motion was heard on June 7, 2017, and after argument by counsel, the trial court denied the motion. After waiving delays regarding sentencing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence on each count to run concurrently with each other. Defendant filed a motion for appeal in open court following sentencing, which the trial court granted on June 8, 2017. The instant appeal followed.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         On appeal, Defendant alleges the trial court erred in: 1) denying his right to proceed to trial with the counsel of his choosing; 2) denying his retained counsel's request for a continuance; and 3) denying his motion for new trial.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS [5]

         Assignments of Error Numbers One, Two and Three

         In his assignments of error, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion for continuance, thereby denying him his right to counsel of his choice. As a result, Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for new trial based on this allegation.

         The record reflects that Defendant was arraigned on May 29, 2013, and was initially represented by John Benz of the Public Defender's Office. Subsequently, on August 15, 2014, Martin Regan filed omnibus motions, including a motion to enroll as counsel of record. From August 19, 2013 through April 21, 2014, the minute entries reflect that Aidan Shah, with Mr. Regan's firm, made appearances on Defendant's behalf. On June 25, 2014, Mr. Shah filed a motion to withdraw as counsel of record asserting that "[c]ircumstances have developed in the course of representation that have caused an irremediable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship which prevents undersigned counsel from providing effective assistance of counsel." Mr. Benz was then reappointed as counsel of record on July 14, 2014. The minute entries reflect that Mr. Benz made appearances on Defendant's behalf from that point onward.

         Nearly three years later, on May 1, 2017, and two weeks before the scheduled trial date, attorneys Martin Regan and Adam Koob appeared in court, with Mr. Koob indicating they were "enrolling on Mr. Hicks." The record reflects that all parties approached and a bench conference was held off the record. The court then stated,

Martin Regan is present in the courtroom today. Mr. Benz is also present in the courtroom. Mr. Benz has been representing ...

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