APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF ST. CHARLES, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16, 701, DIVISION
"D" HONORABLE M. LAUREN LEMMON, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Joel T.
Chaisson, II Louis G. Authement
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, DARRELL TAYLOR Mary
composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and John
J. Molaison, Jr.
Darrell Taylor, appeals his sentence of twenty-five years for
a conviction of distribution of heroin in violation of La.
R.S. 40:966(A). On appeal, defendant argues that his sentence
is excessive. He further argues that his trial counsel
rendered ineffective assistance at the sentencing proceeding.
For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's
conviction and affirm his sentence as amended, and remand the
matter for correction of the sentencing minute entry.
December 6, 2016, a St. Charles Parish Grand Jury returned an
indictment charging defendant, Darrell Taylor, with
distribution of heroin in violation of La. R.S. 40:966(A). On
December 20, 2016, defendant was arraigned and pled not
guilty. Defendant went to trial before a jury on June 19,
2017. On June 20, 2017, defendant was found guilty as
charged. The trial court ordered the preparation of a
pre-sentencing investigation ("PSI") report. On
September 12, 2017, the trial court sentenced defendant to
twenty-five years imprisonment in the Department of
Corrections, with ten years of the sentence to be served
without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
sentence. The sentence was ordered to run
concurrently with a revocation of probation in Division
"E." After the sentence was imposed, defendant
moved both orally and in writing for an appeal, and both the
written and oral motions were granted on September 12, 2017.
2016, Danny Brown, a resident of St. Charles Parish, agreed
to assist the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office in
apprehending people who were selling drugs, in order to avoid
prosecution himself on other drug charges. Prior to working
with the Sheriff's Office, Mr. Brown knew Darrell Taylor,
defendant herein, and his brother, Tyrone, by their
respective street names of "Dip" and
"Meatman," and was familiar with their place of
residence at 415 Boutte Estates, Boutte, Louisiana, in St.
Charles Parish, where Mr. Brown would go to sell merchandise
to defendant in exchange for cash to buy crack cocaine.
Allan Tabora with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office
Special Investigations Division was also familiar with
defendant, whom he identified in court, having arrested him
on drug charges in the past. Detective Tabora began to work
with Mr. Brown to investigate the Taylor brothers. On
September 21, 2016, Mr. Brown was outfitted with visual and
audio devices by Detectives Tabora and Kevin Tennison and
given cash to execute a controlled buy at 415 Boutte Estates.
the purchase, Mr. Brown met with Detectives Tabora and
Tennison in a secure location and turned over seven similarly
packaged small foil packets, which Detective Tabora testified
was a common packaging method for heroin.Detective Tabora
watched the digital video recording of the controlled buy
obtained from Mr. Brown and recognized defendant. A search
warrant was obtained for 415 Boutte Estates and executed on
October 6, 2016. Foil paper, scissors, and metal spoons,
among other things, were found in Tyrone's room. An
arrest warrant was issued for defendant due to the September
21, 2016 incident; he was subsequently arrested for one count
of distribution of heroin.
October 13, 2016, Brian Schulz, an expert in the field of
forensic drug analysis, tested each of the seven tinfoil
packets and testified that they contained heroin. Evidence
admitted at trial indicated that the seven tinfoil packets
collectively contained a gross weight of one gram.
OF ERROR NUMBER TWO
assignment of error, defendant argues that his
twenty-five-year sentence for distribution of heroin is
unconstitutionally excessive. He argues that the sentence
shocks one's sense of justice due to his age of seventy,
fourth-grade level of education, addiction to heroin, and ill
health. He maintains that the evidence presented at trial
only showed that he was a user of heroin and not a dealer,
and the circumstances surrounding the offense require a
downward departure of his twenty-five-year sentence.
Defendant requests that this Court vacate his sentence to
allow him to file a motion for downward departure from the
mandatory minimum sentence or remand for resentencing for the
trial court to consider his "elder" status.
State responds in brief that defendant's twenty-five-year
sentence of imprisonment was not unconstitutionally
excessive, and the record supports the sentence imposed. It
argues the seriousness of the crime of distribution of
heroin, defendant's criminal history as an eighth felony
offender, and the circumstances of this case do not warrant
the imposition of a lesser sentence even in light of
defendant's age and failing health, neither of which, the
State points out, have impeded his criminal activity. It
asserts that the trial court considered both defendant's
age and health in imposing the sentence, and the sentence was
not an abuse of the trial court's sentencing discretion.
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and
Article I, § 20 of the Louisiana Constitution prohibit
the imposition of excessive punishment. Although within
statutory limits, a sentence can be reviewed for
unconstitutional excessiveness. State v. Smith,
01-2574 (La. 1/14/03), 839 So.2d 1, 4. A sentence within the
statutory limits may still violate a defendant's
constitutional right against excessive punishment. State
v. Scie, 13-634 (La.App. 5 Cir. 1/15/14), 134 So.3d 9,
sentence is considered excessive if it is grossly
disproportionate to the offense or imposes needless and
purposeless pain and suffering. Id. A sentence is
grossly disproportionate if, when the crime and punishment
are considered in light of the harm done to society, it
shocks the sense of justice. State v. Lawson, 04-334
(La.App. 5 Cir. 9/28/04), 885 So.2d 618, 622, writ
denied, 05-0244 (La. 12/9/05), 916 So.2d 1048.
judge has broad discretion when imposing a sentence, and a
reviewing court may not set a sentence aside absent a
manifest abuse of discretion. State v. Dorsey, 07-67
(La.App. 5 Cir. 5/29/07), 960 So.2d 1127, 1130, writ
denied, 08-1649 (La. 4/17/09), 6 So.3d 786. The issue on
appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion, not
whether another sentence might have been more appropriate.
Id. The appellate court shall not set aside a
sentence for excessiveness if the record supports the
sentence imposed. State v. Pearson, 07-332 (La.App.
5 Cir. 12/27/07), 975 So.2d 646, 656. In reviewing a trial
court's sentencing discretion, three factors are
considered: 1) the nature of the crime; 2) the nature and
background of the offender; and 3) the sentence imposed for
similar crimes by the same court and other courts.
present matter, defendant was convicted of one count of
distribution of heroin in violation of La. R.S. 40:966(A).
Accordingly, under the sentencing provisions in effect at the
time defendant committed the offense, defendant faced a term
of imprisonment at hard labor for not less than ten nor more
than fifty years, with at least ten years to be served
without the benefit of probation or suspension of sentence.
See La. R.S. 40:966(B)(4)(a). The trial court
sentenced defendant to twenty-five years in the Department of
Corrections, with ten years of the sentence to be served
without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
defendant appeared for sentencing, Ursula Ingram, the mother
of defendant's daughter, advised the trial judge during a
bench conference that defendant's daughter was devastated
by his conviction and had asked her to speak to the court.
Ursula stated that on the day of defendant's arrest, his
daughter was at defendant's residence giving defendant
money that he had borrowed from Ursula. Ursula ...