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State v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 2, 2018


          On Appeal from the Eighteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Iberville State of Louisiana Docket No. 12-15 c/w 13-15 Honorable Alvin Batiste, Jr., Judge Presiding

          Richard J. Ward, Jr. District Attorney Antonio M. Clayton Terri Russo Lacy Dana Larpenteur Assistant District Attorneys Port Allen, Louisiana Counsel for Appellee State of Louisiana

          Holli Herrle- Castillo Marrero, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/ Appellant Kenneth Jackson


          McCLENDON, J.

         The defendant, Kenneth Jackson, was charged by grand jury indictment with second degree murder, a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:30.1, and pled not guilty.[1] The trial court denied the defendant's motion in limine to prevent the State from introducing other crimes evidence pursuant to LSA-C.E. art. 404(B). Following a bench trial, the defendant was found guilty as charged. The defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The defendant now appeals, assigning error to the admission of other crimes evidence and the sufficiency of the evidence. For the following reasons, we affirm the conviction and sentence.


         On November 4, 2014, at approximately 2:00 p.m., Deputy Brandon Travis, Sr., of the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office (IPSO), was patrolling the Plaquemine area when he received a dispatch reporting spousal abuse of Vanessa Jackson. Deputy Travis was instructed to meet Vanessa at the NAPA Auto Parts and Supplies store on La. Highway 1, and proceeded to that location. After waiting for up to five minutes, Deputy Travis called the dispatcher and was informed that Vanessa should have arrived within a few minutes of the initial dispatch. Deputy Travis decided to leave NAPA and proceeded to Jackson's residence, located at 57638 True Hope Lane. The residence was described as a mobile home sitting perpendicular to the roadway with a front left-side porch. When Deputy Travis arrived at the residence, he observed Vanessa's husband (the defendant) in the yard, towards the rear of the trailer, standing over a body with a knife in his hand. Deputy Travis immediately exited his vehicle and upon the officer making eye-contact with the defendant, the defendant threw the knife towards the front of the porch. Deputy Travis commanded the defendant to get down on the ground to be placed in handcuffs. The defendant did not comply with Deputy Travis's order. IPSO Lieutenant Will Dangerfield, who arrived on the scene shortly after Deputy Travis, brandished his taser and commanded the defendant to get down, and the defendant complied. The defendant was then handcuffed and transported to jail, as the officers secured the scene.

         When IPSO Detective Mark Graves arrived at the scene at approximately 2:10 to 2:15 p.m., the first responding officers had secured the scene. Emergency personnel were rendering aid to a male subject, Brandon King (the victim), Vanessa's twenty-six-year-old son. Detective Graves noticed a silver, bloody, large-blade knife on the ground near the steps of the front porch. He further observed blood next to the victim, who was lying on the ground near the rear steps of the porch, and a rocking chair that appeared to have been knocked over from the porch. After entering the mobile home, Detective Graves took a statement from Vanessa, who also showed the detective a bruise on her right bicep. He further observed her swollen right wrist, a red abrasion on her left cheek, bruising to the back of her lower neck and shoulder area, and redness to her ear where the defendant reportedly ripped her earring out. Vanessa was taken to the Sheriff's Office to provide a full interview before seeking medical attention. Detective Graves did not see any blood on the porch or in the residence. None of the furniture or other contents of the residence appeared to be disturbed or out of place, and there were no signs of a struggle therein. Based on his observations, Detective Graves concluded that the victim sustained his injuries while in the yard, not on the porch or in the residence.

         Upon his arrest, the defendant was fully advised of his Miranda[2] rights and waived them, participating in a video-recorded interview. He described the incident with Vanessa before the stabbing as a "shoving match." At the outset, he claimed that he was protecting himself during the stabbing incident at issue. The defendant stated that when the victim arrived, he began kicking the front door. As the defendant further indicated, when he opened the door, the victim "bum-rushed" into the house and began making complaints of the defendant hitting his mother. The defendant stated that the victim bear-hugged him and tried to punch him.[3] The defendant stated that he picked up the knife, possibly knocking over the knife block in the process, as the victim continued to approach.[4] The victim grabbed the defendant, and they went out of the door and fell off of the porch, as the victim was still "trying to punch" the defendant. According to the defendant, the victim then grabbed the defendant's hand, in an attempt to take the knife. The defendant admitted that he stabbed the victim during the tussle.[5] He stated that he immediately complied with the police, who told him to approach them after he tossed the knife.

         The day after the stabbing, in light of the defendant's post-arrest claims that the victim attempted to kick the door in and of an altercation taking place inside prior to the stabbing, the officers re-inspected the home before allowing Vanessa to reenter the residence. Detective Graves noted and photographed minor damage to the entry/exit door. Detective Graves further measured the distance from the doorway to the edge of the porch at approximately fourteen feet and four inches. He again did not see any signs of a struggle in the residence. A knife block with one missing knife was sitting upright on the kitchen counter, against the back wall between the cabinets. The distance from the edge of the porch to where the victim's body was located was another three feet, approximately. Thus, the victim's body and blood were located approximately seventeen feet from the front doorway of the residence.

         The victim suffered three stab wounds, specifically to his upper back (left posterior shoulder), left forearm, and his right tower neck. The victim died as a result of his stab wounds.


         In assignment of error number two, the defendant assigns error to the sufficiency of the evidence. The defendant argues that the trial court erred in finding the State sufficiently proved that he was not acting in self-defense when he stabbed the victim. The defendant argues that he was defending himself from his enraged stepson inside of his own home. Thus, the defendant does not dispute that the victim's death was a result of being stabbed by the defendant. The defendant contends that at the time of the offense, he was inside of his home, a place where he had a legal right to be. The defendant also alleges that the victim did not live at the defendant's house at the time of the offense and did not have a key to the house.

         The defendant contends that Vanessa was concerned about what the victim would do after she told him that she was hit by the defendant. The defendant argues that Vanessa's concerns were consistent with the defendant's testimony that when the victim arrived at his residence, he began beating and kicking the door, and yelling that he was going to kill the defendant for hitting his mother. The defendant asserts that his version was supported by testimony presented by his nephew, Shawn Howard. He contends that he and Howard were having a telephone conversation when the victim arrived, and that Howard could hear a banging noise. The defendant claims that he opened the door because he was afraid that the victim would destroy it, that he backed into the kitchen when the victim entered the residence, and that he picked up the knife from the counter to urge the victim to leave. The defendant further claims that the victim initially appeared compliant before suddenly rushing into the defendant, causing both men to fall out of the house and off the porch as a struggle ensued. The defendant contends that the victim was stabbed three times during the struggle. The defendant concludes that the evidence presented by the State in an attempt to show that the victim was not the aggressor was not credible and was disputed by other testimony.

         When issues are raised on appeal, both as to the sufficiency of the evidence and as to one or more trial errors, the reviewing court should first determine the sufficiency of the evidence. The reason for reviewing sufficiency first is that the accused may be entitled to an acquittal under Hudson v. Louisiana, 450 U.S. 40, 43, 101 S.Ct. 970, 972, 67 L.Ed.2d 30 (1981), if a rational trier of fact, viewing the evidence in accordance with Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), in the light most favorable to the prosecution, could not reasonably conclude that all of the elements of the offense have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. See LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 821(B); State v. Ordodi, 06-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660; State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731, 734 (La. 1992).

         In conducting the review under Jackson, we also must be expressly mindful of Louisiana's circumstantial evidence test, i.e., "assuming every fact to be proved that the evidence tends to prove, in order to convict, it must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence." LSA-R.S. 15:438; State v. Wright, 98-0601 (La.App. 1 Cir. 2/19/99), 730 So.2d 485, 486, writs denied, 99-0802 (La. 10/29/99), 748 So.2d 1157 & 00-0895 (La. 11/17/00), 773 So.2d 732. When a case involves circumstantial evidence and the fact finder reasonably rejects the hypothesis of innocence presented by the defendant's own testimony, that hypothesis falls, and the defendant is guilty unless there is ...

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