Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 7, 2018



          Don M. Burkett District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Edward Kelly Bauman Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Major Cartrell Jones

          Major Cartrell Jones Camp D Falcon-2 IN PROPER PERSON

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Marc T. Amy, and Elizabeth A. Pickett, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY JUDGE

         The State charged the defendant with second degree murder and manslaughter after the victim's remains were found in the victim's burned home. A forensic pathologist testified that the cause of death was stab wounds to the heart and spleen. Upon testing, DNA consistent with that of the defendant was identified from blood evidence located both at the victim's home and in the victim's car. A jury convicted the defendant of second degree murder and found that the defendant had specific intent to kill. Following a denial of the defendant's post-verdict motions, the trial court sentenced the defendant to serve life imprisonment at hard labor without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The defendant appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         This matter stems from the July 17, 2014 death of the victim, James Paul Green, at his home in Fisher, Louisiana. The record indicates that, on that evening, authorities proceeded to the home after a 911 call from a neighbor informing them Mr. Green's home was on fire. The caller, Melissa DeLoach, explained on the call that Mr. Green's car was not at the residence.[1]

         Authorities responded to the scene, including Fisher Chief of Police Lamar Thomas, Jr., a neighbor of Mr. Green. Chief Lamar stated that he could see Mr. Green's home "engulfed" in flames from his front porch. Having noticed Mr. Green drive by his home earlier in the evening, Chief Lamar explained that it "rested [his] mind" when he arrived and found that Mr. Green's Chevrolet Cavalier was not at the home. Chief Lamar stated that although the fire was extinguished that night, he returned to the scene the following morning after being informed that firefighters located a body in the residence. Subsequent examination was required to identify the body due to its poor condition. That process revealed Mr. Green to be the victim. Employees of the Louisiana State Fire Marshall explained that although the investigation identified no ignitable liquids, the fire was determined to have started in the kitchen and to have been caused by human intervention.

         The record indicates that the investigative team identified blood evidence both at Mr. Green's home and in his car, which was located after it was abandoned in Zwolle. According to Captain Charles Russell Edwards of the Fire Marshall's office, the vehicle was found to contain Mr. Green's wallet as well as three, one-dollar bills. He explained that a fire had been started in the floorboard of the vehicle. The fire did not spread beyond the immediate area.

         During their investigation, detectives of the Sabine Parish Sheriff's Department twice interviewed the defendant, obtaining a DNA sample from him at that time for subsequent testing. According to Monnie Michalik, a forensic DNA analyst of the North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory, evidence acquired from both the residence and the car, including the money found in the car, were consistent with the defendant's reference sample.[2] Certain samples were consistent with a mixture of DNA consistent with samples from the defendant and Mr. Green.

         In May 2016, a grand jury returned a bill of indictment and charged the defendant with second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1, providing two bases for that charge. The State amended the indictment in August 2016, first asserting that the defendant committed second degree murder by specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon Mr. Green. See La.R.S. 14:30.1(A)(1). The State alternatively alleged that the offense occurred while the defendant was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of armed robbery or aggravated arson, even though he had no specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm. See La.R.S. 14:30.1(A)(2).[3]

         In opening arguments to the jury, the State alleged that the defendant had persuaded a friend, Tina Sepulvado, to drive him to Fisher on the night of the offense and alleged that he had informed her that he was going to visit his cousin. Referencing the defendant's interviews with investigators, the State argued that the defendant concealed Mr. Green's identity from Ms. Sepulvado as he was travelling to the residence to receive oral sex in exchange for money. The State alleged that, while in the house, the defendant stabbed the victim, once in the heart and once in the spleen, and inflicted additional bodily wounds. Responding, defense counsel questioned both the presence of specific intent to kill and further argued as to the absence of evidence that either of the alleged underlying felonies occurred prior to the defendant's death.

         At the close of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict of: "Guilty of Second Degree Murder - Specific Intent to kill." Afterwards, the defendant filed a motion for new trial and a motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal. By those motions, the defendant asserted that the testimony from one of the investigating detectives suggested that certain material was not disclosed in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194 (1963). After hearing additional testimony pertaining to the Brady allegation, the trial court denied both motions. The trial court sentenced the defendant to the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. See La.R.S. 14:30.1(B) ("Whoever commits the crime of second degree murder shall be punished by life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.").

         The defendant appeals. By counseled brief, the defendant asserts that:

         I. The Trial Court erred in finding Major Jones guilty of second degree murder.

         II. The Trial Court erred in finding that a Brady violation did not occur. The defendant also files a brief in proper person, alleging that: "His trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance when [he] failed to file [a] motion to quash the indictment on [the] basis of a fatal defect[.]"


         Errors Patent

         Pursuant to La. Code Crim.P. art. 920(2), this court reviews matters on appeal for errors "discoverable by a mere inspection of the pleadings and proceedings and without inspection of the evidence." Following review, we note that the record does not demonstrate that the defendant was arraigned following the amendment of the bill of indictment. However, as the defendant proceeded to trial without objection, any such error is waived. See La.Code Crim.P. art. 555.[4] We identify no additional errors patent.

         Sufficiency of the Evidence

         By his first assignment of error, defense counsel contends that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove the elements of second degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense counsel specifically questions the element of specific intent and contends, instead, that "the trier of fact erred in finding [him] guilty of second degree murder instead of manslaughter as the record supports such a reduction."

         An appellate court considers a defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the State's pursuant to the standard articulated in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781 (1979). That standard requires the reviewing court to inquire as to whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. Furthermore, in its application of Jackson, "a reviewing court is not permitted to second guess the rational credibility determinations of the fact finder at trial, nor is a reviewing court required to consider the rationality of the thought processes employed by a particular fact finder in reaching a verdict." State v. Kelly, 15-0484, p. 3 (La. 6/29/16), 195 So.3d 449, 451 (citing State v. Marshall, 04-3139 (La. 11/29/06), 943 So.2d 362, cert. denied, 552 U.S. 905, 128 S.Ct. 239 (2007)). "It is not the function of an appellate court to assess credibility or reweigh the evidence." Id. (citing State v. Stowe, 93-2020 (La. 4/12/94), 635 So.2d 168).

         In pertinent part, La.R.S. 14:30.1 provides:

         A. Second degree murder is the killing of a human being:

(1) When the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm[.]

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.