FROM THE ELEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF SABINE,
NO. 75788 HONORABLE STEPHEN BRUCE BEASLEY, DISTRICT JUDGE
Burkett District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of
Kelly Bauman Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Major Cartrell Jones
Cartrell Jones Camp D Falcon-2 IN PROPER PERSON
composed of John D. Saunders, Marc T. Amy, and Elizabeth A.
T. AMY JUDGE
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.
and Procedural Background
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.
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.
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.
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. Certain samples were
consistent with a mixture of DNA consistent with samples from
the defendant and Mr. Green.
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).
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.
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
defendant appeals. By counseled brief, the defendant asserts
Trial Court erred in finding Major Jones guilty of second
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
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.
We identify no additional errors patent.
of the Evidence
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
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
pertinent part, La.R.S. 14:30.1 provides:
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[.]