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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

November 7, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
DWAYNE WILLIAMS

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 09-3638, DIVISION "A" HONORABLE RAYMOND S. STEIB, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING.

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr., Terry M. Boudreaux, Andrea F. Long, Seth W. Shute, Emily E. Booth.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, DWAYNE WILLIAMS Sherry A. Watters.

          Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Fredericka Homberg Wicker, and Hans J. Liljeberg.

          SUSAN M. CHEHARDY CHIEF JUDGE.

         Defendant, Dwayne Williams, appeals his conviction and sentence for second degree murder. For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's conviction and sentence and remand the matter for correction of the State of Louisiana Uniform Commitment Order.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Robert Howard was shot in the carport outside of his home on the evening of April 16, 2009 and died three weeks later on May 10, 2009. His cause of death was a gunshot wound to the neck that transected his spinal cord.

         On the night of the shooting, the victim's father, Robert England, was inside when he heard five gunshots. He ran outside to find his son lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to his neck. He was still conscious and stated that he did not know who shot him.

         Deputy Ted Raymond of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office ("JPSO") arrived on the scene around 7:50 p.m. The victim was still conscious and advised the officer that he did not know who shot him. After paramedics had transported the victim to the hospital, Detective Jeffrey Rodrigue arrived on the scene and began trying to locate witnesses.

         After the victim succumbed to his injuries on May 10, Detective Rodrigue spoke with Adrian "Stank" Haynes and Dagenera Molison. Mr. Haynes later testified at trial that he was close friends with the victim and lived around the corner from him in the Lincolnshire subdivision of Marrero. On April 16, 2009, Mr. Haynes, the victim, and their friend, James Moore, played basketball and headed home around 6:00 p.m. Soon after Mr. Haynes and the victim made it back to the victim's house, Mr. Haynes went home to shower and planned to return so the three friends could shoot pool later that night. But when Mr. Haynes returned, the victim had been shot.

         Dagenera Molison later testified at trial that she knew both defendant and the victim and was dating defendant at the time of the shooting. She testified that she spoke with defendant after the shooting and he told her that he did not mean to shoot the victim, but that he intended to shoot James Moore.

         Based on his conversations with Mr. Haynes and Ms. Molison, Detective Rodrigue spoke with James Moore and Rickell London. Mr. Moore gave two taped statements.[1] His first statement began at 10:46 p.m. and concluded at 10:55 p.m. on May 13, 2009. Mr. Moore explained that on the day before the shooting, he had an altercation with Angelica Williams, defendant's sister. Then, on the day of the shooting, Mr. Moore, Mr. Haynes, and the victim played basketball. When they finished, Mr. Haynes and the victim went back to the victim's house while Mr. Moore went back to his house. Mr. Moore was walking back over to the victim's house when he noticed a champagne-colored Toyota pass by with a driver and one passenger. When Mr. Moore got to the victim's house, he sat with the victim in his carport and noticed the same car pass two or three times with a female driver and male passenger. He then heard gunshots, saw the victim slumped over, and ran off. Mr. Moore stated that he did not know who shot the victim.

         Mr. Moore's second statement began at 12:33 a.m. and concluded at 12:36 a.m. on May 14, 2009. In this statement, he changed his story and stated that he saw defendant shoot the victim. He then identified defendant from a photographic lineup.

         At trial, Mr. Moore testified that he had a run-in with defendant's sister the day before the shooting-though Ms. Williams testified at trial and denied any such run-in. Mr. Moore explained that on the day of the shooting he, the victim, and Mr. Haynes had played basketball. Afterwards, he went home, while Mr. Haynes and the victim went to the victim's house. Mr. Moore was walking over to meet them when he observed a vehicle with defendant in the passenger seat and a female in the driver seat. Soon after he met up with his friends, Mr. Haynes left to shower, leaving Mr. Moore and the victim sitting in the carport in front of the victim's garage. While there, Mr. Moore noticed the vehicle circle the block and then heard gunshots. He told the victim he was going home because "something looking funny." As he started to walk away, he heard six gunshots at close range and saw defendant discharging a handgun in the victim's direction. When Mr. Moore noticed the victim slumped over, he ran home.

         Mr. Moore also testified about some prior inconsistent statements. He testified about a letter he wrote while incarcerated on February 1, 2010 to a "Mr. Robertson," wherein he asserted that he was "on lockdown" and that he did not see defendant shoot the victim. He explained in the letter that he only said he did in his statement because he was threatened by the detectives. He also testified about an affidavit he signed on November 30, 2010 while incarcerated. In this affidavit, Mr. Moore stated that he did not see defendant shoot the victim and that he only said he did because of threats from the detectives. He further testified about phone calls he made from jail between October 2012 and February 2013 to his grandmother and cousin in which he told them that he did not see who shot the victim. At trial, he recanted his statements in the February 1, 2010 letter, the November 30, 2010 affidavit, and the phone calls, and testified that his testimony at trial was the truth.

         Rickell London testified at trial that around 7:30 p.m. on April 16, 2009, defendant asked her to give him a ride to Lincolnshire "to go kill someone." She did not think he was serious, but she noticed that he had a gun in his waistband. Ms. London was driving a champagne and burgundy Toyota Camry and defendant was in the front passenger seat. As they approached Lincolnshire, defendant remarked to Ms. London, "Whatever goes on stays." It was then that she realized defendant's homicidal intent was sincere. Defendant directed her through the subdivision, and they circled one block several times. When Ms. London noticed "three or four boys" in front of a house, defendant instructed her to park two houses down and to turn off her headlights. She complied. Defendant exited the vehicle and pulled the gun from his waistband. Within seconds, Ms. London, who could not see defendant or the other boys, heard several gunshots. Defendant soon returned to the car, put the gun back in his waistband, and told her to "drive off fast." Ms. London testified that she was offered a plea agreement to accessory after the fact to second degree murder in exchange for her testimony.

         Ms. London also testified about prior inconsistent statements she had made. She explained that while incarcerated on a charge of principal to second degree murder, she made several phone calls to her friends and family, in which she stated that she did not know anything about the shooting. She acknowledged statements she made to an assistant district attorney in which she said she had nothing to do with the shooting. Ms. London further testified about her statements she gave to Detective Rodrigue in the days after the victim's death. She explained that she lied in her first statement when she said that she did not drive defendant on the day of the shooting. Ms. London recanted her prior inconsistent statements and testified that her testimony at trial was the truth.

         Detective Rodrigue obtained an arrest warrant for defendant based on his conversations with Mr. Moore and Ms. London. And on July 16, 2009, a Jefferson Parish Grand Jury returned an indictment charging defendant with the second degree murder of Robert Howard. Defendant entered a plea of not guilty.

         The matter proceeded to a trial by jury on March 11, 2013. On March 14, 2013, ten of the twelve jurors returned a verdict of guilty as charged. On April 23, 2013, defendant moved for a new trial, which the court heard and denied on February 18, 2014. Following numerous continuances, defendant was sentenced on November 13, 2017 to life imprisonment at hard labor with the benefit of parole.[2] Defense counsel orally moved for reconsideration of sentence which was denied in open court. On November 14, 2017, defendant filed a written motion for reconsideration and a motion for appeal. His appeal was granted on November 20, 2017.

         After the record in this appeal was lodged here, on March 14, 2018, the Clerk of this Court ordered the district court to rule upon defendant's written motion for reconsideration of sentence. The district court denied defendant's motion on March 19, 2018.[3]

         ASSINGMENTS OF ERROR

         On appeal, defendant raises four assignments of error:

(1) The State failed to prove defendant guilty of second degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt and, by the trial court's ruling and the State's withholding of evidence, the defendant was denied full cross-examination of the only witness who purported to identify him.
(2) The district court erred in denying the motion for new trial based on trial defect of having a juror decide the case who was not qualified to serve.
(3) The district court erred in denying the motion to declare La. C.Cr.P. art. 782 unconstitutional and in accepting a verdict in this case that was not unanimous.
(4) The district court erred in imposing an illegal sentence, as it violated the ex post facto clause and life imprisonment with parole was unconstitutionally excessive under the circumstances of this offense or the offender.

         DISCUSSION

         Assignment of Error One

         Defendant submits six arguments in support of his first assignment of error:

(a) James Moore was the single witness who identified Dwayne Williams as the shooter. James Moore's purported identification of Dwayne Williams changed three times and does not support the conviction;
(b) Defendant was prevented from cross-examination of James Moore as to his violent history as a juvenile and involvement in other conflicts, in particular a murder, such that other persons may have been out to get him, in addition to reflecting on his credibility and self-interest;
(c) Reasonable hypothesis as to other perpetrators were not excluded; instead the State prevented the defendant from developing them. The day of his death, Robert Howard was hanging out with Stank and James Moore who were known to be involved in drug sales, as each of them had distribution arrests after this incident. Moore had attacked someone in Bridge City and allegedly had killed someone over his brother's drug death. The families and friends of these people were likely seeking retribution.
(d) Dwayne Williams was convicted on a vote of 10-2. If only one more juror was persuaded by the evidence about James Moore's activities, the Brady violation would have effected [sic] the verdict and Mr. Williams would not have been convicted.
(e) Neither Dagenera Molison or Rickell London identified Dwayne Williams. Neither of them were believable as they had their own interests, their claims could not be verified, and London's statements also changed multiple times.
(f) The State offered no corroboration of the identification by forensic evidence.

         This opinion addresses these arguments in the following ...


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