Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 13F1116
Honorable Larry D. Jefferson, Judge
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Carey J. Ellis, III Counsel
S. TEW District Attorney Counsel for Appellee
A. CHAMBERS-JONES Assistant District Attorney
GARRETT, McCALLUM, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.
BLEICH, J. (PRO TEMPORE)
a jury trial in the Fourth Judicial District, Parish of
Ouachita, State of Louisiana, the defendant, Cortez Coleman,
was found guilty as charged of the second degree murder of
Steve Brown. Coleman was sentenced to life imprisonment at
hard labor, without benefit of probation, parole, or
suspension of sentence, and he now appeals his conviction.
For the following reasons, Coleman's conviction and
sentence are affirmed.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 18, 2013, deputies with the Ouachita Parish
Sheriff's Office found Steve Brown lying on the ground
outside an abandoned house at 202 Central Street in West
Monroe, Louisiana. Brown had a gunshot wound to the head and
was dead. Ultimately, officers learned from two eyewitnesses,
Ashley Williams and Viktavia Franklin, that Brown had been
shot by Cortez Coleman, who then fled into the nearby woods.
Coleman was later arrested and indicted by a grand jury on
the charge of second degree murder, in violation of La. R.S.
January 14, 2015, the state filed a notice of intent to use
other crimes evidence under La. C.E. art. 404(B)(1) and a
motion for a Prieur hearing, in accordance with
State v. Prieur, 277 So.2d 126 (1973). Specifically,
the State sought to introduce evidence that on June 9, 2011,
Coleman and a friend, DeKendrick Patterson, conspired to lure
Henry Lyons to a remote location in order to rob him of his
1996 Chevrolet Caprice and rims, and then shot Lyons multiple
times before stealing his vehicle. The State asserted that
the purpose of using said other crimes and/or wrong acts was
to show Coleman's pattern of conduct, identity, absence
of innocent intent, motive, plan and preparation, and to
negate any claim of mistake or accident. These "other
crime" facts were similar to the facts in the current
case, in which the State alleged that Coleman conspired with
his girlfriend to lure the instant victim, Brown, to a remote
location in order to rob him of his 1996 Chevrolet Impala and
rims, and shot and killed Brown.
8, 2015, the parties appeared before the trial court for
arguments on the State's Prieur motion. Officer
John Martin, who was a major crime investigator with the East
Carroll Parish Sheriff's Department on June 9, 2011,
testified that he responded at 1:45 a.m. to the East Carroll
Parish Hospital to interview a shooting victim named Henry
Lyons. Officer Martin testified in detail about the series of
events Lyons described to him, leading up to Coleman shooting
him in the leg and hand and stealing Lyons' vehicle.
Coleman and his accomplice, Patterson, drove off in
Lyons' vehicle, leaving Lyons in the ditch. According to
Ofc. Martin, Lyons believed that Coleman wanted to get the
rims on Lyons' vehicle, which was later found abandoned
on I-20 West in Richland Parish. The rims were still on the
vehicle, but the vehicle was completely out of gas.
Martin testified that arrest warrants were issued for both
Coleman and Patterson. Patterson surrendered two days after
the incident. Officer Martin interviewed Patterson, who
confirmed Lyons' story. Officer Martin testified that
Patterson told him that he and Coleman planned to convince
Lyons to give them a ride and then rob him of the rims on his
Martin testified that Coleman was apprehended three months
later and charged with attempted murder and carjacking.
Coleman declined to give a statement to officers and posted a
bond. When Coleman failed to appear at the next scheduled
court date, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. For
unknown reasons, the warrant was not entered into the
National Crime Information Center database.
state asserted that the evidence of the 2011 offenses and
Lyons' prior identification of Coleman as the shooter and
carjacker were admissible to establish Coleman's intent
to rob Brown of his vehicle and rims and to negate
Coleman's claim that he accidentally shot Brown. On
October 21, 2015, the trial court granted the motion and
ruled that testimonial evidence of the 2011 offenses and the
victim's identification of Coleman as the perpetrator
were admissible at trial.
of the Matter
evidentiary portion of the trial in this matter began on July
21, 2016, wherein numerous witnesses testified, as will be
discussed herein. In connection with the others crimes
evidence against Coleman, which had been the subject of the
previous Prieur hearing and which the trial court
had determined could be introduced at trial, Lyons was called
to testify. However, once on the witness stand, Lyons
asserted that he had been drinking on June 9, 2011, and was
under the influence of alcohol when interviewed by Ofc.
Martin. At trial, he claimed no recollection of Coleman
shooting him, how he ended up in the hospital with two
gunshot wounds, or how his vehicle was stolen. Lyons admitted
that he knew Coleman but denied having told Ofc. Martin
anything regarding Coleman being the person who shot him and
stole his vehicle.
counsel objected when the State attempted to impeach
Lyons' testimony with trial testimony by Ofc. Martin,
arguing that when a non-party witness's credibility is
attacked through prior inconsistent statements incriminating
the accused, the evidence is generally not admissible for its
assertive value as substantive evidence of guilt. The trial
court ruled that Ofc. Martin's testimony regarding
Lyons' prior statement was inadmissible-effectively
denying the use of the State's other crimes evidence
State filed an emergency request for supervisory review, and
this court reversed the trial court, citing State v.
Johnson, 99-3462 (La. 11/03/00), 774 So.2d 79, which
held that an exception to this general rule exists for cases
in which the witness's prior inconsistent statement also
constitutes a prior statement of identification for purposes
of La. C.E. art. 801(D)(1)(c). Accordingly, this court
ordered the trial court to allow Ofc. Martin's testimony
in order to impeach Lyons' trial testimony denying that
he made the statements identifying Coleman as the 2011
perpetrator and as substantive evidence that Coleman
committed the prior similar offense. State v.
Coleman, 51, 178-KW (La.App. 2 Cir. 07/25/16).
this court's ruling, defense counsel again challenged
Ofc. Martin's testimony about Lyons' prior
inconsistent statement by filing a motion for mistrial
pursuant to La.C.Cr.P. art. 770(2) on July 26, 2016. While
acknowledging that Ofc. Martin's testimony was admissible
as evidence that Lyons previously identified Coleman as the
2011 perpetrator, Coleman's motion for mistrial argued
that Officer Martin's testimony about Lyons'
statement was inadmissible for the purposes of establishing
that Coleman shot and robbed Lyons for the purpose of taking
Lyons' rims. The trial court denied the motion for
mistrial based on the previous ruling on the emergency writ.
the State rested, the trial court conducted a colloquy with
Coleman regarding his rights, and Coleman exercised his
constitutional right to remain silent. The defense rested and
each side gave closing arguments. A unanimous jury found
Coleman guilty as charged of second degree murder. A
presentence investigation report was ordered for sentencing.
No post-trial motions were filed.
sentencing hearing, the trial court reviewed the facts of the
case and aggravating and mitigating factors. Coleman declined
to make any statement at sentencing. The trial court imposed
the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor,
without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
sentence. Coleman was advised of the time period within which
to seek post-conviction relief.
filed a motion to reconsider sentence; however, the trial
court denied the motion. Coleman sought an
"out-of-time" appeal, which was granted, and this
of the Evidence
first assignment of error, Coleman argues that the State
failed to present sufficient evidence to support the verdict
of second degree murder.Coleman takes issue with the witness
testimony considered by the jury. He specifically argues that
Williams' testimony was unreliable because she was also
charged with a crime in this offense and asserts her
testimony was self-serving. Coleman maintains that
Williams' testimony is less credible because she
initially lied to the officers and told them divergent
versions of events on the night in question. Coleman also
argues that Franklin's testimony was less credible
because she did not describe Steve Brown's shooter. We