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State v. Clark

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 14, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
LYNN TONY CLARK, JR. Appellant

          Appealed from the Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bienville, Louisiana Trial Court No. 48236 Honorable Charles Glenn Fallin, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Chad Ikerd Counsel for Appellant

          DANIEL W. NEWELL District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          TERESA CULPEPPER CARROLL TAMMY LENN GANTT JUMP BENJAMIN J. BLEICH Assistant District Attorneys

          Before WILLIAMS, MOORE, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         This criminal appeal arises from the Second Judicial District Court, Parish of Bienville, State of Louisiana. The defendant, Lynn Tony Clark, Jr., was convicted of principal to armed robbery with a firearm in violation of La. R.S. 14:24 and 14:64.3, and principal to aggravated second degree battery, in violation of La. R.S. 14:24 and 14:34.7. Clark was sentenced to 20 years at hard labor on the conviction for armed robbery and 10 years at hard labor on the conviction for aggravated second degree battery, to run concurrently. Clark was subsequently adjudicated a habitual offender, but his original sentence was not vacated. For the following reasons, Clark's conviction is affirmed, his habitual offender sentence is vacated, and the matter is remanded for resentencing.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 21, 2016, LaDarrius Coleman was the victim of a robbery and sustained a gunshot wound to the head. Coleman survived his injuries and positively identified individuals involved in his attack. Coleman did not name Lynn Tony Clark, Jr. as someone who participated in the crime, nor was he able identify Clark in a photo lineup. Following an investigation by the Bienville Parish Sheriff's Office, Clark was arrested and charged by amended bill of information with principal to armed robbery with a firearm in violation of La. R.S. 14:24 and 14:64.3, and principal to aggravated second degree battery, in violation of La. R.S. 14:24 and 14:34.7.

         Prior to trial, Clark moved to have Coleman sequestered because of the likelihood that his testimony and identification of Clark would be influenced by the testimony of other witnesses. The trial court ruled that under the exceptions to La. C. E. art. 615(B)(4), Coleman had a right to remain in the courtroom and was not subject to the sequestration order. A jury trial commenced where Coleman testified along with 13 other witnesses. Clark was found guilty as charged on both counts. A motion for new trial, re-urging Clark's objection to Coleman's presence in the courtroom for the entirety of the trial, was denied. Clark subsequently was sentenced to 20 years at hard labor on the conviction for armed robbery and 10 years at hard labor on the conviction for aggravated second degree battery, to run concurrently. Clark's motion to reconsider sentence was denied.

         Following Clark's conviction, the state filed a habitual offender bill of information, a contradictory hearing was held, and Clark was adjudicated a habitual offender. The trial court declined to vacate Clark's prior sentence and maintained Clark's sentence as 20 years at hard labor. This appeal by Clark ensued.[1] For the following reasons, we affirm Clark's conviction, vacate his sentence, and remand the case for resentencing.

         DISCUSSION

         Sufficiency of the Evidence

         In his first assignment of error, Clark argues that the state failed to sufficiently prove that he was guilty of principal to armed robbery and principal to aggravated second degree battery. He asserts that Coleman identified Clark as a participant in the robbery only after sitting through several days of testimony. Further, Clark argues that the circumstantial evidence (i.e., text messages allegedly sent from Clark's phone after the robbery) was insufficient evidence to prove him guilty because it was shown that India Feazel was in possession of Clark's phone following the crime. We disagree.

         Legal Principles

         The standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the evidence claim is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731 (La. 1992). See also La. C. Cr. P. art. 821. This standard does not provide an appellate court with a vehicle for substituting its appreciation of the evidence for that of the fact finder. State v. Pigford, 2005-0477 (La. 2/22/06), 922 So.2d 517; State v. Robertson, 1996-1048 (La. 10/4/96), 680 So.2d 1165.

         Where there is conflicting testimony about factual matters, the resolution of which depends upon a determination of the credibility of the witnesses, the matter is one of the weight of the evidence, not its sufficiency. State v. Green, 49, 741 (La.App. 2 Cir. 4/15/15), 164 So.3d 331; State v. Glover, 47, 311 (La.App. 2 Cir. 10/10/12), 106 So.3d 129, writ denied, 2012-2667 (La. 5/24/13), 116 So.3d 659. The trier of fact makes credibility determinations and may accept or reject the testimony of any witness. State v. Casey, 1999-0023 (La. 1/26/00), 775 So.2d 1022, cert. denied, 531 U.S. 840, 121 S.Ct. 104, 148 L.Ed.2d 62 (2000). In the absence of internal contradiction or irreconcilable conflict with physical evidence, one witness's testimony, if believed by the trier of fact, is sufficient support for a requisite factual conclusion. State v. Robinson, 50, 643 (La.App. 2 Cir. 6/22/16), 197 So.3d 717, writ denied, 2016-1479 (La. 5/19/17), 221 So.3d 78; State v. Gullette, 43, 032 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/13/08), 975 So.2d 753.

         When the key issue is the defendant's identity as the perpetrator, rather than whether the crime was committed, the state is required to negate any reasonable probability of misidentification. Positive identification by only one witness is sufficient to support a conviction. It is the factfinder who weighs the respective credibility of the witnesses, and this court will generally not second-guess those determinations. State v. Hughes, 2005-0992 (La. 11/29/06), 943 So.2d 1047; State v. Clark, 50, 137 (La.App. 2 Cir. 9/30/15), 181 So.3d 150, writ denied, 2015-2049 (La. 11/29/16), 211 So.3d 386.

         A reviewing court may not impinge on the factfinder's discretion unless it is necessary to guarantee the fundamental due process of law. State v. Hughes, supra; State v. Clark, supra. The appellate court does not assess credibility or reweigh the evidence. State v. Smith, 1994-3116 (La. 10/16/95), 661 So.2d 442. A reviewing court accords great deference to a jury's decision to accept or reject the testimony of a witness in whole or in ...


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