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State v. Efferson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 14, 2018


          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 329, 386 Honorable Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Peggy J. Sullivan Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          Before GARRETT, STEPHENS, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          MCCALLUM, J.

         McKinley Efferson (the "defendant") was charged with second degree murder, but was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 36 years' imprisonment at hard labor. He now appeals his sentence and conviction and urges two assignments of error: (1) the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the victim's "dangerous character" pursuant to La. C.E. Art. 404; and (2) his sentence is unconstitutionally excessive. For the reasons stated herein, we affir.m


         Reginald Wess ("Mr. Wess"), the victim, was engaged to marry the defendant's mother, Mattie Efferson ("Ms. Efferson"). Mr. Wess and the defendant were not related. At the time of the murder, Mr. Wess had lived in the same house with Ms. Efferson, the defendant, and all or some of Ms. Efferson's other children for approximately 4½ years. At the time of the murder, the members of the household were Ms. Efferson, Mr. Wess, the defendant, and Maurice Efferson, who is the defendant's brother. Mr. Wess and Ms. Efferson shared a bedroom while the defendant and Maurice Efferson each had his own separate bedroom.

         Mr. Wess's employment required him to be at work at approximately 4:00 a.m. He normally went to bed before 10:00 p.m. and woke around 2:30 a.m. to prepare for work and feed the dogs.

         The defendant admitted to police in a recorded interview that he used his mother's 9 mm handgun to shoot Mr. Wess multiple times. This occurred in their home in Shreveport, Louisiana, between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. on January 16, 2015. Awakened by the gunshots, Ms. Efferson came out of her bedroom.[1] Upon doing so, she saw Mr. Wess dressed in his work uniform lying on the floor near the doorway between the kitchen and the carport. She also saw the defendant, holding her gun, standing on the opposite side of the room from where Mr. Wess was lying. She asked the defendant what he had done, and the defendant replied that Mr. Wess was "messing with him."

         Emergency services received two 911 calls regarding the shooting; one was by an unidentified male caller and the other by Ms. Efferson. Mr. Wess was transported to the emergency room where he was pronounced dead.

         With Ms. Efferson's consent, the police searched the house. They found Ms. Efferson's 9 mm handgun under the defendant's mattress. They also found four spent 9 mm shell casings in his clothing hamper. The crime scene investigators had the house cordoned off and took measurements and pictures of the house, including the blood in the kitchen area.

         Dr. Long Jin conducted the autopsy and, at trial, was admitted as an expert in forensic pathology. He stated that Mr. Wess was 50 years old, was 5′6″ tall, and weighed 236 pounds. Mr. Wess's blood and urine tested negative for drugs and alcohol.

         Dr. Jin recovered three projectiles (bullets) from Mr. Wess's body. He indicated that there were five wounds on Mr. Wess's body, and stated that one of the wounds could have been caused by a bullet's reentry into the body after passing through the arm. He also stated that two of the wounds would have been independently fatal, and that a third could have been independently fatal.

         The three projectiles recovered from the Mr. Wess's body and the four spent shell casings recovered from the defendant's clothing basket were matched to Ms. Efferson's handgun.

         After the jury was sworn, the trial court held a hearing (outside the presence of the jury) regarding the admissibility of evidence of Mr. Wess's "dangerous character" pursuant to the so-called "domestic violence exception" set forth in La. C.E. art. 404(A)(2).[2] The trial court ruled that the exception was not applicable because the defendant and Mr. Wess did not have a "familial" relationship with each other. Finding the exception inapplicable, the trial court held evidence of Mr. Wess's supposed dangerous character inadmissible pursuant to the general rule of article 404(A). The defendant did not make a proffer or otherwise make known to the court the substance of the evidence which he sought to introduce pursuant to article 404(A)(2).

         The state introduced and played for the jury the recording of the defendant's interview with the police. This interview was conducted approximately 2½ hours after the shooting. The defendant, who was 23 years old at the time of the trial, gave his story of what transpired between him and Mr. Wess in the minutes and hours prior to the shooting. Additionally, he detailed the nature of their relationship. The defendant also described instances of prior domestic violence involving the defendant and Mr. Wess. In addition to the defendant's statement, Ms. Efferson, Marisa Efferson (the defendant's sister), Officer Glass-Bradley, and Detective Joshua Mayfield testified regarding previous domestic violence between the defendant and Mr. Wess.

         The jury found the defendant guilty of manslaughter, which is a responsive verdict to the charge of second degree murder.[3] The trial court sentenced the ...

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