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
E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee
GARRETT, STEPHENS, and McCALLUM, JJ.
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
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.
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
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. 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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). 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).
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.
jury found the defendant guilty of manslaughter, which is a
responsive verdict to the charge of second degree
murder. The trial court sentenced the ...