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State v. Harris

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 14, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
DANNY L. HARRIS Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 350934 Honorable John D. Mosely, Jr., Judge.

          LOUSIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Sherry Watters, Counsel for Appellant.

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

          SAMUEL S. CRICHTON TOMMY JAN JOHNSON PAMELA ROXANNE MOSER Assistant District Attorneys.

          Before MOORE, STONE, and COX, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         Following a jury trial, the defendant, Danny Harris, was found guilty as charged of aggravated flight from an officer. Harris was sentenced to serve 3½ years at hard labor and now appeals his conviction. For the following reasons, Harris' conviction and sentence are reversed.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Danny Harris ("Harris") was arrested on July 19, 2017, and charged with aggravated flight from an officer in violation of La. R.S. 14:108.1(C). The jury trial began on January 25, 2018, with the following testimony by Agent Joseph Bassett ("Agent Bassett") and Agent Carlos Glass-Bradley ("Agent Glass-Bradley"), of the Shreveport Police Department.

         Agent Bassett testified that on July 19, 2017, around 12:45 p.m., he was driving his police vehicle east on Lakeshore Drive near the intersection of Hearne Avenue. Agent Glass-Bradley was in the passenger seat. On this particular day, the agents were working in the Street Level Interdiction Unit, a police unit which handled street-level narcotics offenses in high crime areas. The agents noticed a silver Hyundai traveling west on Lakeshore Drive, heading in their direction. Each agent testified they first noticed the Hyundai, because it had damage to it. Agent Bassett noticed the driver was not wearing his seatbelt. Agent Bassett asked Agent Glass-Bradley to confirm the driver was not wearing his seatbelt, which he did.

         Agent Bassett executed a U-turn and activated the lights and sirens on the police vehicle. Agent Bassett testified the police vehicle was standard for street level interdiction --- a dark blue Ford sedan with no markings identifying it as a police vehicle. The agents testified the police vehicle had a spotlight mounted above the driver's side mirror, emergency lights mounted on either side of the rearview mirror, and a camera unit ("MVS") mounted below the rearview mirror. Ordinarily, when police officers activate their lights and/or sirens in their vehicles, the MVS will turn on. Both Agent Bassett and Agent Glass-Bradley testified that the MVS was not working that day, and that it had malfunctioned a number of times before and after that date.

         The agents testified the lights and siren could be seen and heard from a distance, and the Hyundai was close enough to their police car for the driver of the Hyundai to have seen and heard both. The driver of the Hyundai slowed down briefly after the agent engaged the lights and siren but then sped away from the police vehicle and turned south on Exposition Street. Agent Bassett testified the Hyundai "ran a stop sign at West College, Lillian, and Stonewall, I believe." Agent Glass-Bradley testified the Hyundai ran four stop signs on Exposition Street. This particular area of Exposition Street is a residential neighborhood with no sidewalk and has foot and car traffic.

         The Hyundai turned west on Frederick Street, and the agents saw the driver throw a black item out of the passenger side window. According to Agent Bassett, the Hyundai then ran two stop signs at Milton Street and San Jacinto Avenue, before turning south onto San Jacinto. The agents did not stop to retrieve the package thrown from the Hyundai, because they wanted to first detain the driver.

         Agent Bassett testified the Hyundai sped up on San Jacinto to at least 50 mph in a 25 mph speed zone. Both agents testified they knew the Hyundai's speed because they used "pacing," a tactic in which a police officer tries to maintain the same distance between the police vehicle and the vehicle being pursued. Pacing allowed the agents to determine the Hyundai's speed by simultaneously noting the speed at which the agents were traveling.

         San Jacinto is also a residential street without a sidewalk. The Hyundai ran several more stop signs on San Jacinto before turning and heading east on Greenwood Road. Agent Bassett paced the Hyundai at about 55 mph on Greenwood Road where the speed limit was 35 mph. Greenwood Road is a high traffic, four-lane street. The Hyundai turned south onto Velva Avenue, which becomes Bolinger Drive, and runs west alongside the state fairgrounds. Agent Bassett testified he had to drive 60 mph to keep up with the Hyundai on ...


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