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State v. Stevens

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 5, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
ROYAL STEVENS

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 15-3263, DIVISION "C" HONORABLE JUNE B. DARENSBURG, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, ROYAL STEVENS Bertha M. Hillman

          DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, ROYAL STEVENS In Proper Person

          Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Robert A. Chaisson, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          SUSAN M. CHEHARDY, CHIEF JUDGE.

         On appeal, defendant's appointed appellate counsel has filed an Anders[1]brief, asserting that there is no basis for a non-frivolous appeal. Further, defendant filed a pro se supplemental brief. For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences and grant counsel's motion to withdraw.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Because defendant pled guilty, the facts of this case were not fully developed at a trial. Nevertheless, the record before this Court reveals that, on or about May 15, 2015, in Jefferson Parish, Royal Stevens, defendant herein, violated La. R.S. 14:64 and La. R.S. 14:64.3(A), in committing four counts of armed robbery by robbing Kelly Waggenspack, Deondria Young, Regina Crabtree, and Michael Harleton while armed with a firearm. During the plea colloquy, the State provided the following factual basis, to which defendant admitted:

If the state would have proceeded to trial in case 15-3263, it would have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Royal Stevens, while in Jefferson Parish on May 15th, 2015, did violate Louisiana Revised Statute 14:64 four times in that he committed the armed robbery of Deondria Young, Regina Crabtree, Michael Harleton and Kelly Waggenspack, in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 14:64.3, in that he was armed with a firearm.

         On March 8, 2017, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed an amended bill of information charging defendant with four counts of armed robbery, in violation of La. R.S. 14:64 and La. R.S. 14:64.3(A).[2] On March 14, 2017, defendant withdrew his pleas of not guilty and pled guilty as charged to all four counts. In accordance with the plea agreement set forth in the record, the trial court sentenced defendant, for each count of armed robbery, to thirty-five years at hard labor with a consecutive five-year enhancement for use of a firearm, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence, to run concurrently.

         On March 26, 2018, defendant filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief ("APCR"), which the trial judge construed as a request for an out-of-time appeal and granted. This appeal follows.

         Anders

         Under the procedure adopted by this Court in State v. Bradford, [3] appointed appellate counsel has filed a brief asserting that she has thoroughly reviewed the trial court record and cannot find any non-frivolous issues to raise on appeal. Accordingly, pursuant to Anders, supra, and State v. Jyles, [4] appointed counsel requests permission to withdraw as counsel of record.

         In Anders, [5] the United States Supreme Court stated that appointed appellate counsel may request permission to withdraw if she finds her case to be wholly frivolous after a conscientious examination of it. The request must be accompanied by "a brief referring to anything in the record that might arguably support the appeal" so as to provide the reviewing court "with a basis for determining whether appointed counsel have fully performed their duty to support their clients' appeals to the best of their ability" and to assist the reviewing court "in making the critical determination whether the appeal is indeed so frivolous that counsel should be permitted to withdraw."[6]

         In Jyles, [7] the Louisiana Supreme Court stated that an Anders brief need not tediously catalog every meritless pre-trial motion or objection made at trial with a detailed explanation of why the motions or objections lack merit. The supreme court explained that an Anders brief must demonstrate by full discussion and analysis that appellate counsel "has cast an advocate's eye over the trial record and considered whether any ruling made by the trial court, subject to the contemporaneous objection rule, had a significant, adverse impact on shaping the evidence presented to the jury for its consideration."[8]

         When conducting a review for compliance with Anders, an appellate court must conduct an independent review of the record to determine whether the appeal is wholly frivolous.[9] If, after an independent review, the reviewing court determines there are no non-frivolous issues for appeal, it may grant counsel's motion to withdraw and affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence. However, if the court finds any legal point arguable on the merits, it may either deny the motion and order the court-appointed attorney to file a brief arguing legal points identified by the court, or grant the motion and appoint substitute appellate counsel.[10]

         Discussion

         Defendant's appellate counsel asserts that, after a detailed review of the record, she could find no non-frivolous issues to raise on appeal. Appellate counsel avers that, before accepting defendant's guilty plea to four counts of armed robbery with a firearm, the trial court explained to defendant the legal consequences of his pleas and the rights necessary to ensure a knowing and intelligent waiver of rights. She also states that the trial court informed defendant of the actual sentences that would be imposed. Further, defendant was ...


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