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State v. Woods

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 19, 2018



          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Andrea F. Long Douglas W. Freese Andrew Decoste


          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Marc E. Johnson, and Robert A. Chaisson


         Defendant/Appellant, Corey Woods, appeals his consecutive 50-year sentences for his convictions of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance and habitual offender adjudication from the 24th Judicial District Court, Division "L". For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's convictions and adjudication, affirm the enhanced sentence, vacate the underlying sentences on counts two and three, and remand the matter to the trial court for resentencing on those two counts.


         On February 23, 2017, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed a bill of information charging Defendant with three counts of distribution of heroin in violation of La. R.S. 40:966(A) (counts one through three), possession with intent to distribute heroin in violation of La. R.S. 40:966(A) (count four), and possession with intent to distribute marijuana in violation of La. R.S. 40:966(A) (count five). Defendant was arraigned on February 24, 2017, and pleaded not guilty. On November 9, 2017, the trial judge denied Defendant's motions to suppress identification and evidence after a hearing.

         On December 5, 2017, the State severed counts four and five.[1] On that same date, Defendant was tried on counts one through three before a 12-person jury. At trial, Deputy Misty Favalora with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office (JPSO) testified that prior to attending the police academy, she worked as an undercover narcotics agent in the JPSO narcotics division. She further testified that she made three different purchases of heroin from Defendant on January 10, 17, and 19, 2017. Deputy Favalora explained that she recorded the transactions using audio and video equipment that was either on her person or in something she was carrying and that other officers were nearby monitoring her for safety reasons.

         Deputy Favalora stated that during undercover narcotics purchases, she tries to capture the suspect's face and if she cannot, she tries her best to get audio of the transaction. She testified that with respect to the January 17th and 19th transactions, she was able to capture Defendant's face. Deputy Favalora noted that the video from January 10th showed narcotics on the seat and Defendant in the vehicle, but it did not show Defendant handing her the money. She acknowledged that the video from January 17th did not show Defendant receiving the money or her handing him the money, and it did not show narcotics being passed from him to her. Deputy Favalora stated that the video from January 19th did not show money or narcotics being passed between the two of them. Nevertheless, she maintained that Defendant did, in fact, sell her heroin on those three occasions. Deputy Favalora positively identified Defendant in a photographic lineup after the January 10thtransaction as the individual whom she purchased the heroin from. She stated that Defendant also sold her heroin on January 17th and 19th.

         JPSO Agent Sean Williams testified that he was the lead agent on those cases and that he and other officers monitored those transactions. He explained that they conducted more than one controlled purchase because they wanted to ensure that Defendant was a heroin distributor. Agent Williams further explained that he was given a phone number that was later determined to belong to Defendant and that they used that phone number to contact Defendant to set up the narcotics purchases using marked currency. Agent Williams testified that at the time of his arrest, Defendant was in possession of approximately $730 or $750 and that drugs were found "stashed" outside of Defendant's house.

         Sandy Lee and Brian Schulz testified that they were forensic drug analysts with the JPSO crime lab. The trial judge accepted them as experts in the analysis and identification of controlled dangerous substances. They testified that the substances that they tested in connection with the instant case were found to contain heroin.

         At the conclusion of the trial, the jury unanimously found Defendant guilty as charged. On December 14, 2017, the State filed a habitual offender bill of information, alleging Defendant to be a fourth-felony offender. On February 1, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion for New Trial and for Post-Verdict Judgment of Acquittal, which was denied after a hearing on February 2, 2018. Thereafter, on February 2, 2018, Defendant waived sentencing delays, and the trial judge sentenced him to imprisonment at hard labor for 50 years each on counts one, two, and three to run consecutively. The trial judge also ordered the first ten years of each sentence to be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Afterward, on that same date, Defendant denied the allegations of the habitual offender bill.

         On February 27, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for appeal and motion to reconsider sentence.[2] On March 1, 2018, Defendant stipulated to being a second-felony offender, after which the trial judge vacated the original sentence on count one and resentenced Defendant under the habitual offender bill statute to imprisonment at hard labor for 50 years without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence to run consecutively to the sentences on counts two and three. On March 2, 2018, the trial judge granted the previously filed motion for appeal and denied the motion to reconsider sentence. The instant appeal followed.

         ASSIGNMENT ...

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