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State ex rel. J.S.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

December 21, 2018


          On Appeal from the The Juvenile Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Trial Court No. JU112466 Honorable Anthony Graphia, Judge Presiding.

          Hillar C. Moore, III District Attorney Otha Curtis Nelson, Jr. Dylan C. Alge Baton Rouge, LA

          Katherine M. Franks Louisiana Appellate Project Madisonville, LA Attorney for Defendant -Appellant, J. S.


          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         J.S.[1] was charged by petition in juvenile court with accessory after the fact in the commission of attempted first degree murder, a violation of La. R.S. 14:30, La. R.S. 14:27, and La. R.S. 14:25 (count 1), and illegal possession of a firearm by a juvenile, a violation of La. R.S. 14:95.8 (count 2). J.S. denied the allegations. J.S. filed motions to suppress and quash, which the juvenile court ultimately dismissed as moot. At an adjudication hearing, following the presentation of evidence, the juvenile court adjudicated J.S. delinquent as charged on both counts, and ordered a pre-disposition report. At the disposition hearing, the juvenile court sentenced J.S. to five years in the custody of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, and ordered that J.S. be placed in a facility to address his needs. The juvenile court denied J.S.'s post-verdict motion to vacate the adjudication hearing. Although the minute extract indicated that J.S. was sentenced to serve five years on count one, as well as five years on count two to be served concurrently, on the signed "Judgment/Commitment Order," the juvenile court listed J.S.'s sentences to be five years on count 1 and six months on count 2 to be served concurrently. J.S. now appeals, designating three assignments of error. We affirm the adjudications and judgment of dispositions.


         Testimony was adduced at an adjudication hearing indicating that during the evening of March 14, 2018, J.S. and some of his friends approached another group of boys near a store in south Baton Rouge. The victim M.R., testified that J.S.'s group went by the name "BB-for-L," whereas he and his friends went by the name of "FAN." M.R. first testified that he saw one member from each group about to fight, but then clarified that he was supposed to fight one of the boys from "BB-for-L." Both M.R. and one of his friends saw N.D., a member of "BB-for-L," pull out a gun, and his friend alerted the rest of their group that N.D. had a gun. M.R.'s group began running away, and as M.R. was running, he realized that he had been shot in the shoulder from behind. M.R. testified that he heard four shots. M.R. identified J.S. in open court as one of the people present that evening, and testified that J.S. was standing behind the shooter. M.R. also noted that no one in his group had a gun, and that everyone was in relatively close proximity to each other when the shooting started, though he ran in a different direction.

         One of M.R.'s friends, D.B., also testified about that night. D.B. was familiar with J.S. and N.D. He confirmed M.R.'s version of the events, where some of the boys from "BB-for-L" sought to fight two members of "FAN." As they were about to fight, D.B. saw N.D. fire a gun, identifying it by the "sparks." D.B. testified that at that point, he fled because he did not want to get shot. D.B. also heard four gunshots as he ran away. D.B. explained that no one in their group had a gun. D.B. identified J.S. as one of the members of "BB-for-L" that was at the scene.

         S.B., younger brother of D.B., also testified. His recollection was not as clear as that of M.R. or D.B., but he did recall seeing a firearm, running away, and hearing four shots. S.B. said he saw N.D. hold the gun and pull the trigger.

         Baton Rouge Police Department Detective Joshua Brogan testified for the State. Det. Brogan investigated the crime scene and recovered four spent shell casings found in a line on the street. Det. Brogan testified that in his experience, that configuration indicated the shooter was moving either towards or away from an intended target. Upon his arrival, uniformed officers had already detained four victims at the scene, with one more being transported to the hospital. While Det. Brogan initially focused his investigation on N.D. as the perpetrator, he later developed J.S. as a suspect and interviewed him in the presence of J.S.'s mother. J.S. indicated he understood his Miranda[2] rights, and waived them by signing a waiver form. The juvenile court found J.S. knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights, and without objection admitted his statement into evidence.

         In the interview video, recorded on Det. Brogan's body camera and played for the court, J.S. admitted that he stole the gun from his sister's boyfriend, who lived in the same home. J.S. said he stole the gun in anticipation of the fight and that no one told him to bring one. The same firearm was subsequently located in J.S.'s home pursuant to a search warrant, and J.S. admitted it was the firearm used by N.D. in the shooting. J.S. also admitted to running away after the first two shots, but then stopping and waiting for N.D. to catch up. After they met back up, N.D. gave the gun back to J.S. to return it to the location from which he stole it. J.S. testified that he moved it because he felt the police would be looking for the gun soon. Det. Brogan testified that J.S. did not contact the police to report an attempted murder, but was instead only found after the detective interviewed N.D.


         In J.S.'s first two assignments of error, he contends that the State presented insufficient evidence to find him delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt of either charged offense. With regards to the accessory after the fact charge, J.S. posits that the State did not affirmatively establish that he assisted N.D. evade arrest or conviction after N.D. shot the gun four times at the fleeing boys. Moreover, J.S. argues that the State did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that N.D. committed attempted first degree murder. As for the possession of a firearm charge, J.S. asserts that there was no independent evidence to support his conviction. Specifically, and relative to both charges, J.S. claims nothing was presented to the juvenile court in support of a delinquency adjudication outside of his own uncorroborated statement to Det. Brogan. Without more, J.S. concludes, finding him delinquent on solely his ...

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