FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 525-332,
SECTION "0" Honorable Laurie A. White, Judge
Cannizzaro District Attorney Donna Andrieu Kyle Daly DISTRICT
ATTORNEY'S OFFICE ORLEANS PARISH COUNSEL FOR
Constance Hanes LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, Tavis Leonard
Pro Se COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT
composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano,
Judge Dale N. Atkins
COSSICH LOBRANO JUDGE
Tavis Leonard ("Defendant"), appeals his
convictions for second degree murder, armed robbery, and
attempted manslaughter. After reviewing the record and
applicable law, we affirm Defendant's convictions.
25, 2015, the State indicted Defendant for the second degree
murders of Charles Meyers (count 1) and Michael Meyers (count
4); the attempted second degree murders of Christopher Dorsey
(count 2) and Torran Stewart (count 5); and the armed robbery
of Christopher Dorsey and Charles Meyers (count 3). Defendant
pled not guilty to all charges.
State elected to go to trial on counts 1, 2, and 3, only. The
trial lasted two days and concluded with Defendant being
found guilty as charged on counts 1 and 3, and guilty to the
lesser charge of attempted manslaughter on count 2.
Defendant's motion for new trial was denied.
was sentenced to life imprisonment without benefit of parole,
probation, or suspension of sentence (count 1); twenty years
at hard labor (count 2); and ninety-nine years without
benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence, plus
five-years enhancement (count 3). The sentences were to be
served concurrently, with the exception of the five-year
firearm enhancement, which would be served consecutively to
the other sentences.
motion for appeal was granted the same day.
trial testimony of co-defendant, Wade Reed, established the
chronology of events of the March 26, 2014, the date of the
crime in question.
recalled that on March 25, 2014, Defendant, a close friend,
solicited his participation in a plan to rob Christopher
Dorsey. Reed said Dorsey's house was targeted because
Defendant was aware, through Jonathan Holmes that Dorsey was a
drug dealer and kept large amounts of cash in his home.
following day, Defendant, driving a white Volkswagen Beetle
which he borrowed the night before from his friend, arrived
at Reed's house. Reed and Defendant then drove to
Dorsey's Briarheath Drive residence, arriving at about
8:00 a.m. They sat in the car for about an hour until Dorsey
and his family left the residence.
and Defendant went around the corner and jumped the back
fence. However, Dorsey returned to his residence sooner than
Wade and Defendant expected. Dorsey drove his vehicle into
the backyard, where he was approached by the armed Defendant.
Dorsey exited the truck and relinquished a "brick"
of cocaine he was carrying. Defendant took Dorsey's house
key and, while Defendant was walking to the front door,
Charles Meyers drove up in his truck. Defendant removed
Meyers from his vehicle at gunpoint and forced him into the
backyard with Dorsey.
opened the front door and admitted Defendant, Dorsey, and
Meyers. By that time, Holmes had arrived and was admitted to
the residence. While Defendant and Holmes searched the house
for drugs and money, Reed confiscated cash concealed in
told Reed he had $90, 000 stashed in a sock hidden in a wall
in the attic. Defendant retrieved the cash. Defendant then
made Dorsey call his father, also a drug dealer, and request
$250, 000. At the same time, Reed and Holmes removed
electronic equipment from the house and loaded it into the
Volkswagen. All of the men left the house through the back
door and entered Dorsey's black Avalanche truck. Reed
tied Dorsey's and Meyers' hands behind their backs,
got into the driver's seat, and confiscated the gun
Dorsey kept in his truck. Dorsey sat next to Reed. Defendant,
Meyers, and Holmes rode in the rear seat. As Reed drove down
Hayne Boulevard, Holmes and Meyers began fighting over a gun.
Reed stopped the truck because he feared being shot in the
tussle. In the confusion, Meyers jumped out of the truck and
ran. Holmes pursued Meyers, shooting at him. While Holmes
shot at Meyers, Dorsey reached for Reed's weapon. As they
grappled over the gun, Dorsey was shot once in the head and
slumped over. At that point, Defendant jumped from the rear
seat of the truck and ran to a waiting vehicle. Believing
Dorsey was dead, Reed exited the truck. As Reed walked away,
he heard the truck door close and saw Dorsey driving away
without them. Reed fired at the truck. Eventually, Reed and
Holmes walked home.
recalled that of all the money and drugs he, Defendant, and
Holmes had taken from Dorsey, he received only $5, 000.00,
with an unfulfilled promise of more from Defendant. Reed also
testified that Defendant's stepfather and
step-grandfather had been murdered in January 2015.
identified State's Exhibit 4 as the surveillance video
from Dorsey's residence. While the video was played for
the jury, Reed narrated the recording, identifying the people
seen in the recording and explaining the activity depicted.
Detective Rayell Johnson, lead investigator in this case,
arrived on the scene at 11700 Hayne Boulevard at
approximately 10:00 a.m. on March 26, 2014. Johnson saw
Meyers' body lying in the middle of the street. Several
gunshot wounds were visible on the body. A bullet-riddled
black Avalanche truck was parked a short distance away.
Dorsey, who suffered a single gunshot wound to the head, had
already been transported to the hospital.
casings from .40 caliber and 9mm caliber ammunition were
collected from the scene. The .40 caliber shells were found
close to Myers' body and the 9mm casings were located
near the intersection of Arcadia Lane and Hayne Boulevard.
Ballistics testing showed that the 9mm ammunition was fired
by Reed as he shot at Dorsey fleeing in a black truck.
processing the scene, Johnson relocated to the hospital and
spoke to Dorsey, who was unable to identify his assailants.
However, Dorsey related the facts of the crimes consistent
with Reed's testimony. The detective learned from Dorsey
that Dorsey's Briarheath residence was a crime scene.
Johnson identified photographs of the interior of the
residence, showing the house had been ransacked. Johnson
retrieved the home surveillance video, which was played for
the jury. Johnson recalled that the events depicted in the
video matched what Reed told him.
his investigation, that led to the development of Defendant,
Reed, and Holmes as suspects, Johnson traced the ownership of
the white Volkswagen Beetle seen in the home surveillance
video to Defendant's friend's mother. Johnson spoke
with the friend, who identified Defendant as the person to
whom she loaned the vehicle. The friend said Defendant
returned the car the day after the shooting.
testified that Reed and Holmes were identified by Dorsey from
six-person photo lineups. However, Johnson was never able to
present a photo line-up to Dorsey that included
obtained Defendant's cell phone number from the friend
and arranged to take a statement from him at Police
Headquarters. In his statement, Defendant admitted that he
and Reed were friends, although he did not associate with
him. Further, he denied knowing anything about the murder of
Meyers and the attempted murder of Dorsey. Defendant said he
lived in Kenner and his stepfather, Desmond Lange, lived in
Gentilly, so he had no reason to go to New Orleans East.
subpoenaed Defendant's cell phone records to track its
activity at the time of the armed robbery and
shooting. Those records indicated that for two
minutes prior to and two minutes after the murder,
Defendant's cell phone "pinged" off the Sprint
tower at Hayne Boulevard and Bullard Avenue, approximately
two blocks from the scene of the murder. Moreover, the cell
phone records indicated that Defendant's phone pinged off
a cell tower in New Orleans East approximately twenty times
during the time frame of the armed robbery and murder. The
State played Defendant's statement in which Defendant
denied knowledge of, and any involvement in, the incident,
except to say he procured legal counsel for Reed.
friend testified she had known Defendant for a few months by
March of 2014. She knew Reed to be Defendant's friend. On
the evening of March 25, 2014, she agreed to lend Defendant
her white Volkswagen Beetle. He arranged to meet her at
school to pick up the car. He said he needed the car for work
and returned it to her the following afternoon. When
Defendant returned the car, he told her something went
"bad" and that: "If the police come looking
for me [Defendant], tell them you don't know me."
She identified her white Volkswagen parked in the driveway at
7458 Briarheath Drive when it appeared in the video
surveillance. She was very upset when she learned Defendant
used her car to commit a robbery.
Parish Detective Paul Durnin was assigned to the Criminal
Intelligence Center (CIC) based in Jefferson Parish. Durnin
explained that the CIC was composed of seventeen New Orleans
law enforcement agencies which shared resources and
intelligence in crime fighting. Durnin specialized in cell
phone historical record analysis, such as the time, date, and
duration of a cell phone call, the number was called, and the
identification of the cell tower through which the call was
performed an historical record analysis on Defendant's
phone to determine the location of it for the time period of
March 26, 2014, from 7:06 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. Durnin's
report of his analysis indicated that the cell phone used the
Sprint Tower cell phone tower 5600, located at the
intersection of Hayne Boulevard and Bullard Avenue twenty-six
times during the specified time period. The records analysis
also showed that two minutes prior to the homicide,
Defendant's cell phone made an outgoing call, and that
three minutes after the homicide, Defendant's phone
received an incoming call. The calls made and received in the
five-minute period of time used Sprint Tower 5700.
Acosta, a firearms examiner for the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms, was accepted as an expert in ballistics
examination and identification. Acosta inspected ballistic
evidence collected at the scene and generated a report of her
findings. Acosta examined twelve .40 caliber shell casings
and ten 9mm casings. Her testing revealed that two weapons
were used in the shootings, and that all of the .40 caliber
shell casings were discharged by the same weapon and the 9mm
casings were fired by a different gun.
Samantha Huber, Chief Forensic Pathologist for the New
Orleans coroner's office, performed an autopsy on
Meyer's body and authored a report documenting her
findings. According to Huber, the victim sustained eight
gunshot wounds, two of which were fatal: one of the bullets
pierced the victim's lungs and trachea, while the other
hit the stomach, small bowel and liver. Those wounds caused
the victim to bleed to death.
testified he was twenty-two years old, lived in New Orleans
his entire life and graduated from high school. He said
although he referred to Desmond Lange as he his father, Lange
was actually his stepfather. Defendant said that at the time
of his arrest, he was working for Coca Cola and Central
Parking on Poydras and Camp Streets in downtown New Orleans.
gave a statement to Johnson. He said Reed was a friend he had
known for about seven years. Defendant denied any involvement
in these incidents. When questioned about the white
Volkswagen, Defendant claimed his friend requested that he
take her car because she was spending the night before this
incident on campus and did not have a parking pass to allow
her to park her car there. She picked him up at his
residence; they drove to the campus, and he drove her car to
his stepfather's residence in Gentilly. Sometime later,
Reed needed a ride, so Defendant loaned him the Volkswagen,
which Reed returned to Defendant the following day. Defendant
claimed he had forgotten his cell phone in the Volkswagen but
that Reed returned it with the vehicle.
Reed returned the Volkswagen, Reed told Defendant something
bad happened and that, if the police came looking for him,
Defendant should say he did not know Reed. In turn, Defendant
repeated what Reed told him when he returned the car to his
friend and advised her to deny knowing Reed if the police
long after Defendant spoke to Johnson, Defendant's
stepfather and step-grandfather were murdered. Defendant
blamed their deaths on the fact someone knew he had spoken to
the police and that the murders were committed as