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State v. Francis

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

December 28, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
RUDY FRANCIS

          APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 443-175, SECTION "B" Honorable Tracey Flemings-Davillier, Judge.

          Leon Cannizzaro District Attorney David S. Pipes, Jr. Assistant District Attorney DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, ORLEANS PARISH COUNSEL FOR THE STATE OF LOUISIANA

          Mummi S. Ibrahim, Esq. IBRAHIM & ASSOCIATES, LLC COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT/DEFENDANT

          Court composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Tiffany G. Chase.

          Edwin A. Lombard Judge.

         The defendant, Rudy Francis, challenges his 2010 conviction for manslaughter in this out-of-time appeal. After review in light of the applicable law and arguments of the parties, we affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence.

         Relevant Facts and Procedural History

         On August 9, 2000, Larry Lawrence was murdered. On October 3, 2003, the defendant was indicted and charged with second degree murder, a violation of La. Rev. Stat. 14:30.1. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on December 9, 2001. After two mistrials, he was found guilty of manslaughter by a unanimous jury on September 16, 2010. He was sentenced to twenty-five years at hard labor with credit for time served. On appeal, this court affirmed his conviction and sentence. State v. Francis, unpub. 2011-1082 (La.App. 4 Cir. 11/7/12), 103 So.3d 746, writ denied, 2012-2575 (La. 5/3/13), 113 So.3d 209.

         The defendant applied for post-conviction relief on May 1, 2014, claiming actual innocence and that both his trial and appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance. The district court summarily denied the application and this court subsequently denied the defendant's writ application pertaining to that decision. State v. Francis, unpub. 2015-1215 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/24/15). The Louisiana Supreme Court granted writs in part and remanded the matter to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing on the defendant's claim of ineffective assistance based on appellate counsel's failure to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence and the excessiveness of his sentence. State v. Francis, 2016-0513 (La. 5/19/17), 220 So.3d 703.

         On remand, the State and the defendant agreed to an out-of-time appeal in lieu of an evidentiary hearing. This appeal followed.

         Applicable Law

         Manslaughter

         La. Rev. Stat. 14:31(A)(1) provides, in pertinent part, that manslaughter is a murder under either La. Rev. Stat. 14:30, first degree murder, or La. Rev. Stat. 14:30.1, second degree murder, but the offense is committed in sudden passion or heat of blood.

         La. Rev. Stat. 14:20(A) states that a homicide is justifiable "when committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger." There are two components necessary to invoke self-defense under Article 20(A): (1) the defendant's reasonable belief that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm; and (2) the killing of the other person is necessary to save himself from that danger. When a defendant in a homicide prosecution claims self-defense, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense. State v. Miller, 2014-0406, pp. 19-20 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/25/15), 160 So.3d 1069, 1082-1083.

         Burden of Proof

         When a defendant asserts that he acted in self-defense and his action resulted in a homicide, it is undisputed that the burden is on the State to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense. State v. Lynch, 436 So.2d 567, 569 (1983) (thus, the "issue is whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the homicide was not committed in self-defense"); see also State v. Patterson, 295 So.2d 792, 794 (it is well-settled that the defendant in homicide prosecution asserts he acted in self-defense, the burden is on the State to prove that the defendant otherwise). Where there was contradictory testimony as to essential facts, the State failed to meet its burden of disproving the defendant's self-defense claim. State v. Fenner, 1994-1498, p 8 (La.App. 4 Cir. 11/16/95), 664 So.2d 1315, 1320.[1]

         Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Pursuant to Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), this court must determine that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, "was sufficient to convince a rational trier of fact that all the elements of the crime had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Neal, 00-0674, p. 9 (La. 6/29/01), 796 So.2d 649, 657 (citations omitted). When circumstantial evidence is used to prove the commission of an offense, "assuming every fact proved that the evidence tends to prove, in order to convict, it must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence." La. Rev. Stat. 15:438. This statutory test (of La. Rev. Stat. 15:438) "works with the Jackson constitutional sufficiency test to evaluate whether all the evidence, direct and circumstantial, is sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a rational jury." Neal, 00-0674, p. 9, 796 So.2d at 657 (citation omitted). It is not a separate test from the Jackson reasonable doubt standard but, rather, it is an evidentiary guideline to facilitate appellate review of whether a rational juror could have found a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Wright, 445 So.2d 1198, 1201 (La.1984).

         A fact finder's decision concerning the credibility of a witness will not be disturbed unless it is clearly contrary to the evidence. State v. James, 2009-1188, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/24/10), 32 So.3d 993, 996.

         Error ...


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