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State v. Boyette

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 16, 2019


          Appealed from the Third Judicial District Court for the Parish of Union, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2014-F-0051695 Honorable Cynthia T. Woodard, Judge

          LOUIS G. SCOTT Counsel for Appellant

          JEFFREY M. LANDRY Attorney General Counsel for Appellee

          PAMELA S. MORAN WINSTON E. WHITE COLIN CLARK Assistant Attorneys General

          Before PITMAN, COX, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          PITMAN, J.

         A jury convicted Defendant Darandall Boyette of armed robbery with a firearm. The trial court sentenced him as a habitual offender to 99 years at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. Defendant appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's conviction and sentence.


         On October 7, 2014, the state filed a bill of information charging Defendant with armed robbery with a firearm. On February 21, 2017, the state filed an amended bill of information and alleged that on or about September 3, 2014, Defendant committed an armed robbery of Chastity Williams[1] when the dangerous weapon used in the commission of the crime of armed robbery was a firearm.

         On May 26, 2016, a district judge signed an order recusing the district attorney for the Third Judicial District and his office from the prosecution of this case and appointing the Attorney General's Office as the prosecutor.

         On September 14, 2016, Defendant filed a pro se motion to suppress evidence obtained through the search of his father's house. He stated that law enforcement conducted a warrantless search after allegedly receiving verbal consent to search from his father. He contended that the search of his bedroom, during which law enforcement found six $100 bills under the mattress, was made without his consent. He argued that the search of an outdoor shed, during which law enforcement found a pair of black Nike tennis shoes and white gloves, was not made with his father's consent because he only consented to the search of the "residence." A hearing on the motion to suppress was held on September 19, 2016. The trial court denied the motion after finding that the state had met its burden of proof that the consent to search was freely and voluntarily given.

         The trial began on March 27, 2017. Chastity Williams testified that in 2014 she lived with her boyfriend, Roderick Hillard, at 121 Williams Street in Marion, Louisiana. She noted that she had known Defendant for a few years and showed on a map that the house where he lived on Alice Street was a five-minute walk from her house. She stated that Defendant visited her house often and had been there the day before the robbery.

         Williams further testified that at approximately 3:00 a.m. on September 3, 2014, she and Hillard were asleep in their bedroom and were awakened when two intruders turned on the lights and pulled them out of bed. She stated that the suspects entered her home through a window into the second bedroom. She noted that the window was closed when she went to bed but was open after the robbery. She explained that she kept a stick in the top part of the window to lock it.

         Williams described one intruder as wearing a black hoodie, dark jeans and brown Timberland boots and having something white over his head. This person went through her belongings in her closet. She described the other intruder as wearing dark jeans and black Nike tennis shoes and had a bandana and sunglasses on his face with a hood on his head. She testified that this person stood in the hallway and waved a black automatic handgun at her and Hillard. She noticed the intruders' shoes because they made her and Hillard lie on the floor during the robbery. She identified the tennis shoes seized during the search of Defendant's father's house as the same type as those worn by one of the intruders. Both intruders wore white cotton gloves.

         Williams further testified that the boot-wearing intruder went through a pair of her pants that were on the bedroom floor and took $1, 300 from them. She explained that Hillard told the intruders where the money was, but she did not give them permission to take the money. The boot-wearing intruder grabbed Hillard, tried to tie him up and walked him toward the bathroom. She was afraid the intruders would shoot Hillard in the bathroom, so she grabbed him and he broke free of his restraints. Hillard then exited the house through a window because he heard someone outside. The tennis shoe-wearing intruder hit her on the head with the gun and then fled. She grabbed the other intruder around the neck and chased him out of the house with a beer bottle. She followed the intruders outside and saw them run away from the house. She then went inside and could not locate her cell phone, so she went to Hillard's grandmother's house to call the police. She estimated that the robbery lasted 20 to 25 minutes.

         Williams also testified that she told the 9-1-1 operator that "Darandall and Pee Wee just robbed me." She identified "Darandall" as Defendant and "Pee Wee" as Nicholas Crow. She explained that even though she did not see their faces during the robbery, she was able to identify them.

         Williams stated that she had received communication from Defendant since the robbery and that she spoke to his brother, Brent. She testified that she had the following text exchange, dated June 12, [2] with Defendant:

DEFENDANT: Look dis Ran I just won't to say that I'm sorry for wat I did and I kick myself in the ass everyday for it but I can't change the past but I won't u to know that Im truly sorry and if u could, could u please help me out by writing that affidavit for me it would really help me out and tell Rod I said my bad, just wonted u to know that I was sorry
WILLIAMS: I told Brent I would then I started thankn about Wt gne happen after…is it gne b beef an Shyt after the fact…an will it help peewee to…he ddnt give me a clear enough answer he said peewee told or some[3]
DEFENDANT: Peewee get out next month but I'm still going to court because they trying to fuck over me but no it won't be no beef at all when I get out. Wat me and peewee did was a mistake and I'm sorry, it was the drug chat, Rod is my dog and I would never fuck over anybody I fuck with. But yea peewee told so now I'm fightin for my life chat and I really need u
WILLIAMS: Ill. get back in touch with Brent…he said he would type it up and I just sign…I hate to see anybody in jail but I was pissed off I was tryna get a car to I called the police without thanking twice.
DEFENDANT: Thanks chat and once again I'm sorry

         Williams noted that Defendant's nickname is "Ran," and hers is "Chat." She explained that Defendant's brother asked her to sign an affidavit saying she was not positive that Defendant was one of the persons who robbed her. She testified, however, that she knew Defendant was the person who robbed her and was the person who sent the above text messages. On cross-examination, she stated that she did not have the phone number of the person who sent her the above text messages saved in her phone and conceded that it is possible for someone to send a text message using someone else's name.

         Williams further testified that she did not believe Hillard was in on the robbery and that he told the intruders that the money was in her pants to get them to leave. She believed that Hillard did not want to call the police the night of the robbery because he did not want to turn in a friend.

         Chief of Police Mark Dodd of the Marion Police Department testified that at 3:34 a.m. on September 3, 2014, he was dispatched to 104 Andrews Street on a domestic disturbance call involving Jeremy Andrews. Chief Dodd stated that he was told that Andrews had left the residence just before he arrived.

         Chief Dodd testified that at 3:50 a.m., he received a call that an armed robbery had taken place at 121 Williams Street, which was approximately 200 yards from 104 Andrews Street. He then went to 121 Williams Street and met Chastity Williams, who identified the robbers as Defendant and Crow. She told him that she is related to Crow and that Defendant and Crow had been at her house that day. She described what the intruders were wearing and stated that Defendant wore black Nike high top tennis shoes and Crow wore boots. Chief Dodd investigated the scene of the crime and noted that the inside of the house was "a mess" and that Williams's detailed description matched what he observed. She told him that the robbers entered her house through a window, and he observed two sets of shoeprints beneath this window-one appearing to be made by tennis shoes and the other by deep-lugged boots. He also observed the shoeprints at the back door.

         Chief Dodd further testified that he then went to 359 Alice Street, which is a trailer belonging to Defendant's father, Lugene Boyette ("Lugene"), because Defendant was known to stay there. He knocked on the door; Crow answered and told him that he had been asleep. Because Williams had told him that a weapon was involved in the crime, he placed Crow in handcuffs and advised him of his rights. He then observed someone lying on the couch, completely covered by a blanket. He drew his weapon and ordered the person under the blanket to show his hands, which he did. He identified this person as Defendant. He also testified that another officer found Andrews hiding in the trailer.

         Chief Dodd then knocked on Lugene's bedroom door. When Lugene exited the bedroom, Chief Dodd informed him that Defendant and Crow had been implicated in an armed robbery and requested permission to search the house for evidence from the crime. Lugene gave him permission to search. He asked which room was Defendant's, and Defendant told him. He seized six $100 bills that he found under the mattress in Defendant's bedroom and then searched the rest of the trailer.

         Chief Dodd also testified that he walked outside the trailer and observed shoeprints coming from Alice Street onto Lugene's property. He noted that these shoeprints matched the shoeprints he saw at 121 Williams Street. He followed these shoeprints-the shoeprints made by the boots went toward the front of the trailer, and the shoeprints made by the tennis shoes led to a shed behind the trailer. The shed had no door, and Chief Dodd entered the shed and found a pair of black Nike tennis shoes with white gloves stuffed inside them. The state introduced into evidence photographs of the shoeprints taken by him on the night of the robbery at 121 Williams Street and 359 Alice Street. He testified that the shoeprints of the tennis shoes have a distinct zig-zag pattern and that this pattern matched the tread pattern of the Nike tennis shoes found in the shed. He noted that it had rained earlier in the evening.

         Chief Dodd further testified that he obtained DNA buccal swabs from Defendant and Crow and sent the tennis shoes and the gloves to a crime lab. The state and defense stipulated that a crime lab analyst was unable to find the presence of amplifiable human DNA on the tennis shoes or the gloves.

         On cross-examination, Chief Dodd testified that he had one day of basic training on footprint analysis. He also stated that no weapon was found on Lugene's property.

         Robert Foley, a forensic document examiner, testified that he compared handwriting exemplars written by Defendant to an unsigned letter sent to Judge Cynthia Woodard, received by her on July 9, 2015. Foley read part of the letter in court: "I know you receive letters all the time from people claiming they didn't do the crime they're charged with. I'm not like that. I did play a part in the robbery, but there's more to it-there's more people involved that should be in jail, as well."[4] Foley testified that the person who wrote the letter was the same person who provided the handwriting exemplar, i.e., Defendant.

         Lugene testified for the defense. He stated that when he went to bed the night of the robbery, which was around 11:30 p.m., Defendant was asleep on the couch. He next saw Defendant when the police knocked on his bedroom door. He stated that Defendant worked at a saw mill and kept his earnings under his mattress in his bedroom and was saving to buy a car. He did not recall any other people being at his house that day or when he went to sleep, but stated that Crow and Andrews were there when he woke up. On cross-examination, he testified that he was not sure if Defendant left the house that night, but he did not hear anyone coming or going after he went to sleep.

         Defendant elected to testify on his own behalf. He stated that he worked from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. the day before the robbery. He earned about $300 a week working at a saw mill, had no expenses and kept his earnings in his room. He testified that after work, he spent time at his father's house with his friends, including Crow, Andrews, Hillard and several others. Defendant noted that he grew up with Hillard and went to the house on Williams Street often, including the day before the robbery. He claimed that his friends had gone to 121 Williams Street several times before to buy drugs. He testified that the people at his house discussed the robbery, but he was not part of the planning and did not suggest that anyone commit the robbery. He thought the robbery discussion was "a joke" and that it would not be carried out. He stated that he did not commit the armed robbery and that the statement in his letter to Judge Woodard was not a confession. He confirmed that he had a pair of Nike tennis shoes, but the shoes found during the investigation were not his. He admitted that he had been convicted of a felony four or five times. He was aware that Crow implicated him in the robbery, but had retracted his statement. He denied texting Williams and stated that he did not have a cell phone while in jail.

         On cross-examination, Defendant testified that he was smoking marijuana and snorting cocaine at his father's house the evening before the robbery and that the people at the house bought the drugs from Hillard and Williams. He noted that there were a lot of people coming and going that night and that Andrews was the last to leave around 3:00 a.m. He assumed Andrews was going home to 104 Andrews Street. He stated that Crow was staying at his house and left around 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. and was back before the police arrived around 4:00 a.m. He stated that Andrews came back about ten minutes before the police officers arrived. When questioned about the discrepancy between his and Lugene's testimonies about who was at the house the night of the robbery, Defendant stated that Lugene forgot or "got the timing wrong."

         Defendant denied sending text messages to Williams, but he confirmed that his nickname is "Rand," that Hillard's nickname is "Rod," that Crow's nickname is "Pee Wee" and that he has a brother named Brent. He stated that he does not call Williams by her nickname, "Chat." He testified that he had been in jail since he was arrested for the robbery. He stated that people in jail had been caught with cell phones, including someone in his dorm. He also testified that Williams was mistaken about his being one of the robbers.

         Defendant further testified that the $600 found in his room was his money that he had saved. He noted that it had rained the night of the robbery and that it was easy to hide things in the woods and culverts in the area. He testified that he did not write a letter to Cade Nolan, a police officer.

         Defendant also testified that he was aware Crow had pled guilty to aggravated burglary. The state introduced into evidence a transcript of Crow's guilty plea. The factual basis set forth in Crow's Boykin exam states that Crow and Defendant pulled Williams and Hillard from their bed and stole over $1, 200 and some iPhones from them while armed with a semiautomatic weapon and that Williams and Hillard ...

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