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State v. Andrews

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 6, 2019



          Annette Fuller Roach COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Jarrett Andrews

          Hon. Keith A. Stutes COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Burleigh G. Doga COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D. Saunders, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.


         Defendant, Jarrett Andrews, was charged by indictment filed on March 12, 2013, with second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1. Trial by jury commenced on October 10, 2017, and Defendant was found guilty as charged on October 11, 2017. Sentencing was held on October 16, 2017, and Defendant received a sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. Defendant orally moved for reconsideration of his sentence, which was denied. A written motion to reconsider was filed on October 25, 2017, and was found moot on November 9, 2017. A motion for appeal and designation of record was filed on November 13, 2017, which was subsequently granted.

         Defendant is now before this court asserting that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for second degree murder. For the following reasons, we affirm.


         In accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, all appeals are reviewed by for errors patent on the face of the record. After reviewing the record, we find no errors patent present.


         Defendant was convicted of the October 13, 2012 killing of Nathaniel Wiltz. In his only assignment of error, Defendant contends the State failed to prove that he had the specific intent to kill Wiltz, which is required to satisfy the elements of second degree murder and manslaughter. Defendant argues that Wiltz's death was caused by the careless handling of a firearm and constituted negligent homicide. Thus, it is his contention that this court should enter a verdict of negligent homicide and remand the matter for resentencing.

The standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the evidence claim is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305 (La.1988). A determination of the weight of evidence is a question of fact, resting solely with the trier of fact who may accept or reject, in whole or in part, the testimony of any witnesses. State v. Silman, 95-0154 (La.11/27/95), 663 So.2d 27, 35. A reviewing court may impinge on the factfinding function of the jury only to the extent necessary to assure the Jackson standard of review. State v. Bordenave, 95-2328 (La.4/26/96), 678 So.2d 19, 20. It is not the function of an appellate court to assess credibility or re-weigh the evidence. Id.

State v. Macon, 06-481, pp. 7-8 (La. 6/1/07), 957 So.2d 1280, 1285-86

         Second degree murder, a violation of La.R.S. 14:30.1(A)(1), is the killing of a human being "[w]hen the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm[.]" Specific criminal intent is defined as "that state of mind which exists when the circumstances indicate that the offender actively desired the prescribed criminal consequences to follow his act or failure to act." La.R.S. 14:10(1). "Specific intent may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the offense and the conduct of the defendant." State v. Bishop, 01-2548, p. 4 (La. 1/14/03), 835 So.2d 434, 437.

         The State called four witnesses to prove its case against Defendant. The first witness was Dr. Terry Welke, who was accepted as an expert in forensic pathology. Dr. Welke performed an autopsy on Wiltz on October 15, 2012. Wiltz was five feet ten inches tall and weighed 178 pounds. Wiltz had scrapes above the left eyebrow and on the right side of the chest and had been shot four times. There were four entrance wounds and one exit wound on Wiltz's body. The entrance wounds were located below the left collarbone, in the back of the neck, and on the left outer back. There was another entrance wound to the back of the left shoulder and an exit wound at the top of the shoulder. The wound to the neck caused injuries to the head and brain, and the wound to the left back caused a broken rib and went through the lung, as well as the aorta. There was no gun powder residue present on Wiltz's body. Dr. Welke recovered three small caliber bullets from Wiltz's body that he thought were consistent with a .22 caliber bullet. There were no illicit drugs or alcohol in Wiltz's system.

         Dr. Welke was questioned about the gunshot wounds as follows:

Q. Okay. If you're presented, hypothetically, with some situation where someone says that the gunshots or gunshot wounds were caused, at least once, by a gun discharging while in that person's pocket; based upon that . . .
. . . .
Q. Is that consistent with your findings in this report?
A. No.
Q. Okay. And if another allegation is that, hypothetically, is that a gun discharged either one (1) or more times as a result of dropping it on the ground, is that consistent with your findings of the entrance and at least one (1) exit wound?
A. No, sir.

         Referring to his report, Dr. Welke testified that the trajectory of the gunshot to the back of the neck was "'from back to front and upwards with no significant left/right deviation.'" In addressing the shot to the left collarbone, Dr. Welke stated the "'trajectory [was] from right to left, front to back and slightly upwards.'" The trajectory of the wound to the left outer back was "'back to front, left to right, and upwards.'" The trajectory of the shot to the left outer shoulder was "'from left to right, and upwards with no significant front/back deviation.'"

         The autopsy report listed a three-quarter inch scrape on the left forehead and a one-fourth inch abrasion on the right outer chest. The injuries were not healing, so Dr. Welke stated he "imagine[d]" they occurred "sometime just prior to death." He did not know if they occurred prior to or after the gunshot wounds.

         Brandy Miller lived at the Kennedy Apartments in Iota, Louisiana. At approximately 4:00 or 5:00 on October 13, 2012, she heard what she thought were fireworks. Miller opened her door quickly and spoke to some boys who were playing, but they were not making the noise. She then described what she saw at Merdina Ledet's apartment: "I saw a man across from us, our apartment, laying on the sidewalk by the front door. And another man running in and then running out and then speeding off." Miller saw Merdina over the man on the sidewalk shaking him, crying, and screaming for him to wake up. The man who was running went into the apartment for a few seconds, came back out, got into Merdina's car, and drove off. Miller described him as a "short to medium size black man." Miller identified Defendant as the man she saw running.

         Detective Dennis Fruge testified that Wiltz was found just outside the front door of the apartment to which he had been dispatched. Four .22 caliber shell casings were found inside the front room of the residence. However, no gun was found at the location.

         Detective Fruge indicated that Defendant was arrested on October 13, 2012, and was interviewed by him after Defendant was advised of and waived his rights. During that interview, Defendant admitted that he shot Wiltz. Detective Fruge testified that Defendant said, "He shot him once in the arm, and then when Mr. Wiltz was running out of the apartment he shot him again when he fell down, the pistol went off." Defendant did not state that Wiltz attacked him; he did not reveal that either he or Wiltz were under the influence of drugs or alcohol; nor did he claim that someone else shot Wiltz. There were no allegations of a physical altercation. Defendant referred to the victim as "Trevon."[1]

         In his interview with Detective Fruge, Defendant stated that he had a child with Merdina, and Wiltz had a child with Micha.[2] Defendant was questioned by Detective Fruge as follows:


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