Appeal from the 17th Judicial District Court,
Parish of Lafourche, State of Louisiana Trial Court No.
528713 The Honorable Walter L Lanier III, Judge Presiding
Kristine Russell District Attorney Joseph S. Soignet
Assistant District Attorney Thibodaux, Louisiana Attorneys
for Plaintiff/Appellee, State of Louisiana
Gwendolyn K. Brown Attorney for Defendant/Appellant, Baton
Rouge, Louisiana Toronzo Thompkins
BEFORE: McDONALD, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.
defendant, Toronzo Thompkins, was convicted of second degree
murder and negligent homicide. For second degree murder, he
was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without
benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence, and
for negligent homicide, he was sentenced to five years at
hard labor, with the sentences ordered to run concurrently.
The defendant appeals, challenging the trial court's
denial of post-trial motions. We affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
September 22, 2013, Nikki Landry and Henry Lefort were found
in Landry's apartment, both dead from multiple gunshot
wounds. At that time, the defendant was incarcerated waiting
for trial to begin the next day on a drug-related offense.
Landry, a confidential informant for the Lafourche Parish
Drug Task Force, was to testify for the state at the
defendant's trial. Landry's identity had been kept
confidential until earlier that month when the trial court
ordered it disclosed. After being convicted of the
drug-related offense, the defendant bragged to the Drug Task
Force supervisor that the supreme court would throw his case
out because the state had no witness.
the police investigation of the double homicide, the
defendant's son, Traveyon Blackledge, was arrested, and
later convicted, on two counts of second degree murder.
See State v. Blackledge, 17-1130, 2018WL913745
(La.App. 1 Cir. 2/16/18), writ denied, 18-0433 (La.
10/29/18), 254 So.3d 1208. Although he was incarcerated at
the time of the murders, the defendant was also a suspect
because the confidential informant was killed the day before
his drug trial was to begin. Telephone calls the defendant
made in the days preceding the murders established the
defendant sought to have Landry killed to prevent her from
testifying against him at his drug trial. The recorded calls
were played for the jury at the defendant's murder trial.
The state argued the defendant used coded language in the
recordings to order Blackledge to kill Landry, and that
Lefort was killed at Landry's apartment simply because he
was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The defendant was
convicted as a principal in the second degree murder of Nikki
Landry and the negligent killing of Harry Lefort.
appeal, the defendant solely challenges the trial court's
denial of his post-trial motions for new trial and disclosure
of a juror's identity. In the motions, the defendant
argued that during trial he encountered a juror in the
hallway while law enforcement officers were escorting him to
the bathroom. The defendant asserted the juror could see and
hear the officers guarding him and ordering persons to clear
the hallway. The defendant claimed he was handcuffed, his
legs may have been shackled under his clothing, and the
officers referred to him as the "prisoner" or
"inmate" in front of the juror. The defendant
argued for a new trial because his "right to be brought
into court with the appearance, dignity[, ] and self-respect
of a free and innocent man [was] violated before a member of
the jury standing in judgment prior to jury deliberation and
verdict." In a companion motion, the defendant sought
the name and address of the juror he encountered so he could
subpoena her to appear and testily about the manner and
degree the encounter affected her verdict.
hearing on the motions, the state argued the jurors'
identities were not hidden from the defendant at trial, and
the juror he encountered in the hallway could have been
identified if an objection had been timely made. The trial
court denied the motion to disclose the juror's identity,
noting the trial involved the defendant's jailhouse
telephone calls, which made it apparent to the jury the
defendant was incarcerated. The trial court emphasized there
was no contemporaneous objection about the hallway encounter,
which prevented the trial court from addressing the issue,
including possibly using an alternate juror. The trial court
also noted no juror had come forward to raise the issue.
the advice of counsel, the defendant testified in support of
the motion for new trial. He described his version of the
juror encounter and said he told his attorney about the
incident when he returned to his seat. According to the
defendant, that attorney advised he would "make the
argument." The defendant said he told his second
attorney about the incident after realizing the first
attorney was not raising the issue. The defendant said he
knew he was not in a position to object himself and feared he
would "miss [his] argument." The defendant
testified the second attorney (who represented the defendant
at the hearing on the motion for new trial) said he would
make the objection but did not.
counsel argued a new trial should be granted because the
evidence in no way placed the defendant at the murder scene.
The trial strategy was to let the jury know the defendant was
incarcerated, making incarceration an alibi. Defense counsel
also argued the jailhouse recordings did not include ...