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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

February 27, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
AMANDA WILLIAMS Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 338902 Honorable Katherine Dorroh, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Carey J. Ellis, III Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          JASON WALTMAN TRENEISHA HILL Assistant District Attorneys

          Before GARRETT, COX, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.

          GARRETT, J.

         The defendant, Amanda Williams, was convicted by a unanimous jury of the second degree murder of Bryan Savage. Williams was ordered to serve the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. On appeal, she claims the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. For the following reasons, we affirm the conviction and sentence.

         FACTS

         The victim in this murder case was Bryan Savage. Williams had previously been employed by Elite Services as a sitter and sat with Savage's elderly father at Savage's home on Woolworth Road in Shreveport. In the early morning hours of February 22, 2016, firefighters responded to a fire at the home. When they entered the house, they found Savage's dead body lying face up in the living room. He had a gunshot wound to the chest. He also had wounds on his head and his body was partially burned. A garden tool was found near the body.

         It was determined that Williams and an accomplice, Cameron Lewis, broke into the house; killed Savage; took numerous items from the residence, including two safes; stole Savage's Ford F250 work truck; and set fire to the house.[1] On April 14, 2016, Williams was charged by grand jury indictment with the second degree murder of Savage.[2] On March 8, 2018, Williams was convicted as charged by a unanimous jury.

         Williams filed motions for post verdict judgment of acquittal and new trial, asserting that the evidence presented was insufficient to support her conviction and that the verdict was contrary to the law and evidence. The motions were denied and she was sentenced to serve the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. A motion to reconsider her sentence was denied. Williams appealed her conviction.

         SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

         On appeal, Williams argues that the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction of second degree murder as a result of an aggravated burglary and the death of the victim. While she admits committing a burglary, she claims that she did not commit an aggravated burglary because she was not the person who had the weapon that killed the victim. She asserts that she was not aware that Lewis had a gun and she did not know or intend for anything to occur, other than a burglary. These arguments are without merit.

         Legal Principles

         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, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Tate, 2001-1658 (La. 5/20/03), 851 So.2d 921, cert. denied, 541 U.S. 905, 124 S.Ct. 1604, 158 L.Ed.2d 248 (2004); State v. Brooks, 49, 024 (La.App. 2 Cir. 5/14/14), 139 So.3d 1072, writ denied, 2014-1202 (La. 2/13/15), 159 So.3d 459.

         This standard, now legislatively embodied in La.C.Cr.P. art. 821, does not provide the appellate court with a vehicle to substitute its own appreciation of the evidence for that of the fact finder. State v. Pigford, 2005-0477 (La. 2/22/06), 922 So.2d 517; State v. Brooks, supra.

         The appellate court does not assess the credibility of witnesses or reweigh evidence. State v. Smith, 94-3116 (La. 10/16/95), 661 So.2d 442; State v. Brooks, supra. A reviewing court accords great deference to a jury's decision to accept or reject the testimony of a witness in whole or in part. State v. Brooks, supra.

         La. R.S. 14:30.1 defines second degree murder, in part, as follows:

Second degree murder is the killing of a human being: . . .
(2) When the offender is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of . . . aggravated burglary, . . . even though he has no intent to kill ...

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