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State v. Alexander

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

April 3, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
DONOVAN ALEXANDER

          APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 531-509, SECTION "G" Honorable Dennis J. Waldron, Judge

          Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. District Attorney Scott G. Vincent Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR RELATOR, STATE OF LOUISIANA

          John T. Fuller Marcus O. DeLarge John T. Fuller & Assoc, LLC COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT/DEFENDANT, DONOVAN ALEXANDER

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Dale N. Atkins

          TERRI F. LOVE, JUDGE

         The State of Louisiana seeks review of the trial court's December 6, 2018 ruling granting defendant's motion to suppress statement. The trial court found that questioning of defendant should have ceased once his cousin, an attorney, informed the police that he was there to serve as defendant's counsel.

         We find that the right to counsel is invoked by a defendant. Defendant freely and voluntarily signed the waiver of rights form before giving his statement. Therefore, we find that the trial court erred by granting the motion to suppress statement. We grant the writ, reverse the trial court's ruling, and remand for further proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Defendant, Donovan Alexander, was charged by bill of information with possession with intent to distribute heroin, a violation of La. R.S. 40:966(A)(1) and illegally carrying a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance, a violation of La. R.S. 14:95(E). Mr. Alexander entered a plea of not guilty and filed a motion to suppress evidence, statement, and identification along with a request for a preliminary hearing. The trial court conducted a hearing on Mr. Alexander's motion to suppress statement and preliminary hearing. Following testimony and argument by counsel, the trial court denied Mr. Alexander's motion to suppress evidence and granted his motion to suppress statement. The State's application for supervisory review followed.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND TESTIMONY

         Andrew Roccaforte, a New Orleans Police Officer assigned to the Task Force Office as DEA, testified he began investigating Mr. Alexander in June of 2016, when he received information from a confidential informant that Mr. Alexander was distributing heroin in the New Orleans metro area. The CI informed Officer Roccaforte that Mr. Alexander stored heroin and firearms at 8243 Curran in New Orleans, but lived in Kenner on Vintage Drive. Extensive surveillance of Mr. Alexander was conducted.

         On June 21, 2016, the task force set up surveillance of the Vintage Drive location. The task force acquired consent to search that location. Two pounds of marijuana, a firearm, and Carisoprodol pills were seized from the Vintage Drive location, and Mr. Alexander was arrested.

         Following Mr. Alexander's arrest, but on the same day, Officer Roccaforte and a team of agents proceeded to 8243 Curran Boulevard, a suspected "stash" house for Mr. Alexander. Dontrell Minor, a female friend of Mr. Alexander, opened the door and was extremely cooperative. Ms. Minor consented to the search of the residence. Ms. Minor admitted that Mr. Alexander stored narcotics and a firearm in the bottom dresser drawer in her bedroom. When the drawer was removed, Officer Roccaforte recovered a loaded firearm and an STP oil can with a false bottom and a secret compartment. When the STP can's false bottom was removed, Officer Roccaforte recovered about eight grams of heroin. Packaging material and a digital scale were also recovered from the bedroom. As a result, an arrest warrant was prepared two days later for possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a firearm with a controlled dangerous substance for Mr. Alexander from Orleans Parish.

         Special Agent Joseph Blackledge, DEA, testified that he was the agent who arrested Mr. Alexander. Mr. Alexander was informed of his rights in accordance with Miranda following his arrest and once again before he was interviewed. Mr. Alexander signed a form indicating he waived his rights and ...


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