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State v. Davis

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

April 10, 2019



          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Juliet L. Clark


          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Robert A. Chaisson, and Hans J. Liljeberg


         Defendant, Chamid Davis, appeals his conviction and sentence for second degree murder in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1. For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's conviction and sentence.


         On January 28, 2016, a Jefferson Parish Grand Jury returned an indictment charging defendant, Chamid J. Davis, with second degree murder in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1.[1] Defendant was arraigned and pled not guilty.

         On May 1, 2017, the State filed a "Notice of Intent to Introduce Evidence" at trial under La. C.E. art. 404(B) to prove that defendant had access to one of the firearms used in the commission of the murder. Following a hearing, the trial court found the evidence relevant and admissible and granted the State's notice of intent.

         The matter proceeded to trial, and on March 23, 2018, a twelve-person jury returned a verdict of guilty as charged. On March 29, 2018, defendant filed a "Motion for New Trial and for Post-Verdict Judgment of Acquittal," which the trial court denied. After defendant waived delays, the trial court sentenced defendant to life imprisonment at hard labor with the benefit of parole eligibility.[2]On April 6, 2018, defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence, which the trial court denied. This timely appeal follows.


         This case involves the October 19, 2015 murder of Kevin Thomas, Jr., who was fifteen years old at the time he was shot multiple times outside of his apartment building at 1001 Sycamore Drive in Westwego, Louisiana. Kevin's mother, Marilyn Jackson, testified that she was sitting on the sofa in her apartment when Kevin left the apartment at approximately 12:20 a.m. to go outside. She testified that minutes later, she heard "shots," so she went outside and saw Kevin running toward the apartment. She opened the apartment door to let him in, where he collapsed on the floor. Ms. Jackson called the police.

         Officer Jessica Bergeron Wayner with the Westwego Police Department responded to the call and assessed Kevin until emergency medical services arrived. Officers canvassed the apartment building and the surrounding area searching for eyewitnesses to no avail. However, during their inspection of the perimeter of the apartment building, officers discovered a clear bag with green vegetable matter, fired cartridge casings, and projectile fragments, which officers collected as evidence. Officers also observed a trail of blood leading from the area where most of the casings and projectiles were found to the direction of Kevin's apartment.

         Officers detected the smell of marijuana upon entering the apartment and subsequently obtained a search warrant. In Kevin's bedroom, officers located fifteen individual baggies containing green leafy vegetable matter and a digital scale. Officers also found a High Point .40 caliber pistol, which the police learned was stolen. The coroner investigation revealed a small pill bottle with a clear baggy of green vegetable matter hidden inside the underwear Kevin was wearing at the time of the murder. From their initial investigation, officers suspected that Kevin was a marijuana distributor.

         During the search of the apartment, officers also found Kevin's cell phone, and his mother provided the password.[3] Police discovered that at 12:20 a.m., immediately before the murder, Kevin received a text message from cell phone number (504) 509-XXXX, seemingly asking to purchase marijuana from Kevin. Investigating officers suspected the owner of the cell phone had lured Kevin outside with the intent to shoot him.

         As part of the investigation, Detective Christopher Fisher requested an exigent circumstances records request of cell phone number (504) 509-XXXX from T-Mobile Cellular Telephone Company (T-Mobile), wherein he sought to obtain current subscriber information, call detail records with cell site, call records, and real-time location of the mobile device. Detective Fisher learned that the cell phone number that contacted Kevin shortly before he was murdered was registered to a Jessica Coleman, later adduced to be defendant's aunt, whom he lived with in Gretna. He also learned from review of the records that shortly after the murder, the cell phone number was disconnected and changed. With this information, on October 20, 2015, at approximately 5:03 p.m., Detective Fisher and other officers went to speak with Jessica Coleman, who confirmed that the cell phone number belonged to defendant.

         At the time of the murder, Johnneika Honor, age sixteen, was defendant's girlfriend and also knew the victim, whose nickname she provided as "Little Kevin."[4] She also knew co-defendant Hughes and how close Hughes and defendant were. On October 22, 2015, Detective Tyler Lopez and Sergeant Nocito interviewed Johnneika, initially as a witness, at the Westwego Police Department. She told the interviewing detectives that defendant was her boyfriend and provided both defendant's old and new cell phone numbers. She provided that she discovered on Instagram that Kevin was dead and heard at school that the person who set him up had called Kevin's phone that night. Johnneika told the detectives that defendant was at her house on the night of the murder from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., and that he was picked up and dropped off in a black Charger. Because the officers suspected she was being dishonest, they asked Johnneika to fill out a waiver of rights form and give a statement. Both Johnneika and her legal guardian, Arnetta Harris, who was present, consented for police to search Johnneika's cell phone. On her phone, police saw text messages from the phone number that called Kevin moments before he was murdered. There was also a text message between defendant and Johnneika after the murder, where Johnneika told defendant that "Little Kevin nem dead," and defendant responded, "I know but delete that message don't even speak on that."

         After detectives confronted her with the text messages, Johnneika told detectives that defendant and Kevin were "beefing" because Kevin broke into defendant's aunt's car and stole a gun. Eventually, Johnneika admitted that defendant confessed to her that he called Kevin from his phone on the night of the murder and pretended to be someone else and that he and Hughes shot Kevin in the back as he fled. She also stated that defendant and Hughes had come to her house after the murder that night in a large gray truck because Hughes was supposed to bring her a phone. Arnetta stated that she too saw a gray truck as she arrived home that night.[5] Johnneika further indicated during the interview that defendant had changed his cell phone number the morning after the murder occurred because he realized he made a mistake by calling Kevin from his phone.[6] After the interview with Johnneika, Hughes and defendant were developed as suspects and arrest warrants issued. Defendant eventually turned himself in.

         The cell phone extraction report from Johnneika's cell phone revealed additional text messages between Johnneika and defendant which were not on her phone at the time of the interview because they had been deleted. These text messages further confirmed that defendant had changed his number after the murder. When Johnneika texted defendant asking him why he changed his number and if it was because of "that stuff," defendant replied to stop texting "about that" and then called her.

         There were also text messages between the two on October 21, 2015, indicating that they were arguing over defendant seeing other girls. Johnneika wrote for defendant to ask "one of them other hoes you fw to lie withcuu," and defendant responded "Know what f**k you son. I get jammed up ima just take my lick" and that he "shouldna trusted telling you that's where I f**ked up I think." There also existed text messages between Johnneika and Hughes wherein Johnneika wrote that another person was trying to take the credit for Kevin's murder, but she indicated that defendant had "said that's his work."

         Johnneika's cell phone extraction also revealed that on October 20, 2015, at approximately 5:46 p.m., at which time the police were at defendant's aunt's home, Hughes texted Johnneika to call him as soon as possible and that it was important. Johnneika and Hughes spoke on the phone, and later, Johnneika texted Hughes: "Is he going to jail?" Hughes responded that he did not know but that "he gonna beat that charge, all they have is a phonecall ... Long as u stick ur part ... he straight!" Johnneika wrote to Hughes that she knew what to say. Detectives connected this message with Johnneika's attempt to lie about defendant's whereabouts on the night of the murder in her interview two days later.

         The cell phone extraction report for Kevin's cell phone corroborated that defendant and Hughes had "beef" over Kevin allegedly stealing a gun out of defendant's aunt's car. On September 6, 2015, Kevin texted his friend that "Madge and them" had "beef" and for them to "[g]et ready to squeeze" because the "hammer's in they car." Lieutenant Eric Orlando with the Westwego Police Department explained that "hammer" is slang for a gun, and "squeeze" was a term for a theft. On September 8, 2015, Kevin received a text asking for a picture of the "Glock . . . So I could see about the lick."[7] Kevin responded to the text by sending a picture of a .10 mm Glock. A text message was also found on Kevin's phone from Hughes which read: "Came up on a 10 milly glissy tonight, huh," which Lieutenant Orlando explained was a slang term for a .10 mm Glock, and defendant also sent a text message to Kevin asking or indicating that Kevin "came up on a glissy 10 last night."

         Jene Rauch, an expert in the field of firearm and tool-mark examination, performed ballistic analysis on the nine .9 mm fired cartridge casings, copper jackets, projectiles, and bullet fragments collected outside of Kevin's apartment by the crime scene technicians, as well as the two projectiles recovered from Kevin's body during the autopsy. She determined that the nine cartridge cases were fired from two separate firearms, but the two projectiles recovered from Kevin's body during the autopsy were fired from the same weapon.

         An analysis of the national database revealed that the ballistics involved in the murder matched that of two firearms previously entered into the system. The ballistic analysis determined that a .9 mm Ruger had been fired at the scene of the murder, but the projectiles recovered from Kevin's body did not match the ballistics from the Ruger.[8]

         Rather, the projectiles found inside Kevin's body and the remaining casings found at the scene matched a .9 mm pistol. The database showed that the same weapon was used in an unrelated shooting on October 10, 2015, involving defendant's cousin, Daniel Bryant, on Frenchman Street, [9] and a second unrelated shooting on October 16, 2015, on Frenchman and North Claiborne. Lieutenant Eric Orlando testified that it was common for guns to be disposed, traded, or sold after they are used in the commission of crimes. He theorized that the fact that defendant lived with his cousin, Daniel, provided defendant with direct access to the weapon close in time to the murder.

         Detective Donald Zanotelli with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office examined the cell site location information of defendant's and Hughes' cell phones by plotting the latitude and longitude locations of the cell phone towers their cell phones communicated with leading up to and during the time of the murder. [10] He testified that the results indicate the whereabouts of a person's cell phone within a "cone" of approximately less than a mile and a half from the cell phone tower with which a cell phone was in communication. The results of his analysis showed that near midnight, Hughes' cell phone was near defendant's home, and then both cell phones seemed to go in the direction of Westwego. The records further revealed that at approximately 12:18 a.m., defendant's cell phone was in use and near Sycamore Drive where Kevin was murdered. On cross-examination, ...

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