Appealed from the Thirty-Second Judicial District Court In
and for the Parish of Terrebonne State of Louisiana Docket
Number 672429 Division D The Honorable David W. Arceneaux,
Prentice L. White Louisiana Appellate Project Baton Rouge,
Louisiana ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT DEFENDANT-Leron Melechi
L. Waitz, Jr. District Attorney Ellen Daigle Doskey Assistant
District Attorney Houma, Louisiana ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE The
State of Louisiana
Before: Welch, Chutz, and Lanier, JJ.
grand jury of Terrebonne Parish indicted the defendant, Leron
Melechi Calloway, with first degree murder, a violation of
La. R.S. 14:30. The defendant pled not guilty. After a trial
by jury, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged. The
trial court denied the defendant's motion for a new
trial. After a hearing, the trial court sentenced the
defendant to life imprisonment at hard labor without the
benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
sentence. The defendant now appeals, assigning error
to the denial of his motion for new trial based on the
admission of other crimes evidence, the denial of his motion
for a change of venue, and the sufficiency of the evidence.
For the following reasons, we reverse the defendant's
conviction, vacate his sentence, and remand for a new trial.
November 24, 2013, Connely Duplantis-the sixty-six-year-old
victim- and his wife Yvonne Duplantis were visiting his
parents at 222 Carolyn Avenue in Houma for the Thanksgiving
holidays and were loading their vehicle to return to their
home. While standing in the threshold of the door around 1:00
p.m., Mrs. Duplantis saw an unknown individual running up
behind the victim. She opened the door and observed that the
unknown individual was a young, black male with a small to
medium build, wearing a dark hooded jacket. Mrs. Duplantis
saw the unknown individual hold his right hand up to the
victim's side, where the victim had a white iPhone 5
clipped to his belt. Immediately afterward, the unknown
individual raised a black gun with his left hand and shot the
victim. As the victim stumbled, Mrs. Duplantis began
screaming and went inside to tell the victim's parents to
remain inside the residence.
Duplantis did not get a full view of the shooter's face
because the hood of his jacket partially covered his face.
While Mrs. Duplantis was inside on her cell phone with the
911 operator, the victim's mother looked outside and
observed that the shooter was no longer in view. When Mrs.
Duplantis went outside, Houma Police Department (HPD)
officers had responded and were approaching the residence. An
ambulance arrived shortly thereafter. The victim eventually
succumbed to his shooting injuries.
trial, Randy Wallace, a co-defendant, testified that he was
present when the defendant approached and shot the victim.
Wallace indicated that on the day in question, prior to the
shooting, the defendant told him that he needed money and
wanted to rob someone. Wallace further indicated that he
attempted to discourage the defendant from doing so.
According to Wallace, as he and the defendant were walking
down Carolyn Avenue, the defendant spotted an older white
male (the victim) in a driveway, stated that all white people
have money, and approached the victim and asked for money.
Wallace watched as the defendant reached into the
victim's pockets while under the carport. Wallace further
saw the defendant holding what he believed to be a black and
chrome pistol. Wallace fled as he heard the gunshot.
of the Evidence
assignment of error number three, the defendant argues that
his conviction stemmed from the State's ability to weave
together pieces of circumstantial evidence to show that he
was a person of bad character who deserved to be convicted of
first degree murder of a beloved citizen of the community.
The defendant contends that there was no physical evidence
linking him to the shooting. He further contends that the
video recording of the two men attempting to sell the
victim's iPhone was not conclusive. The defendant notes
that Wallace is a member of a rival gang (Rider Gang) known
to have been at odds with a gang the defendant was allegedly
a member of (Trap Boys Mafia Gang). The defendant avers that
Wallace's testimony was unconvincing, contending that
while Wallace claimed to be afraid of the defendant, Wallace
did not appear to be afraid in the video. The defendant
argues that given the weaknesses embedded in the State's
case and the insufficient evidence presented at the trial,
the trial court committed reversible error in denying his
motion for a new trial.
issues are raised on appeal contesting the sufficiency of the
evidence and alleging one or more trial errors, the reviewing
court should first determine the sufficiency of the evidence.
State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731, 734 (La. 1992). The
reason for reviewing sufficiency first is that the accused
may be entitled to an acquittal under Hudson v.
Louisiana, 450 U.S. 40, 43, 101 S.Ct. 970, 972, 67
L.Ed.2d 30 (1981), if a rational trier of fact, viewing the
evidence in accordance with Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), in the light
most favorable to the prosecution, could not reasonably
conclude that all of the essential elements of the offense
have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. See La. C.Cr.P.
art. 821(B); State v. Ordodi, 2006-0207 (La.
11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660; Hearold, 603 So.2d at
734. When the entirety of the evidence, including
inadmissible evidence (which was erroneously admitted) is
insufficient to support the conviction, the accused must be
discharged as to that crime and any discussion by the court
of the trial error issues as to that crime would be pure
dicta, since those issues are moot. Hearold, 603
So.2d at 734.
other hand, when the entirety of the evidence, both
admissible and inadmissible, is sufficient to support the
conviction, the accused is not entitled to an acquittal, and
the reviewing court must then consider the assignments of
trial error to determine whether the accused is entitled to a
new trial. If the reviewing court determines there has been
trial error (which was not harmless) in cases in which the
entirety of the evidence was sufficient to support the
conviction, then the accused must receive a new trial, but is
not entitled to an acquittal even though the admissible
evidence, considered alone, was insufficient.
Hearold, 603 So.2d at 734.
conducting the review under Jackson, we also must be
expressly mindful of Louisiana's circumstantial evidence
test, i.e., "assuming every fact to be proved
that the evidence tends to prove, in order to convict, it
must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence."
La. R.S. 15:438; State v. Wright, 98-0601 (La.App.
1st Cir. 2/19/99), 730 So.2d 485, 486, writs denied,
99-0802 (La. 10/29/99), 748 So.2d 1157, 2000-0895 (La.
11/17/00), 773 So.2d 732. When a case involves circumstantial
evidence and the jury reasonably rejects the hypothesis of
innocence presented by the defense, that hypothesis falls,
and the defendant is guilty unless there is another
hypothesis which raises a reasonable doubt. State v.
Dyson, 2016-1571 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/2/17), 222 So.3d
220, 228, writ denied, 2017-1399 (La. 6/15/18), 257
Revised Statutes 14;30(A) defines first degree murder, in
pertinent part, as the killing of a human being when the
offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great
bodily harm and is engaged in the perpetration or attempted
perpetration of armed robbery. "Specific criminal intent
is 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). Though intent is a question of
fact, it need not be proven as a fact. It may be inferred
from the circumstances of the transaction. Thus, specific
intent may be proven by direct evidence, such as statements
by a defendant, or by inference from circumstantial evidence,
such as a defendant's actions or facts depicting the
circumstances. Specific intent is an ultimate legal
conclusion to be resolved by the fact finder. Specific intent
to kill may be inferred from a defendant's act of
pointing a gun and firing at a person. State v.
Delco, 2006-0504 (La.App. 1st Cir. 9/15/06), 943 So.2d
1143, 1146, writ denied, 2006-2636 (La. 8/15/07),
961 So.2d 1160.
robbery is the taking of anything of value belonging to
another from the person of another or that is in the
immediate control of another, by use of force or
intimidation, while armed with a dangerous weapon. La. R.S.
14:64(A). Armed robbery is a general intent crime. In general
intent crimes, the criminal intent necessary to sustain a
conviction is shown by the very doing of the acts which have
been declared criminal. State v. Huey, 2013-1227
(La.App. 1st Cir. 2/18/14), 142 So.3d 27, 30, writ
denied, 2014-0535 (La. 10/3/14), 149 So.3d 795,
cert, denied, ___U.S.___, 135 S.Ct. 1507, 191
L.Ed.2d 443 (2015).
State bears the burden of proving the elements, along with
the burden to prove the identity of the defendant as the
perpetrator. When the key issue is the defendant's
identity as the perpetrator, rather than whether the crime
was committed, the State is required to negate any reasonable
probability of misidentification. State v. Draughn,
2005-1825 (La. 1/17/07), 950 So.2d 583, 593, cert,
denied, 552 U.S. 1012, 128 S.Ct. 537, 169 L.Ed.2d 377
(2007). Unless there is internal contradiction or
irreconcilable conflict with the physical evidence, the
testimony of a single witness, if believed by the fact
finder, is sufficient to support a factual conclusion.
State v. Marshall, 2004-3139 (La. 11/29/06), 943
So.2d 362, 369, cert, denied, 552 U.S. 905, 128
S.Ct. 239, 169 L.Ed.2d 179 (2007). It is the fact finder who
weighs the respective credibility of the witnesses, and this
court will generally not second-guess those determinations.
See State v. Hughes, 2005-0992 (La. 11/29/06), 943
So.2d 1047, 1051.
Kelly Champagne of the HPD was on patrol when he received the
initial dispatch and was one of the other officers to arrive
on the scene. Officer Champagne was approached by a bystander
who informed him that a black male abandoned an object as he
ran through the yard across from 222 Carolyn Avenue. Officer
Champagne searched the designated area and discovered a black
Nike flip-flop type sandal located near a fence. Officer
Champagne alerted the detectives on the scene who recovered
Keith Craft of the HPD observed footage taken at the time of
the offense by a camera located at a residence on Memory Lane
and observed two black males running from Melrose Street
along a fenced area, towards Arlington Avenue. The area
between Memory Lane and Carolyn Avenue is known as
Mechanicville. However, the footage was recorded from a
distant range and Detective Craft was unable to identify
either of the individuals. Detective Craft subsequently
sought additional footage of the area at the time of the
offense and observed surveillance footage from two stores,
Los Primos and Boost Mobile, adjacently located within close
proximity of the Mechanicville area. The detective observed
footage of two black males, including one individual who he
was able to identify as the defendant, and another individual
who he was unable to identify.The individuals appeared to be
walking from Los Primos to Boost Mobile. The interior Boost
Mobile footage shows the same two individuals inside the
store where one of them presents a Boost Mobile employee with
what appeared to be a white iPhone. After a brief verbal
exchange, the Boost Mobile employee returned the cell phone
to the individual.
arriving on the scene, Sergeant Nicole Voisin, of the HPD
learned that the victim's white iPhone 5 was taken during
the incident and obtained the corresponding number for the
phone. Sergeant Voisin contacted AT&T to obtain an
emergency ping for the cell phone and learned that the cell
phone's data had been used after the shooting. Sergeant
Voisin was further able to locate the defendant's
Facebook page posts, one of which consisted of the following
posting, "iPhone 5c for sell [sic]
AT&T," posted on the day of the shooting. Another
post consisted of a photograph of the defendant with the word
"KILLA" above the photograph. Two days after the
shooting, on November 26, 2013, HPD officers made contact
with the defendant and his companion, later identified as
Derrick Hanzy, who were leaving the Boost Mobile phone store
on Grand Caillou Road. The defendant took flight on foot;
Hanzy, however, was detained at that time. Sergeant Voisin
collected a size 7, black Allstar Converse shoe across from
the store, where the defendant fled.
a member of the Rider Gang derived from the Village East
neighborhood, testified that he knows the defendant
"[f]rom the streets" and as a member of a gang
called Trap Boy Mafia, which originated from the Memory Lane
territory in Mechanicville. Wallace stated that he initially
lied to the police after his arrest for the instant offense,
when he claimed to have no knowledge of the shooting. Wallace
testified that he was afraid that the defendant and the Trap
Boy Mafia Gang would hate him if he told the truth. He noted
that while in jail after their arrest for the shooting, the
defendant threatened him by telling him that if he testified,
he would have to deal with "his Trap Boy crew[.]"
Wallace testified that the defendant was wearing jeans and a
black hooded pull-over, and may have been wearing black
slippers with a strap. Wallace claimed that on the day in
question, he did not know that the defendant was armed until
he pulled the gun out. Wallace confirmed that he saw part of
the gun when the defendant pulled it out. When asked if he
saw the defendant shoot the victim, Wallace responded,