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State v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

April 17, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
BLAIR TAYLOR

          APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 522-732, SECTION "I" Honorable Karen K. Herman, Judge.

          Christopher A. Aberle LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT.

          Leon Cannizzaro DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ORLEANS PARISH Donna Andrieu Irena Zajickova DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE.

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Paula A. Brown.

          Paula A. Brown Judge.

         Defendant, Blair Taylor, appeals his convictions of two counts of second degree murder and five counts of attempted second degree murder, asserting claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm Defendant's convictions and sentences.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Defendant, a.k.a. "Blood," along with co-defendants, Joseph Nelson and Michael Finnie, were indicted on the following charges:[1]

• second degree murder of Terrence McBride
• second degree murder of Jasmine Anderson
• attempted second degree murder of J.R.
• attempted second degree murder of K.R.
• attempted second degree murder of A.R.
• attempted second degree murder of H.C.
• attempted second degree murder of Q.H.[2]

         Finnie pled guilty to two counts of manslaughter, a lesser charge, and five counts of attempted second degree murder, and he was sentenced to seven concurrent terms of twenty-years at hard labor.

         Following a jury trial, Defendant and Nelson were found guilty as charged.[3]Although Defendant filed a motion for new trial, the district court sentenced Defendant before ruling on the motion. Defendant appealed, and this Court dismissed the appeal without prejudice as the record failed to reflect a ruling on the motion for new trial.[4] On remand, the district court denied the motion for new trial, vacated the original sentences, and resentenced Defendant to life imprisonment at hard labor on each conviction of second degree murder, and fifty years at hard labor on each conviction of attempted second degree murder. All the sentences were ordered to run concurrently to each other and "any and all other sentences." Defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence which was denied.

         This appeal follows.

         ERRORS PATENT

         This Court routinely reviews the record on appeal for errors patent. State v. Lewis, 15-0773, p. 9 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/3/16), 187 So.3d 24, 29. A review of the record reveals one error patent which requires no action by this Court.

         Defendant's sentences are illegally lenient. La. R.S. 14:30.1, second degree murder, and La. R.S. 14:(27)30.1, attempted second degree murder, require that the sentence imposed be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The transcript of the resentencing proceeding reflects the district court failed to order Defendant's sentences be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Nevertheless, La. R.S. 15:301.1(A) mandates these restrictions are self-activating:

When a criminal statute requires that all or a portion of a sentence imposed for a violation of that statute be served without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence, each sentence which is imposed under the provisions of that statute shall be deemed to contain the provisions relating to the service of that sentence without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The failure of a sentencing court to specifically state that all or a portion of the sentence is to be served without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence shall not in any way affect the statutory requirement that all or a portion of the sentence be served without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

         Accordingly, no action needs to be taken by this Court. State v. Williams, 00-1725, p. 10 (La. 11/28/01), 800 So.2d 790, 798-99; State v. Wyatt, 11-0219, p. 20 (La.App. 4 Cir. 12/22/11), 83 So.3d 131, 143.

         FACTS

         On August 10, 2014, Finnie, along with Defendant and Nelson, left Finnie's house with the purpose to kill Terrence McBride. Mr. McBride was located at a neighboring house on Burgundy Street. Upon arrival, Defendant and Nelson opened fire on Mr. McBride, along with the other adults, teens, and children located in the front yard and front porch of the house. Mr. McBride and sixteen year old Jasmine Anderson died, and five others, including several young children, were wounded.[5]

         At trial, Finnie testified he lived with his mother at the intersection of Flood and Burgundy Streets. Mr. McBride would come to Finnie's residence to buy drugs from Finnie's mother. A dispute arose between Mr. McBride and Finnie when Mr. McBride owed Finnie's mother money for pills and drugs. For this reason, Finnie planned to kill Mr. McBride. As part of the plan, Finnie contacted Defendant, a friend since childhood, and told Defendant to obtain a gun for the purpose of killing Mr. McBride. According to Finnie, Defendant, along with Defendant's friend, Nelson, drove to Finnie's home and pulled up to the corner of Flood and Burgundy Streets. Defendant brought with him an AK-47, and Nelson had a handgun. When Defendant and Nelson arrived, Finnie got in the driver's seat, while Defendant rode in the front passenger's seat with Nelson in the back seat. The three men proceeded down Burgundy Street, and Finnie spotted Mr. McBride on the porch of a neighboring house, 5439 Burgundy Street; it was about a half of a block away from Finnie's home. Finnie recalled that upon arrival at the neighboring house, Finnie told Defendant that he had changed his mind about shooting Mr. McBride at that time because too many people were around. Finnie testified that Defendant responded that he had not "come way down here for nothing." Defendant then exited the vehicle and "started wild gunfire." Defendant told Nelson to "get out and finish [Mr. McBride] off," and Nelson obeyed. Finnie stated that after Defendant and Nelson returned to the vehicle, Finnie drove around the block, stopped, exited the vehicle, and walked back to his house.

         Detective Timothy Bender, employed by the New Orleans Police Department ("NOPD"), was the lead detective for the investigation of the shootings. He testified that during his investigation, he received information from confidential informants ("CIs") and tips through Crime Stoppers.[6]

         Detective Bender stated he spoke to a CI who claimed to be standing on the corner when he/she saw a gray SUV arrive at the corner of Flood and Burgundy Streets; the gray SUV was occupied by two individuals. The driver exited the vehicle and Finnie took his place in the driver's seat. The CI reported to the detective that the two individuals originally occupying the vehicle ended up sitting in the passenger seat and the backseat on the passenger side; one was armed with an AK-47, and the other was armed with a handgun. Shortly thereafter, the CI observed Finnie return on foot coming from "Rampart Street on [F]lood towards Burgundy" and overheard Finnie say something like "[w]e took care of that n*****."

         Detective Bender testified that three days after the shooting, a CI sent him a photograph of a dark gray Chevrolet Captiva (the "gray SUV") and indicated that the vehicle had been used in the commission of the homicides. The photograph depicted the vehicle being driven through a parking lot. The CI informed Detective Bender that the parking lot was in New Orleans East and Defendant was the driver of the vehicle depicted in the picture. Detective Bender stated that the CI, who identified Defendant in a photograph, also confirmed Defendant was one of the perpetrators of the shooting. The CI informed the detective that Defendant resided in the Chateau D'Orleans apartment complex, located in New Orleans East.

         Detective Bender enlisted the assistance of the Louisiana State Police (the "LSP"). Sergeant William Blackwell, employed by the LSP, assisted Detective Bender by conducting surveillance on the Chateau D'Orleans apartment complex, apartment numbers 504, Defendant's apartment, and 1411, Jeffery Rivers' apartment. Sergeant Blackwell also surveilled the gray SUV. During his surveillance, Sergeant Blackwell conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle matching the description of the gray SUV. Police had learned the gray SUV had been reported stolen. At the time of the stop, Defendant exited the vehicle and attempted to flee on foot, but was apprehended and detained.

         Also, Sergeant Blackwell approached apartment 1411 and spoke to the residents, Rivers and his wife, Vivien Anderson. With the residents' cooperation, Sergeant Blackwell located a loaded Smith and Wesson nine-millimeter pistol and a box of forty-five-caliber ammunition above a kitchen cabinet. Sergeant Blackwell testified that Ms. Anderson told him the weapon belonged to "Blood," which he knew to be one of Defendant's aliases.

         Rivers, who met Defendant through Nelson, recalled that he told the police, when they searched his apartment, where the pistol was located, and that it belonged to Defendant.[7] He explained that Defendant came to his apartment the day after the shooting. Defendant told Rivers to look at "NOLA.com" and he "had to smash him"; Rivers took that to mean Defendant killed someone. According to Rivers, Defendant placed the pistol in Rivers' apartment above the kitchen cabinets where it remained until the police recovered it. Rivers further testified that he received the stolen gray SUV "from a guy," and he loaned the gray SUV to Defendant the day before the shooting. Rivers said Defendant never returned the stolen gray SUV.

         It was determined two weapons were used during the shooting-the Smith and Wesson nine-millimeter pistol and a 7.62 x 39 caliber AK-47. According to a ballistics expert from the NOPD crime lab, seven nine-millimeter cartridge cases were recovered from the crime scene and testing determined these cases had been fired from the Smith and Wesson nine-millimeter pistol recovered in Rivers' kitchen. Six of the projectiles recovered from both the scene and the two autopsies were also fired from the nine-millimeter pistol. The ballistics expert further testified that three of the 7.62 x 39 caliber cartridge cases recovered from the scene were fired from the same weapon, an AK-47. The ballistics expert, as well as Detective Bender, testified that the weapon which fired the 7.62 x 39 caliber cartridge cases was not located; thus, it was not submitted for comparison.

         Following the search of Defendant and Rivers' apartments at Chateau D'Orleans Apartment, arrests warrants were obtained for both Defendant and Rivers. The telephone calls Defendant made while he was incarcerated, which were recorded, were introduced into evidence. In one call that was played for the jury, Defendant phoned his girlfriend, Ashley Shorts, and asked her if she had "moved the hammer" from the kitchen. Ms. Shorts responded that she had not and the police had taken it. Detective Bender testified he believed "hammer" referred to a gun. Based on this phone call, Detective Bender issued an arrest warrant for Ms. Shorts.

         K.K., an eye-witness who was present during the shooting, recalled that the perpetrators drove a gray vehicle.[8] She testified that once the car pulled in front of the residence, she heard gunshots. When the gunshots subsided, she noticed that "everybody was shot," and she observed someone emerge from the vehicle, walk up onto the porch, and shoot Mr. McBride. K.K. identified Nelson as one of the perpetrators to Detective Bender after ...


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