FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LAFAYETTE, NO. CR 156140 HONORABLE PATRICK LOUIS MICHOT,
A. Stutes Fifteenth Judicial District Attorney Michele S.
Billeaud Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE:
State of Louisiana
K. Bauman Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Miles J. Guidry
J. Guidry Louisiana State Prison PRO SE: Miles J. Guidry
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Shannon J.
Gremillion, and John E. Conery, Judges.
SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE.
Miles J. Guidry, was charged by indictment on March 23, 2016,
with one count of second degree murder, a violation of
La.R.S. 14:30.1. On May 24, 2016, he waived formal
arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty. Defendant filed
numerous motions, including a "Motion for Prieur
Hearing," "Motion to Suppress Search of Vehicle In
Colorado," "Motion to Suppress Gruesome but
Otherwise Extremely Prejudicial Photographs and
Evidence," "Motion to Exclude the Note Recovered
from the Suzuki XL-7 by Glendale Police," "Motion
in Limine to Exclude Irrelevant and Inadmissible Character
Evidence," "Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of
Prior Bad Acts as it is Inadmissible Hearsay," and
"Motion in Limine to Preclude the Forensic Pathologist
from Offering Any Opinion Testimony Outside His Written
Reports." All of the motions were denied by the trial
court. Defendant then sought supervisory writs with this
court as to the gruesome photographs, and this court remanded
the matter, ruling that the trial court must make an
individual determination as to each of the over 400
began on May 7, 2018, and on May 15, 2018, a unanimous jury
returned a verdict of guilty. At the May 29, 2018 sentencing
hearing, the trial court ruled on Defendant's May 25,
2018 motion for a new trial, advising him that the motion was
denied. Defendant then made an oral motion for a post-verdict
judgment of acquittal, which was also denied. Defendant was
then sentenced to the statutorily-mandated life imprisonment
at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or
suspension of sentence, and the trial court instructed him
that he was given credit for time served. On May 29, 2018,
Defendant filed a Motion for Appeal and Designation of Record
which the trial court granted on May 31, 2018. Defendant
assigns the following errors, which we address in differing
1. The trial court erred in allowing inadmissible other
crimes evidence to be admitted.
2. The trial court erred in denying defense counsel's
challenges for cause.
3. The trial court erred in denying defense counsel's
Motion in Limine regarding the note found in Miles
4. The trial court erred in allowing Detective Neil St. Cyr
to testify as an expert in several areas.
5. The trial court erred in allowing Dr. Christopher Tape to
testify to information not in his autopsy report.
6. The trial court erred in that the evidence, when viewed in
a light most favorable to the prosecution, was insufficient
to find Miles Guidry guilty of second degree murder.
7. The trial court erred in denying defense counsel's
Motion to Suppress Gruesome or Otherwise Extremely
Prejudicial Photographs and Evidence.
November 28, 2015, the victim, Claire Walley, and Defendant
brought their four-week-old son to the victim's
mother's house so that the couple could go out and
celebrate Defendant's birthday. At approximately 11:40
p.m., the victim and Defendant returned to pick up their son,
talked to the victim's mother about returning the next
day to watch the Saints game, and then went home.
next morning at about 6:00 a.m., Defendant's mother
received a call from Defendant instructing her to come over
to his home he shared with the victim and told his mother to
enter through the back door. Once Defendant's mother
arrived, she tried to enter through the back door, but it was
locked, so she let herself in through the side door and
discovered a trail of blood on the floor that lead to the
victim. Defendant's mother then observed the victim lying
on the floor in a pool of blood, with more blood coming from
a cut on her neck, and a knife nearby. After calling her
husband for support, she then called 911 as she tended to her
grandson who she found crying, but unharmed, in a back room
of the house. One of the responding officers, Deputy Jordan
Ancelet, arrived and found two deputies on the scene. The
three officers then entered the residence and found the
deceased victim on the floor. The officers began to search
the house to make sure there were no other occupants. After
completing the sweep of the house, the officers exited the
house to avoid contaminating the crime scene. The officers
then ran the information on Defendant's vehicle to
attempt to locate it, and cameras located the vehicle, via
its license plate, going into Texas at about 3:49 a.m.
Defendant was subsequently stopped for speeding in Woodville,
Texas and issued a citation; however, the officer was delayed
in receiving information that there was a warrant for
Defendant's arrest. Defendant was eventually located in
Glendale, Colorado, when Officer Trace Warrick observed
Defendant's vehicle parked in an empty parking lot at
4:00 a.m. on December 7, 2015. After the officer ran the
license plate and learned of the warrant for a homicide
connected with a possible occupant of the vehicle, Defendant
was handcuffed, and the vehicle was treated as a crime scene.
Defendant was then sent back to Lafayette and booked into
OF THE EVIDENCE
assignment of error six, Defendant contends the evidence
introduced at trial was insufficient to sustain his
conviction of second-degree murder. We consider this
assignment of error first, in accordance with State v.
Hearold, 603 So.2d 731 (La.1992).
analysis for a sufficiency of the evidence claim is
When the issue of sufficiency of evidence is raised on
appeal, the critical inquiry of the reviewing court 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, rehearing
denied, 444 U.S. 890, 100 S.Ct. 195, 62 L.Ed.2d 126
(1979), State ex rel. Graffagnino v. King, 436 So.2d
559 (La.1983); State v. Duncan, 420 So.2d 1105
(La.1982); State v. Moody, 393 So.2d 1212 (La.1981).
It is the role of the fact finder to weight the respective
credibility of the witnesses, and therefore, the appellate
court should not second guess the credibility determinations
of the triers of fact beyond the sufficiency evaluations
under the Jackson standard of review. See State
ex rel. Graffagnino, 436 So.2d 559 (citing State v.
Richardson, 425 So.2d 1228 (La.1983)). In order for this
Court to affirm a conviction, however, the record must
reflect that the state has satisfied its burden of proving
the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
State v. Kennerson, 96-1518, p. 5 (La.App. 3 Cir.
5/7/97), 695 So.2d 1367, 1371.
La.R.S. 14:30.1, second degree murder is relevantly defined
as the killing of a human being "[w]hen the offender has
a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily
harm[.]" As the fourth circuit noted in State v.
White, 14-397, p. 17 (La.App. 4 Cir. 7/29/15), 174 So.3d
177, 189 (footnote omitted), writ denied, 15-1577
(La. 10/10/16), 207 So.3d 408, "to prove second degree
murder the state must prove the killing of a human being
either with specific intent or when the offender is engaged
in one of the listed crimes." "The severity of the
attack on the victim is an indicator of the defendant's
specific intent to kill." State v. Corley,
97-235, p. 6 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/8/97), 703 So.2d 653, 659,
writ denied, 97-2845 (La. 3/13/98), 712 So.2d 875.
instant case, Defendant contends that "[t]he essential
elements of the crime of second degree murder were not proven
beyond a reasonable doubt. In the alternative, it is
respectfully submitted the trier of fact erred in finding
Miles guilty of second degree murder instead of manslaughter
as the record supports such a reduction."
Defendant argues that too many errors were committed at the
investigatory stage and at trial to allow a verdict of guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt. To support his claim, Defendant
highlights several alleged errors, many of which will be
addressed in the assignments of error that follow due to
Defendant's claims regarding the inadmissibility of
certain pieces of evidence and claims regarding rulings made
by the trial court on some of Defendant's motions.
first notes that a detective with the Lafayette Police
Department, Detective Chris Beasley, testified that a suspect
was immediately identified, which negated the need to
prioritize the identification of a fingerprint found on one
of the homicide weapons. Defendant also argues that the
fingerprint that was found did not match Defendant and was
not able compared to the victim because the victim was laid
to rest without being fingerprinted.
Defendant points to the fact that all of his motions were
denied by the trial court.
next points out that one juror was a member of law
enforcement (Kimberly Sassau) and another was a relative of
the victim (Fritz Farrar). This issue is fully and more
appropriately discussed in assignment of error number two.
next alleged error Defendant urges is his assertion that
highly prejudicial "other crimes" evidence was
admitted. The alleged inadmissible "other crimes"
evidence is testimony from Detective St. Cyr, an investigator
for the Lafayette Sheriff's Department, regarding
marijuana he found when he opened some of the evidence boxes
he received pursuant to the warrant executed by the Glendale
Police Department. Defendant objected to the admissibility of
the testimony as highly prejudicial "other crimes"
evidence because possession of marijuana is illegal in
Louisiana; however the trial court ruled it admissible with
the agreement that the State would bring out the fact,
through questioning, that Defendant was not committing a
crime when he purchased and then possessed the marijuana
since he was in Colorado, where it is legal. The
admissibility of this evidence is addressed below. The
evidence regarding the possession of marijuana was properly
alleges that the crime scene was contaminated because of the
unknown number of people who entered the residence after the
murder. He bases this argument on testimony by Deputy Jordan
Ancelet with the Lafayette Sheriff's Office indicating
that he did not know how many people entered the house prior
to his arrival. Further, Defendant points to Deputy
Ancelet's testimony that he lacked training in crime
scene integrity, and the only formal training he received was
a basic course in the police academy about things like what
not to step on when securing a crime scene. Deputy Ancelet
did testify that he was only in the home long enough to
verify that no one else was inside so as not to contaminate
the scene any further than it might be contaminated during
their sweep, then he and two other officers secured the scene
by putting up crime scene tape to secure a primary and
secondary perimeter. Defendant states that Detective Shea of
the Lafayette Police Department testified that he was the
only person at the crime scene wearing protective garments;
however, his testimony, when asked whether he had on
protective garments was, "We wore gloves and, I call
them booties." Actually, it was Detective Beasley who
testified that when the scene was being processed, he was the
only person wearing Tyvek sleeves and a surgical mask in
addition to the booties they wore.
to Defendant, another error was the admission into evidence
of a highly prejudicial, unauthenticated note found in
Defendant's vehicle. The note in question was found
pursuant to the search executed by the Glendale Police
Department on Defendant's vehicle following his arrest in
Colorado. The note, which was read out loud by Detective
Wroblewski with the Glendale Police Department, explained
Defendant's actions and stated in relevant part:
This letter is not intended to be my excuse for why I did
what I did, just an insight to the monster that built up
inside of me and the cause that unleashed him. Claire did not
deserve what she received, and now I am here full of regret
and sorrow who [sic] are stricken with pain by my actions.
Worst of all, I fear for our son and the life of opportunity
that I have denied him. . . .
Before Wyatt was born, there was great stress between us. Our
arguments increased in frequencies up until a few weeks
before his birth. . . . She didn't want others to know
about our problems though every now and then I would get so
worked up feeling disrespected that I would forcefully grab
her wanting her to understand my anger, but that would only
lead her to fear me and want to leave. . . . I would get
physical. It wasn't her faults [sic] that angered me. I
loved her and accepted them. It was her inability to admit to
them. . . . To make matters worse, I was constantly in school
the entire time she was pregnant and that carried stress into
us. . . . Whenever I wasn't consumed by school work, I
would be at home, cook for her, tend to her needs, and all I
wanted in return is to let me put all my attention on school
for a few days so that I can achieve. Every time I would
start getting into a rhythm, she would bring something up
that pushes my buttons. . . . It made me feel so unsupported
in my school work after as supportive I felt I've been
with her and the pregnancy whenever I have a chance. . . . It
grew resentment in her towards me, that her life is now over
because of the baby. It would anger me so much that she was
taking away the joy of being a parent. . . . [N]o matter what
I said or did, that negative feeling towards me persisted. .
. . I felt unwanted. . . . I just wish she would have taken
the time to respect how my busy life consumes my time
necessary away from her. It was this constant feeling of a
lack of respect that I had, after I felt I had done well
enough to deserve it. That grew into rage. . . .
also cites the failure of twenty-two swabs of DNA to be
submitted for testing as another error supporting his claim
that the evidence was not sufficient to find him guilty of
second degree murder. Detective Beasley testified that he did
not submit twenty-two of thirty-seven DNA swabs for testing;
however, he did state that later in the investigation other
people would sometimes submit swabs to the lab after finding
out additional information. Defendant also notes that there
was a backpack found near the victim's head that was
next points to the testimony of Winnie Kurowski, a forensic
chemist with the Acadiana Crime Lab. On direct examination,
Ms. Kurowski testified about the testing of blood samples on
a bread knife found at the scene. Ms. Kurowski stated that
the DNA profile on that knife matched the profile of the
victim, and no other DNA profiles were found on these
samples. Ms. Kurowski was questioned on cross-examination
about testing of blood evidence. She testified that the crime
lab tested samples that they deemed to be of probative value.
Out of twenty-three items, seven were not tested for the
presence of blood, because the crime lab did not suspect that
they would be probative in nature; however, Ms. Kurowski did
state that the defense, prosecution, or law enforcement
agencies involved in the investigation could request testing
on any items that had not been tested. Some of these items
that were not tested included an infant onesie, a swab from a
PT Cruiser, a swab from a set of blinds, a swab from a first
aid kit latch, the victim's fingernails, and a swab from
a bottle. Ms. Kurowski further testified that there was DNA
present on the blade of the kitchen knife that did not match
either the victim or Defendant. She further testified that to
avoid cross-contamination of the samples, they wear gloves
and masks, they wear their hair back, they keep their nails
short, and they do not eat or drink near the samples. Despite
these precautions, Ms. Kurowski stated that
cross-contamination can still occur, and in the situation
here with the mixed DNA profile, because the lab was not able
to attribute the DNA profile to anyone associated with the
case, they included in the report that the DNA profile could
have been from contamination from a lab employee.
according to Defendant, Dr. Christopher Tape, a forensic
pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim, was
erroneously allowed to testify to information that was not
included in his autopsy report, admitted to making mistakes,
and his autopsy report indicated no prior trauma to the
victim's abdomen despite her having had a C-section four
weeks before. On direct examination, Dr. Tape testified that
he performed an autopsy on the victim and found that she had
suffered fatal incise wounds, which are slices made with a
knife or other bladed object, across the whole front of her
neck. These wounds were multiple cuts that formed the same
wound, and these cuts damaged the vascular structures and
airway in her neck. Dr. Tape stated that his interpretation
of the neck wounds was that they were formed from multiple
sawing motions across the neck and that the purpose of doing
that would be to kill, possibly in an attempt to decapitate
the person. Dr. Tape later testified regarding the manner in
which the wounds may have been inflicted. When the State
asked him what the left side of the cut being deeper than the
right side would indicate, he stated that it would be
consistent with someone making cuts from behind the victim
using their right hand. Defendant objected to this hypothesis
because Dr. Tape had not included it in his report, but the
trial court overruled the objection. Similarly, Defendant
objected to Dr. Tape's testimony regarding his opinion
that the wounds were not done in an instant because the
sawing motion takes time and there were several cuts because
Defendant stated that this testimony was also outside the
information contained in his report. The trial court also
overruled this objection. These issues are discussed in
assignment of error number six.
reply brief, the State argues that the evidence supporting
Defendant's guilt is abundant. For example, the State
points to the testimony of DNA analysts, Carolyn Booker and
Ms. Kurowski, who both testified as to their analyses of the
blood evidence. The State notes that Ms. Kurowski testified
that the analysis of the blood found on Defendant's
clothes that he was last seen wearing and the blood on the
serrated knife found at the scene showed that it was
victim's blood. Further, she testified that blood found
on the victim's abdomen belonged to Defendant. When
Defendant was arrested, he had an injury to his hand that he
stated was from a self-inflicted cut that he sustained after
midnight on November 29th, but he would not provide further
details about how it was sustained. Booker testified that her
analysis of the DNA found on the straight-edge knife belonged
to both the victim and Defendant. Regarding the note found in
Defendant's vehicle, the State argues that the note
provided an explanation from Defendant as to why he committed
the acts in question.
State also points to the circumstantial evidence presented at
trial. The victim was found wearing the same clothes she was
last seen in by her mother the night before, which would
indicate that the murder happened not long after she arrived
home for the night. Further, the trail of blood led from the
victim's body through the house to Defendant's bloody
clothes and to the couple's baby. As noted above, when
Defendant was arrested, he had an injury to his hand. The
jury was presented with information about Defendant fleeing
despite making plans to see the victim's mother the next
day and that when Defendant was found, he appeared to be
living in his car and was in possession of the victim's
wallet as well as the previously-mentioned note that
explained Defendant's actions. The State further notes
that the jury was also presented with evidence regarding the
victim's injuries, including a punctured lung, punctured
liver, and cuts to her neck so severe that Dr. Tape could not
testify to how many wounds were inflicted there.
Defendant argues that he is entitled to a reduction of the
conviction to the lesser included offense of manslaughter.
Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:31(A) defines manslaughter, in
pertinent part, as follows:
(1) A homicide which would be murder under either Article 30
(first degree murder) or Article 30.1 (second degree murder),
but the offense is committed in sudden passion or heat of
blood immediately caused by provocation sufficient to deprive
an average person of his self-control and cool reflection.
Provocation shall not reduce a homicide to manslaughter if
the jury finds that the offender's blood had actually
cooled, or that an average person's blood would have
cooled, at the time the offense was committed . . . .
passion and heat of blood are mitigating factors that
defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence.
State v. Cofer, 16-871 (La.App. 3 Cir. 4/5/17), 216
So.3d 313, writ denied, 17-1150 (La. 5/11/18), 241
argues that given the couple's plans to return to the
victim's mother's house the next day, if Defendant
did commit the crime, it must have been done in sudden
passion and heat of blood. To further support this claim,
Defendant hypothesizes that the stress of school, work, and a
newborn became too much, and an argument ensued which caused
him to snap and kill the victim.
is no evidence in the record supporting a reduction to
manslaughter. Aside from Defendant's hypothesis, there is
nothing in the record that even approaches a preponderance of
the evidence for any mitigating factors.
the evidence presented in this case and the jurisprudence
above, the unanimous guilty verdict was a rational decision
pursuant to Kennerson. As the record supports a
rational conclusion that Defendant had the specific intent to
kill or inflict great bodily harm of the victim, this
assignment of error is without merit.
Defendant's first assignment of error, he alleges that
the trial court erred in allowing inadmissible other crimes
evidence to be admitted. The admission of this evidence
occurred when the State's witness, Detective St. Cyr, was
being questioned on direct examination. The following
exchange took place:
Q. Okay. So was that evidence that was collected pursuant to
that search warrant, was it sent to you?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. Tell me how that - what's that process? What happens
when you're getting evidence from another state or
A. They box it. And in this situation, they put it in two
separate boxes that are sealed by the crime scene tech that
obtained the evidence. She then initials it, that it's
sealed. She ships it to us which in this case was Fed-Ex. We
sign for it upon its arrival, and then I took pictures of the
box that's still sealed and signed.
Q. So when you get the boxes - and it's Fed-Ex'd to
you, is what you said?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. When you get that box, you open that box and how is the
evidence stored in that box?
A. It's all individually packaged.
. . . .
Q. Did you open any of them?
A. I did open some of them, yes.
. . . .
Q. So I want to talk about maybe the ones that you did open.
Did you open - well, which ones did you open?
A. I don't necessarily recall all the items I opened. I
know I opened the notebook, the laptop, maybe the package of
MR. LUSKIN: Objection, Judge. Can we have a sidebar?
THE COURT: On the record I'm sure, right?
MR. LUSKIN: On the record.
THE COURT: Okay. Remove the jury, please.
(AT THIS TIME THE JURY WAS ESCORTED FROM THE COURTROOM.)
DEPUTY SHERIFF: Twelve jurors and two alternates have exited
THE COURT: All right. Please be seated, ladies and gentlemen.
MR. LUSKIN: Judge, I think you can guess my objection here.
The State's witness just testified to a package of
marijuana. Before he testified to the package of marijuana,
he made it clear where that marijuana came from. In fact, the
State walked him through how secure the process was getting
from the car to here. Marijuana, possession of marijuana is a
THE COURT: Not in Colorado.
MR. LUSKIN: It's 404 evidence that was not sought to be
admitted by the State, that was not part of their 404 motion.
The witness just testified to it in front of the jury.
We're moving for a mistrial, Judge.
THE COURT: I'm sorry?
MR. LUSKIN: That's our basis for a motion for a mistrial.
MS. BILLEAUD: Your Honor, the State's position is, you
know, I did not know that Detective St. Cyr was going to
mention that, and - but the marijuana is legal in Colorado
and that's where it was obtained. And I believe even in
the car, and I'm willing to - you know, we can find that
and introduce that as well, that there was a receipt that it
was bought in Colorado.
I think that any error that was made can be easily corrected
by giving an instruction to the jury that that is not a crime
in Colorado and that he didn't break any laws, so it
should not be held against him or be considered a crime in
any manner or any kind of wrong doing at all because it
wasn't. It was a completely legal action that he did
while he was in Colorado. And I think that would cure the
problem. I mean, it shouldn't be held against him.
We're telling them that. It's not a crime there.
THE COURT: Well, it also could be cured if you would just ask
him about that receipt, if they found out whether it was
bought in Colorado.
MS. BILLEAUD: I absolutely can.
THE COURT: And then he says yes, and then you ask him why he
didn't arrest Miles for possession of marijuana, and then
he says because it's legal in Colorado and not a crime
over there. And then you go on and then everything's
solved and I don't have to give them a limiting
MS. BILLEAUD: Okay.
MR. LUSKIN: Judge, if I can briefly. It's legal under
THE COURT: What?
MR. LUSKIN: Possession of marijuana is legal under federal
law, right. The fact that it's legal in Colorado
doesn't necessarily render it harmless. This was
specifically addressed. This has been specifically addressed
repeatedly. I put it in my motion in limine for this exact
reason. We had a 404 hearing in order to clarify what exactly
the State was going to seek to use in terms of prior bad
acts. This wasn't part of that. This was never intended
to be part of that. It's too late. We can't unring
the bell. This is now - this is the third or the fourth piece
of evidence that's been brought out through this witness.
Each one of those pieces of evidence I've taken an issue
with, unauthenticated evidence, hearsay evidence, and now
we've got 404 evidence. The jury's heard all of that.
A limiting instruction is going to be unsuccessful. It's
not going to cure the prejudice. Further questioning of
Detective St. Cyr is not going to cure the prejudice.
It's too late. I think we need a mistrial. That's the
only way to fix this. We can start fresh.
THE COURT: Denied. Anything further before we bring the jury
MR. LUSKIN: Not at this time, Judge.
THE COURT: All right. Bring the jury in.
State then asked the following:
Q. Detective, before we broke you mentioned that one of the
items that you ...