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State v. White

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 8, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
THOMAS G. WHITE Appellant

          Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Morehouse, Louisiana Trial Court No. 13-153F Honorable Carl V. Sharp, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Bertha M. Hillman Counsel for Appellant

          ROBERT S. TEW District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          JOHN G. SPIRES Assistant District Attorney

          Before MOORE, COX, and BLEICH (Ad Hoc), JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         Following a bench trial, Thomas Casey White was convicted as charged for the attempted second degree murder of Charles Ashlock. White was sentenced to 20 years at hard labor, the first 10 years to be served without benefits. White now appeals.

         The absence in the record evidencing a valid waiver of White's right to trial by jury requires that we vacate White's conviction and sentence.

         FACTS

         Mid-afternoon on February 25, 2013, while riding in the passenger seat of a pickup truck driven by Charles Ashlock on Naff Avenue near Highway 165 South in Bastrop, Louisiana, Casey White, age 42, suddenly told Ashlock, "I'm gonna kill you," and he pulled out his pocket knife and slashed Ashlock's throat. Ashlock received several more stab wounds as he fended off the attack. Meanwhile, Ashlock's truck veered off the road, knocking out a fence in front of a house before coming to a stop in the ditch in front of the house. White jumped out of the truck and fled. Ashlock got out of the truck and knocked at the door of the house to get help. He removed his shirt and wrapped it around his neck to help stop the bleeding. He got back into the truck and, fortunately, he was able to back it out of the ditch.

         Driving north on Martin Luther King South, Ashlock came up behind a Morehouse Parish Sheriff's vehicle travelling in the same direction. He began honking his horn behind the police unit. Hearing the horn, Deputy Sara Coleman stopped her police unit. She got out and saw the shirtless Ashlock covered in blood with a "towel" around his neck. Ashlock told her he had been stabbed by his best friend. Concerned over his loss of blood, Deputy Coleman put Ashlock in the front seat of her vehicle and drove him to Morehouse General Hospital. Although critically injured, Ashlock survived.

         Police went to Ashlock's home searching for White. He was not there, nor had Ashlock's wife seen White since he left with her husband earlier in the day. White was well known to the couple, and he had been living with Ashlock and his wife, Joanna, who were trying to help White. They knew that White was schizophrenic and thought he was taking his medication. [1]

         Police spoke with White's grandmother who lived next door to the Ashlocks. She informed them that White was on several types of medication, including one for schizophrenia.

         The next day, White's grandmother notified authorities that he could be found at the Preferred Inn, Room 364, in Bastrop. White was taken into custody without incident. He told officers that he was taken off some of his medications and was hearing voices. It is also not disputed that White was experiencing paranoid delusions at that time. In his statement to police, White said that the night before the attack, he overheard the Ashlocks talking about getting rid of something by taking it off. He assumed that they were talking about getting rid of him.

         In light of White's history of mental illness, his trial counsel filed a motion for appointment of a sanity commission. Drs. James B. Pinkston and John R. Turpin were appointed to the commission. On June 26, 2014, White was committed to the Department of Health and Hospitals. On September 12, 2014, White's doctor at the mental institution confirmed that he was now competent to stand trial.

         White entered a plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. At trial, his counsel offered the sanity commission reports of Drs. Turpin and Pinkston as evidence that White did not have the capacity to determine right from wrong at the time of the crime. Dr. Turpin evaluated White and concluded that he was suffering from chronic paranoid schizophrenia and was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the offense. Dr. Pinkston also examined White and noted that White was experiencing paranoid delusions, but could not ...


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