United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. HORNSBY, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
White (“Petitioner”) was charged with
manslaughter in connection with the hit and run death of a
young man who was trying to help a stranded motorist. A Caddo
Parish jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty.
Petitioner was adjudicated a fourth felony offender and
sentenced to life imprisonment. His conviction was affirmed
on direct appeal. State v. White, 57 So.3d 1078
(La.App. 2d Cir. 2011), writ denied, 71 So.3d 310
(La.). Petitioner also pursued a post-conviction application
in state court. He now seeks federal habeas corpus relief on
several grounds. For the reasons that follow, it is
recommended that his petition be denied.
of the Evidence
Swinney was driving home around 10:00 p.m. on December 28,
2007 when her car stalled at the intersection of Linwood
Avenue and Corbitt Street in Shreveport. Ms. Swinney
activated her hazard lights and got out to try to push the
car out of the street. A group of young buys, including 15
year-old Adam Klingensmith, stopped to help.
boys were attempting to push the car out of the road when
another car approached from behind at a high rate of speed.
One of the boys tried to flag down the approaching car, then
yelled for everyone to get out of the way. The car crashed
into Swinney's car and kept going.
boys first thought everyone had gotten out of the way, but
they could not find Adam. His shoes were found at the scene.
Another citizen later called police to an area a little over
a mile away from the accident, where they found Adam's
body lying face down in the road.
Swinney never saw the other car, and the boys could not
identify the car or driver. Police asked the public for
information about the incident. Rashida Chitman lived near
the intersection of Linwood and Corbitt. Ruthie Vailes, with
whom Petitioner had a relationship, was visiting Chitman at
about 10:30 p.m. the night of the incident. Petitioner
arrived, nervous and upset, and told Vailes that he had been
in a wreck on Linwood. Petitioner went to his house, which
was just around the corner.
Chitman heard a news broadcast the next morning that asked
for information about the accident. She walked to the home
shared by Ms. Vailes and Petitioner to tell them what she
heard on the news. She saw that Petitioner's car was
parked in the back of the house, which was not its ordinary
spot, and she called the police.
found Petitioner's car in the backyard with severe damage
to the front, especially the grill, hood, and windshield. A
pathologist testified that the head and chest injuries that
caused Adam's death were consistent with impact from an
automobile. Adam's blood was tested for DNA, and it was
consistent with blood found in the passenger seat of
Petitioner's car. Petitioner had on a pair of overalls
that night, and he took them off before he went to bed.
Police found them beside his bed with the key to
Petitioner's damaged car in the pocket and Adam's
blood on the outside.
State Court Decision
was charged with manslaughter, which was defined in La. R.S.
14:31(A)(2)(a), which states, in relevant part:
“Manslaughter is. . .[a] homicide committed, without
any intent to cause death or great bodily harm. . . [w]hen
the offender is engaged in the perpetration or attempted
perpetration of any felony not enumerated in Article 30 or
30.1, or of any intentional misdemeanor directly affecting
the person. . . .” The State relied on felony
hit-and-run as the underlying crime to support the
manslaughter charge. Louisiana R.S. 14:100 states:
“Hit-and-run driving is the intentional failure of the
driver of a vehicle involved in or causing any accident, to
stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident, to give his
identity, and to render reasonable aid.”
was appointed counsel on appeal. He also filed a pro se brief
and raised the issue of sufficiency of the evidence.
Petitioner argued that the State could not show that he
committed a homicide when “engaged in the perpetration
or attempted perpetration of any felony” because the
hit and run was not completed until after the victim was
evaluating the sufficiency of evidence to support a
conviction “the relevant question 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 beyond a reasonable
doubt.” Jackson v. Virginia, 99 S.Ct. 2781,
2789 (1979). The state appellate court recited the correct
Jackson standard and reviewed the evidence before
it. That evidence showed that Petitioner failed to stop after
causing the accident, did not give his identity, and did not
render reasonable aid. Medical evidence proved that the
homicide was committed when the victim was struck by
Petitioner's vehicle and killed as a result. The court
disagreed with Petitioner's argument that the State could
not rely on hit and run as the underlying offense because the
hit and run did not occur until after the death of the
victim. State v. White, 57 So.3d at 1082-83.