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State v. Thomas

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 22, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
TAUREAN LAMAR THOMAS Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 342, 039, Honorable Craig O. Marcotte, Judge.

          THE HATCH LAW FIRM, LLC By: Christopher Hatch, Counsel for Appellant.

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney, Counsel for Appellee.

          WILLIAM J. EDWARDS SAMUEL S. CRICHTON CHARLES K. PARR Assistant District Attorneys.

          Before WILLIAMS, PITMAN, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          PITMAN, J.

         After a jury trial, Defendant Taurean Lamar Thomas was found guilty of second degree battery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was sentenced as a fourth-felony offender to life imprisonment without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence on the battery conviction, and to 20 years, also without benefits, on the conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. For the following reasons, Defendant's convictions and sentences are affirmed.

         FACTS

         On June 29, 2017, Defendant was charged by amended bill of information with the second degree battery of Ronald Reddix in violation of La. R.S. 14:34.1, and possession of a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon by a convicted felon in violation of La. R.S. 14:95.1. Both offenses were committed on June 22, 2016. A jury trial was held from September 25-27, 2017. The following evidence was adduced at trial.

         Reddix's sister, Debra Reddix, testified that she received a call on June 22, 2016, from someone who told her that her brother was hurt and that she would find him at the house next door to her Aunt Sharon's house on E. 74th Street, Shreveport, Louisiana. Debra testified that upon arriving at her aunt's house, she saw her aunt in her yard, along with her next-door neighbor, Anzio Lee, and her brother seated behind the wheel of his green Ford F150 truck "laid over and I guess unconscious."

         Debra further testified that she tried to wake up her brother by shaking him and that Reddix would mumble and then pass out again. She stated that Lee asked her to move her brother's truck from his driveway, so she drove it a block away. When she opened the door, her brother's head "kind of fell out" and that was when she saw a knot the size of an orange with blood around it at the base of the back of his head. She called 911, but her brother refused the aid of emergency services when the ambulance arrived. The police also came to the scene and attempted to speak to Reddix, but he was incoherent. She testified that Reddix's girlfriend, Michelle McCoy, took him to the hospital. She stated that she had no knowledge of Reddix having hearing issues prior to the June 22, 2016 incident.

         McCoy testified that she had been in a relationship with Reddix for about 11 years. She stated that she received a call from Debra, who informed her that something had happened to Reddix. She confirmed that she met Reddix and Debra at E. 75th Street and that, at that point, Reddix was in the passenger side of his truck with "his head down, his eyes closed. All he would say was yes or no." She saw that Reddix's nose was bleeding. She testified that when she took Reddix to the hospital, she also saw that he had a bloody swollen knot on his head.

         Officer Leona Gray of the Shreveport Police Department ("SPD") testified that she responded to a call on June 22, 2016, at E. 75th Street, where she met Reddix and McCoy. She witnessed that Reddix had a large knot on the back of his head "the size of a baseball" and that his speech was sluggish. Since the knot on the back of his head was so large, she suggested to McCoy that she take Reddix to the hospital, even though he had declined treatment by EMS.

         Reddix testified that he knew Defendant and owed him about $20. He also testified that he knew Lee from the neighborhood and that he went to Lee's house on E. 74th Street to "hang out" on June 22, 2016. He stated that he had beer and whiskey prior to arriving at Lee's house, but that he had not used drugs for at least a few days prior to June 22, 2016. He confirmed that he drove a green Ford F150 truck. He stated that he first saw Defendant outside Lee's house in the front yard, where Defendant mentioned the debt he owed him and that it became a "hostile environment." He stated that he "had been drinking" and had "probably said some bad things." He further stated that he wanted to defuse the situation.

         Reddix further testified that Defendant was about five to six feet away from him and that he tried to leave because he felt outnumbered by Defendant and Lee. He stated that no punches were thrown; but when he tried to get back to his truck, the "lights went out." The next thing he remembered was the emergency personnel, but did not remember getting into the truck or how he got to the hospital. He stated that it was morning when he went to Lee's house around 9:00-10:00 a.m., and he did not get to the hospital until nighttime. He was in ICU for two days. He also testified that he lost hearing in his right ear and could hear only ringing in that ear. He acknowledged that his memory was incomplete regarding the June 22, 2016 incident and admitted that he may have pushed Defendant in order to put distance between the two.

         Lee testified that he had known Reddix for about 15 years and that he had known Defendant for six to eight months prior to the June 22, 2016 incident. The prosecutor asked Lee questions about his prior criminal history, which he denied remembering. This history included a conviction for felony theft in 1991, armed robbery and a conviction for the manufacture/distribution of a Schedule II CDS in 2003. He claimed that he had "caught a little light stroke, man, so my memory just ain't all that for (sic) way back when." When questioned if he had any other criminal convictions, he replied, "I don't want to lie to you. I don't know what you're talking about."

         Lee further testified that on the evening of June 22, 2016, Defendant arrived at his house first and Reddix arrived about 20 minutes later. Defendant confronted Reddix about the money he owed him, saying, "I want my money," and "Where my money?" Lee testified that Reddix then "swung on" Defendant, but he ducked and was not struck. Defendant then punched Reddix three to four times in the face. Lee stated, "Ronald Reddix had looked at me and then he looked at defendant. He fell on his butt and then he throwed his head back real hard." Lee admitted that when he gave a statement to SPD officers on June 27, 2016, he told them something different, i.e., that Reddix tried to grab Defendant's shirt and then Defendant struck Reddix four times with a closed fist. He also told them that before Defendant struck Reddix, he said, "Give me my money, bitch" and that Reddix intentionally "threw his head into the street."

         Lee further testified that he asked Reddix if he needed an ambulance, and Reddix said no. He stated that after Reddix was on the ground, he and Defendant recorded a video, which he claimed was his own idea. When asked if he told SPD it was Defendant's idea to record the video, he said he did not remember. When asked if he told SPD that he believed he could not do anything about the video because Defendant had a gun, he replied, "Well, yeah."

         The state introduced a video into evidence which depicted Defendant standing in the driveway of a home between two cars, with a third car and a green truck parked in the driveway behind him.[1] Reddix appears in the video, lying down on the driveway, and he seems to be unconscious when the video begins. Defendant is standing in front of Reddix, rapping, "Why you make me do that?" Defendant also states, "I'm the real deal, Evander Holyfield." Defendant looks around and then pulls what appears to be a handgun from the rear waistband of his shorts, shows it to the camera and states, "I got iron." At one point in the video, Defendant turns to Reddix and states, "Why you make me do you this? I just got out. He duckin' me. I hurtin' bad. I need my money." Defendant continues to rap and states, "Hit you on your chin and make you holler, bruh." Near the end of the video, Reddix starts to move while lying in the driveway. Defendant is seen smiling and laughing in the video.

         Lee further testified that Defendant did not take anything out of Reddix's pocket and confirmed that he gave the same statement to the SPD. Defendant asked him for "two soups" and left after he got them. He also stated that he and his neighbor, Sharon, helped Reddix up and put him in his truck. Reddix was "a little dazed" and "in and out." He added that when he and Sharon were helping Reddix to his truck, Reddix fell on his head twice-"Every time he fall, he just fall straight on his head."

         Lee denied that Defendant stated that he might shoot Reddix while Reddix was unconscious. When asked, "Do you recall telling [SPD] that the reason you didn't call the police is because [Defendant] could have shot you," Lee responded, "I don't remember." When asked, "Did you tell [SPD] that the reason you did not help [Reddix] is because, quote - that you, quote, can't fight no gun," he responded, "I don't remember, sir." He testified that it was his idea to put the video on Facebook and when asked why he wanted to do that, he stated, "I caught a little light stroke, and I don't remember too much . . . Only thing I can remember really is what had happened in the yard. And I don't remember why."

         Lee affirmed that he approached Reddix and asked him to drop the charges against Defendant. He stated, "I was asking him why did he-is he pressing charges when he know he started it." He confirmed that he posted messages on Facebook, stating, "Man knocked out in my yard yesterday, died this morning," "Playing with people money," and "Rob him, too." When asked what he meant by the "rob him, too" Facebook message, he responded, "I don't know. Didn't nobody get robbed or nothing." He advised that he gave his statement to officers at the SPD, and he was under the impression that he could have been arrested.

         SPD Sergeant Kevin Strickland testified about the interview he had with Lee on June 27, 2016, regarding the incident between Reddix and Defendant. Parts of the audio recording of the interview were played in court. In that recording, Lee stated that Defendant approached Reddix asking about money. Reddix then grabbed Defendant's shirt, and then Defendant hit Reddix about four times and Reddix fell to the ground. Lee stated that he did not know if Reddix hit his head then or when he was transferred to his truck. He saw that Defendant had a gun when he was fighting with Reddix. He stated that a video was made just after the incident and that it was Defendant's idea. He further stated that while Reddix was unconscious in the driveway, Defendant said he would shoot Reddix and then he went through Reddix's pockets and took about $8.00. He further stated that he did not believe he could call the police with Defendant there because Defendant had a gun. He and Sharon put Reddix in his truck and asked him several times if he wanted an ambulance. Reddix repeatedly answered, "No." He further stated that Defendant did not hit Reddix with the gun and did not point the gun at anyone.

         The trial court recognized Dr. Hai Sun as an expert in neurology, who testified about the injuries sustained by Reddix when he came to the hospital on June 22, 2016. Dr. Sun confirmed that Reddix had a subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by trauma without loss of consciousness, meaning, Reddix had a brain bleed from the rupture of an artery on the surface of his brain. He stated that such an injury could cause pain and suffering, headaches, seizures or other conditions, and that Reddix was conscious when he arrived at the hospital.

         Dr. Sun further testified that Reddix also had skull fractures to his occipital and temporal bones, a maxillary fracture to his face and a scalp contusion, with swelling and blood under his scalp. He stated that Reddix's injuries could have caused him to lose consciousness and could have affected his speech, hearing or memory. He also stated that Reddix had cannabis and cocaine in his system.

         Kenneth McBroom was called by the state to establish Defendant's connection with his missing firearm. He testified that he had been married to Mary McBroom, who passed away on June 16, 2016. He stated that he kept a Taurus PT, 12 rounds, 9mm handgun in a holster near their bed at home and that Mrs. McBroom knew where the gun was kept. He had cleaned the gun about three days before his wife's death and discovered shortly after her death that the gun was missing. He provided the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office ("CPSO") with photos of the box that the gun came in, the gun and its serial number and the gun's booklet. He examined a still picture taken from the video, shot by Lee, which showed Defendant holding a gun and confirmed that it resembled his own gun. He further confirmed that his gun had not been recovered.

         CPSO Detective Keith Fox ("Det. Fox") testified about his role in investigating Mrs. McBroom's death, stating that she was found deceased on June 16, 2016, in her Jeep in the 12000 block of Keithville-Keatchie Road in Keithville, Louisiana. It was determined that her cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the chest and was ruled a suicide. The firearm and her purse were missing from the Jeep. Mr. McBroome advised him that his 9mm Taurus Pt 111 gun was missing and provided him with the serial number for the gun.

         Det. Fox further testified that on the date of Mrs. McBroom's death, he made contact with Defendant, whom he saw across the street from where her body was found in her car. Defendant did not give any statements at the scene, but agreed to be interviewed by him. He stated that he spoke with Defendant twice and mirandized him on both occasions. At the first interview, Defendant said that he saw a white woman inside Mrs. McBroom's vehicle, who he thought was sleeping, but denied touching her vehicle. Defendant also said he saw a "Mexican" man nearby, and it was that man who called the police about Mrs. McBroom.

         Det. Fox further testified that during his second interview with Defendant, he stated that he did touch Mrs. McBroom's car by putting his hand under his T-shirt to knock on the driver's side window, and then wiped down the window. Defendant also said he saw "purple fingers" on Mrs. McBroom's hand. Defendant denied going inside the vehicle or touching any part of the vehicle other than the driver's side window.

         Det. Fox also testified that while he was investigating the McBroom case, he received a text message from SPD Detective Kelly Coffee, who sent a photo of a suspect that she was following in a case in Cedar Grove in Shreveport and informed him that there was a video of the suspect holding a handgun.[2] He stated that the photo depicted Defendant standing outside and holding a handgun in his right hand. He confirmed that the gun in the photo was very similar to the one Mr. McBroom had said was missing from his home and from Mrs. McBroom's vehicle on the day of the suicide. Det. Fox further confirmed that the gun seen in the still image from the video is different from a comparison photo of the Taurus Pt III air soft, a toy or pellet gun, that the state produced and showed to him.[3]

         CPSO Detective John Colvin, a crime scene investigator, testified about the circumstances of Mrs. McBroom's death. He stated that there was no outside damage or signs of forced entry to her vehicle. A bullet, caliber unknown, was found on the inside of the back portion of the driver's seat. Mrs. McBroom was found in the driver's seat, unresponsive, and the door to the vehicle was unlocked. He testified that ...


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