APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16-735, DIVISION
"J" HONORABLE STEPHEN C. GREFER, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA, Paul D.
Connick, Jr., Terry M. Boudreaux, Gail D. Schlosser, Laura S.
Schneidau, Lindsay L. Truhe
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, FURNELL D. DANIELS (A.K.A.
FURNELL D. DANIEL) Jane L. Beebe
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Stephen J.
Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg
FREDERICKA HOMBERG WICKER JUDGE
Furnell D. Daniels,  was found guilty of manslaughter in
violation of La. R.S. 14:31 for the death of his
fourteen-year-old son, J.D., and seeks the reversal of his
conviction and sentence. Defendant assigns the following
issues for review: 1) whether the trial court erred in
denying the defense's Batson/ J.E.B. challenge
to the State striking African-American prospective jurors;
and 2) whether the trial court erred in imposing the maximum
sentence for a first time offender with evidence of
mitigation throughout the trial. We find that under the facts
presented, the trial court neither erred in denying
defendant's Batson/J.E.B. challenge nor in
giving defendant the maximum sentence under the law.
Accordingly, for the following reasons, we affirm
defendant's conviction and sentence.
9, 2016, a Jefferson Parish Grand Jury indicted defendant
with second-degree murder of fourteen-year-old J.D.,
violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1. Defendant pled not guilty at
his June 29, 2016 arraignment, and subsequently filed motions
to suppress evidence taken from his home and statements he
made to first responders and officers. His motions were
denied on May 10, 2017, and on the same date, the trial court
granted the State's motion to introduce other crimes
evidence pursuant to La. C.E. art. 404(B). Defendant's
trial commenced on November 14, 2017, before a twelve-person
jury. At the trial's conclusion, the jury found defendant
guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter in
violation of La. R.S. 14:31. On November 27, 2017, defendant
filed a motion for new trial making several arguments
including that the trial court erred in denying his
Batson challenge during jury selection, the verdict
is contrary to the law and evidence presented by the State,
and the State violated the court ordered sequestration of the
victim's brother, Nell, which the trial court denied on
the same day. After a waiver of sentencing delays by
defendant, the trial court sentenced defendant to forty years
imprisonment with the Department of Corrections and credit
for time served. The trial court further recommended drug
treatment and any self-help programs available to defendant
through the Department of Corrections during his time of
incarceration. On December 14, 2017, defendant filed a motion
to reconsider sentence, which the trial court denied on
December 22, 2017.
February 14, 2018, defendant filed a pro se motion for
appeal, which the trial court granted as an out-of-time
appeal the following day. Defendant now appeals, arguing the
trial court erred in denying his Batson/J.E.B.
challenge and in imposing a maximum forty-year sentence for a
first time offender.
trial, Latonya Kelly, mother of the victim, J.D., and the
victim's brother, Fernell, Jr. ("Nell"),
testified that in February of 2016, J.D. and her son Nell
were living with their father - defendant. Ms. Kelly stated
that she was living in Baton Rouge at the time with her two
eldest daughters Savari and Juresia. On February 6, 2016, Ms.
Kelly's son Nell telephoned her at work to inform her
that J.D. had "an accident" and was at the
hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, a doctor informed Ms.
Kelly that J.D. was "dead upon arrival." However,
J.D. remained on life support for approximately one week to
ensure he was in fact "brain dead" until all life
sustaining measures were ceased. Ms. Kelly testified that she
did not speak to defendant about what happened upon her
arrival at the hospital or since the incident.
February 6, 2016, at approximately 12:30 p.m., Captain Samuel
Craigie and Larry Frederick, firefighters with the Live Oak
Manor Volunteer Fire Company, responded to a call for service
at 73 Clifford Court in Waggaman, Louisiana. It was reported
to them that a fourteen-year-old male had fallen in the
bathtub and hit his head rendering him unconscious. Upon
arrival at the residence, Captain Craigie testified that
their knocks went unanswered for a long period of time until
Nell opened the door. Captain Craigie observed J.D. in the
living room lying on the sofa in defendant's lap. He
inquired of defendant as to what had happened at which time
defendant informed him that he had attempted to discipline
J.D. who ran away from him and slipped. Defendant later
advised Firefighter Frederick that J.D. had fallen in the
bathtub the night before and had awoken that morning
appearing very "sluggish." Defendant further
indicated that when he attempted to reprimand J.D., J.D. took
off running and fell. Defendant told Firefighter Frederick
that it had been approximately thirty minutes from the time
J.D. had fallen to the time he called 9-1-1 because he wanted
to see if J.D. could "sleep it off."
firefighters performed an assessment, at which time they
found that J.D.'s pulse was high, his respirations were
shallow, and his pupils were fixed. Captain Craigie testified
that large fixed pupils are often associated with head trauma
or a drug-related overdose; thus, he asked defendant whether
there were any medications in the house that J.D. might have
"gotten into." Defendant responded that he did not
think there were but then retrieved a full bottle of pills,
stating, "it could have been this." J.D.'s
condition quickly began to deteriorate and firefighters
initiated CPR until EMS arrived. Firefighter Frederick
recalled that J.D. had three abrasions that were scabbed over
on his forehead, swelling above one eye, and a number of
bruises on his abdomen and one of his arms.
Jefferson Hospital Paramedic Matthew Perkins arrived on the
scene and took over from the fire department personnel
administering CPR and advanced care to J.D. who at this time
did not have a pulse. In addition to administering
epinephrine, which was successful in regaining J.D.'s
pulse, Paramedic Perkins administered Narcan for any possible
drug overdose. Paramedic Perkins explained that there are no
negative effects of administering Narcan to a patient who has
not ingested any drugs. He further testified that he also
observed bruising and swelling on J.D.'s body in various
stages of healing.
Nicholas Sanderson of the Jefferson Parish Sherriff's
Office also responded to the 9-1-1 call initiated by
defendant on February 6, 2016. Upon his arrival, he spoke
with defendant who stated that J.D. had fallen the previous
day and that he was fine until he went unresponsive. After
relocating to the hospital, Detective Sanderson spoke to
defendant who informed him that he was angry with Nell and
J.D. for their poor school grades so he "paddled"
them with a thin piece of wood. He further explained that
J.D. was "squirming" around which caused him to be
struck in both the front and back approximately three to five
times before defendant moved on to Nell. After defendant
finished with Nell, he went back to J.D. who attempted to run
away from defendant and tripped near a coffee table in the
living room where a chair fell on top of him. Defendant
stated that he then chased J.D. into the bedroom at which
time J.D. slipped and fell for a second time, hitting his
head on the bed's box spring. J.D. relayed to defendant
that his head hurt, but defendant indicated that he did not
take his son's complaint seriously because J.D. often
exaggerated his symptoms to escape further punishment.
Defendant further told Detective Sanderson that later that
night he heard a loud "thud" coming from the
bathroom where he witnessed J.D. slumped over the bathtub. He
admitted to Officer Sanderson that he had observed the
bruising on J.D.'s body, including those on his legs and
shoulders, and defendant conceded that he caused some of
these by paddling J.D. Defendant then stated that he moved
J.D. from the bathroom into his bedroom, wrapped his
shoulder, gave him some pain medication, and kept him awake
for a while in case of a concussion.
told Detective Sanderson that the following morning, around
7:00 or 8:00 a.m., J.D. woke up complaining of head pain and
began vomiting. Defendant informed Detective Sanderson that
later on J.D. started making gurgling noises and became
unresponsive. Detective Sanderson also observed J.D.'s
injuries while at the hospital and spoke to the treating
physician, Dr. Roxanne Thompson, who stated that J.D.'s
injuries were indicative of physical abuse.
Roxanne Thompson was the pediatric emergency room physician
who treated J.D. She testified that he was unresponsive when
he arrived at the hospital and presented with abrasions
around his forehead and face and bruises and abrasions on his
extremities. Dr. Thompson explained that J.D. had suffered an
epidural hemorrhage with death due to brain injury. Dr.
Thompson also performed a skeletal examination reporting the
presence of fractures in various locations of J.D.'s body
including on his forearm near his wrist, and his right
kneecap. Dr. Thompson testified that she spoke with the
neurosurgeon who had been consulted on J.D.'s case and
felt that J.D.'s condition had progressed so far that
removing the blood on his brain to try to relieve the
pressure would not help him. The neurosurgeon then relayed to
Dr. Thompson his belief that had J.D. been brought to the
hospital sooner, he would have been able to save his life.
Based on the totality of the injuries sustained by J.D., Dr.
Thompson did not believe them to be consistent with a single
fall, noting that a great deal of force would have had to be
employed to cause an epidural hematoma and a fractured
Thompson also had the opportunity to speak with defendant who
informed her that J.D. was a "problem child" and
that he had reprimanded him the night before for receiving
bad grades in school. He also told Dr. Thompson that because
J.D. had tried to run from him, he chased him around their
home so he was unsure which parts of J.D.'s body had been
hit with the "board" he was using. He also
mentioned to Dr. Thompson that J.D. had fallen at least once
and that J.D. had complained of a headache and pain.
Parish Sheriff's Office Homicide Detective Gabriel
Faucetta testified that he obtained a search warrant for
defendant's home based upon the information Officer
Sanderson, the hospital staff, and J.D.'s older brother
Nell provided him. During the search of the home, detectives
seized a crib rail which was identified as the weapon
defendant used on J.D. Detectives also found and photographed
damage to sheetrock in the home, which they concluded was
caused by the same crib rail. Detective Faucetta also
obtained and executed a search warrant on defendant's
cellular phone. A forensic examination of defendant's
phone revealed that immediately before defendant called
9-1-1, at 12:22 p.m., he called his wife, Terri Daniel.
Additionally, a text message sent a few hours after 9-1-1 was
called, at approximately 4:13 p.m., read "[m]aybe
I'm me trying to chastise him. Just don't know. It
could be drugs." After the autopsy was performed,
defendant was arrested for second-degree
Faucetta further testified that on February 15, 2016, Ericka
Dupepe of the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC)
interviewed Nell and his two younger siblings, Gabriella
Daniel and Jasiah Simmons, who also lived with their
father-defendant. As a result of the children's
interviews, Jefferson Parish Sherriff's Office obtained
and executed a second search warrant for defendant's home
during which officers seized metal tent poles which the
children identified as items used by defendant as past
weapons during beatings.
Neha Mehta, medical director of the Audrey Hepburn Care
Center at Children's Hospital and expert in general
pediatrics and child abuse pediatrics, testified that she
interviewed and evaluated Nell on March 3, 2016. At the time
of her examination she observed no physical injuries on Nell
despite him having informed her that he himself also
sustained injuries on the same date as J.D. However, Dr.
Mehta testified that she did not expect to see any injuries
or marks on Nell at the time of her examination based on the
remoteness of the February 5-6, 2016 event.
Dr. Mehta explained that the history Nell provided to her
regarding the events that occurred on the date in question
was in her opinion consistent with child physical abuse. She
further recalled that when providing his medical history,
Nell relayed to her that defendant would strike him and J.D.
with a wooden crib rail approximately three feet in length
and two inches in width, and a metal tent pole. Dr. Mehta
also learned that J.D. had been treated on a previous
occasion at Children's Hospital on December 11, 2009,
having reportedly been disciplined by defendant who struck
him in the face with a belt when he tried to escape
punishment. Dr. Mehta reported that she examined
photographs from the December 2009 incident which also
appeared consistent with child abuse.
Mehta further testified that she reviewed the medical records
from the February 2016 incident and concluded that J.D.'s
injuries were not consistent with a single fall in a bathtub
or a fall on a carpeted floor. Rather, she believed
J.D.'s injuries to be consistent with the account of the
events relayed by Nell of the physical child abuse suffered
at the hands of defendant. Dr. Mehta confirmed that J.D.
would have been in significant pain as a result of his
injuries and that it would have been very difficult for him
to bear weight on his leg where he sustained a fractured
kneecap. She further concluded that had defendant and his
wife sought medical care for J.D. after his symptoms
appeared, medical intervention would have changed his chance
Susan Garcia, the forensic pathologist who performed the
autopsy on J.D. on February 11, 2016, testified that J.D. was
pronounced brain dead on February 8, 2016. Based on her
examination, she found J.D. died of an epidural hemorrhage
due to a skull fracture, measuring a little over two inches,
from blunt force trauma. Contusions on J.D.'s head
indicated that he sustained three blows to the head. In
addition, Dr. Garcia stated that multiple areas of his body
were also subjected to blunt force trauma including his
torso, upper body, and lower extremities. On the back of
J.D.'s left arm beneath his elbow were also some small
contusions. Dr. Garcia explained that the location of the
contusions were consistent with a defensive injury. She
further opined that the injuries J.D. sustained were not the
result of a fall, and based on her observations, she
determined the manner of death as a homicide.
Kerrin was a child protection investigator with DCFS at the
time of J.D.'s death. On February 6, 2016, Ms.
Kerrin's on-call supervisor- Lashonda Dorcey- notified
her of J.D.'s hospitalization. As part of her
investigation, she went to the hospital and spoke with
medical personnel and had the opportunity to observe
J.D.'s injuries. Ms. Kerrin also spoke with defendant
after his arrest who informed her that he was disciplining
his two sons because of their school grades and J.D. would
not remain still to "take the discipline, which was 15
hits with paddles." He explained to Ms. Kerrin that J.D.
was running away from him and that he chased him and
continued to strike him. He admitted that he caused J.D. to
sustain bruising and was aware of a "knot on his knee
and his shoulder." Defendant further told Ms. Kerrin
that he was "concerned at various times," and told
J.D. "if this gets too bad let me know, but you need to
suck it up." Defendant also relayed that J.D. fell in
the bathtub and had to be carried back to his bedroom,
acknowledging that he was aware his son was injured.
Kerrin also testified that defendant had been investigated by
DCFS on prior occasions for child abuse, resulting in two
valid findings of abuse in 2009.
Juresia Daniel, J.D.'s sister, testified that she lived
with her mother in Baton Rouge. She stated that she did not
live with defendant prior to 2016, however, she would
occasionally visit defendant at his home. She recalled a time
when J.D. was approximately six or seven years old, and she
witnessed defendant "whipping" J.D., who tried to
run away but was caught by defendant. Juresia stated that
J.D. was lying on his stomach when defendant put his foot on
his back and "whipped" him with a belt. Juresia
also testified regarding incidents of abuse that she had
suffered at the hands of defendant. She discussed an incident
when defendant hit her with a hanger multiple times on her
legs and struck her giving her a black eye when she was in
middle school. Juresia testified that she stopped
visiting her father because she "didn't like
catching all the whippings and all the rules," and
because she was scared of him.
Savaria Kelly testified similarly to Juresia, explaining that
she lived with her mother but occasionally visited her
father. She also testified regarding an incident involving
her father when she was seven or eight years old and her
sister Juresia was five or six. She recalled that Juresia
left the bread tie off the bread bag and also lied about
having ironed her clothes, so defendant chased her around
"whipping" her with a belt. Savaria decided when
she was twelve or thirteen that she would not visit defendant
Nell testified that on February 5, 2016, defendant picked him
up from school after having spoken to his teacher regarding
his grades. Nell recalled that on the way to the car they
began to argue at which time defendant "jabbed"
him. Defendant was angry with Nell about his poor grades and
told him "I'll deal with you when I get home."
After they arrived home, at around 3:00 p.m., J.D. was also
getting home from school. Nell recalled that when J.D.
arrived, defendant was yelling and told them to "turn
over" as punishment for their bad grades. Defendant told
them that they would each get fifteen "licks" in
increments of five with a stick taken from his sister's
crib. Nell went first, and after he had taken his first five
"licks," it was J.D.'s turn. Nell testified
that defendant struck J.D. who kept moving away, which caused
another "lick" to be added. After Nell's second
round, J.D. was hit two more times before he started to move
away again because he did "not want to take his
five," stating that he was hurt and asking defendant to
stop. Nell recalled that after his last five
"licks," J.D. was in a chair saying, "I'm
hurting. I'm hurting"; however, defendant went over
and started hitting him. J.D. tried to run away, but
defendant chased him, striking him while he ran. Nell tried
to intervene but was unsuccessful.
point when J.D. ran away, Nell could hear screaming and
chairs falling. Nell eventually saw J.D. on the ground in his
room crying and unable to get up. Nell attempted to help his
brother up, but defendant stopped him; a few minutes later
Nell observed J.D. stand up, after defendant denied him help,
but Nell noticed that J.D. was not walking normally as if
something was wrong with his knee. Nell testified that he
also observed "scrapes" on J.D.'s legs, a scar
above his eye, "marks" on his collar bone, his
shoulder, and his neck, and that his wrist was swollen. Both
defendant and Nell put ice on J.D.'s wrist and collar
bone. Nell testified that J.D. repeatedly stated that he was
further testified that later that evening, he and defendant
heard a "thump" coming from the bathroom. When they
went to check on the noise, J.D. had fallen and they tried to
help him up. Defendant then assisted J.D. to his room and
Nell subsequently assisted J.D. to a couch in the living
room. Nell recalled that his father then left the house to
pick up his wife, Nell's step-mother, Terri. Nell
testified that it was at that time that he really saw the
extent of J.D.'s injuries, and that J.D. informed him
"I think I hit my head."
defendant and Terri arrived back home they brought with them
a heating pad and medicine. According to Nell, Terri was
"acting terrified" after checking on J.D. and asked
defendant if he was sure he did not need to go to the doctor.
J.D. refused to eat that evening and defendant assisted him
to his bedroom at approximately 10:00 p.m. At approximately
5:00 a.m., J.D. woke Nell complaining of neck pain and
feeling hot. He also asked Nell to get defendant for him.
When defendant entered the room, J.D. urinated on himself and
vomited. Terri also came into the room at that time and
stated that J.D. should be brought to the doctor, to which
defendant replied, "if he gets anymore worse, we're
going to bring him to the doctor." Terri and defendant
then got into a "disagreement," after which she
went back to their bedroom. Nell went back to sleep and awoke
at 9:00 a.m. to find J.D. on the couch saying his head hurt,
while holding his collar bone. Nell believed that J.D. looked
worse than the day before. Nell further recalled that he,
J.D., and defendant were praying, and that around noon that
day defendant called 9-1-1 when J.D. became unresponsive.
State rested and the defense called defendant to the stand.
Defendant, father of seven, testified that he was an
associate minister and that he tried to run his household in
accordance with the dictates of the Bible. He further
explained that J.D. and Nell were both struggling in school.
On Friday, February 5, 2016, after defendant received
J.D.'s and Nell's school progress reports, he told
the boys that they would each get fifteen "licks"
for their poor grades. Defendant explained that he grabbed
the "paddle" and that J.D. was trying to talk him
out of receiving his punishment and then took off running so
defendant moved on to Nell.
Nell had received five "licks," defendant went back
to J.D. who kept "defying" him, but defendant
reassured J.D. that he was going to "get this whipping
one way or the other." Defendant stated that he was
trying to hit him along the "lower extremities ... to
make sure I didn't hit him in his head," but J.D.
kept moving and fighting him. He recalled that J.D. then got
up, ran into the hallway and tried to grab the stick from
defendant after "lick" number four. According to
defendant, it was at that time that J.D. hit the wall,
damaging the sheetrock, to which defendant responded,
"man, you're going to pay ... you're going to
get it ... you're going to get these licks today."
Defendant was able to then go back to Nell and finish giving
him his "licks" before going back to J.D. who was
still resisting. Defendant recalled that he and J.D. were
fighting over the stick but that defendant was able to stand
up and hit J.D. on the shoulder. He "refused to let him
get away," and by the fourth "lick" out of
nine, defendant told J.D. to "just hold still and take
the licking." According to defendant, J.D. then got up
and ran into the bedroom, fell, and hit his head on the bed
and the dresser. Defendant testified that he was out of
breath at that point and decided to go back into the living
room when he heard J.D. say he was hurt and needed help.
Nell asked defendant if he was going to go help J.D.,
defendant testified that he replied, "no, boy.
[J.D.'s] just faking. You know I didn't hit him in
the room." He also told Nell not to go into the bedroom
because J.D. was "just performing" and that he did
not need any help. Defendant testified that J.D. eventually
came into the living room, walking with a limp and
complaining of shoulder pain. Defendant admitted that he was
responsible for the injuries J.D. sustained to his shoulder,
wrist, and knee, realizing the mistake he had made. He
further explained that he examined J.D.'s injuries and
asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital but that J.D.
said "no, I think I'm straight." Defendant
further explained that he and Nell put ice on J.D. and then
defendant left to pick up his wife from work. When he
returned, he had Epsom salt and some medicine because he was
"concerned" about J.D.'s shoulder.
that evening, defendant testified that he heard a
"thump" coming from the bathroom and went in to
find J.D. on the floor in the shower. According to defendant,
J.D. informed him that he had slipped and fallen while
attempting to take a shower. Defendant stated that he then
waited for J.D. to finish taking his shower before helping
him to his room. Defendant further testified that when he
asked J.D. if he needed to go to the hospital, J.D. responded
that he was "good."
next morning, around 5:00 a.m., defendant testified that he
was awoken by Nell who informed him that J.D. needed him.
When he checked on J.D., J.D. told him that he was hot and
that his head was hurting. He also observed that J.D. had
urinated in the bed, so he told him that he was "too
big" for that, to which J.D. informed him that he could
not make it to the bathroom. Defendant explained that he
lifted J.D. up to bring him to the living room so he could
keep an eye on him, when J.D. vomited. Defendant admonished
J.D., stating, "I told you you should have ate something
... I shouldn't have given you that medicine on no empty
stomach." Defendant testified that it was at that time
that defendant realized there was something wrong but did not
know what. He further explained that his wife Terri was
"freaking" wanting J.D. to go to the hospital, so
defendant asked J.D. if he needed to go to the hospital and
he said "no dad." Defendant testified that he
realized now that it was a mistake and that he should have
taken him to the hospital from the very beginning. He further
told the jury that he should not have been using a
"paddle" but that at the time he believed that if
he "spared the rod" he would "spoil the
child." He accepted responsibility for causing
J.D.'s death but explained that it was never his
intention to kill him.