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State v. Thompkins

Supreme Court of Louisiana

June 17, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
GLENN THOMPKINS A/K/A GLEN THOMPKINS

          ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, FIRST CIRCUIT, PARISH OF LAFOURCHE

          PER CURIAM

         Writ granted; case remanded. Defendant received a 45-year sentence under the Habitual Offender Law for an obscenity conviction.[1] While in no way downplaying the severity of his offense, we are constrained to find that the sentence violates the prohibition against excessive punishment.

         To be sure, the court recognizes the offensiveness of the defendant's conduct and recognizes the state's statutory authority to pursue enhanced punishments for recidivists like defendant. Indeed, he deserved to be penalized for violating a law that serves the important purpose, in this context, of protecting a correctional officer as she performs her demanding and often very dangerous work.

         However, the court also recognizes its duty to overturn sentences that, because of their disproportionate nature, inflict excessive retribution on the offender. See generally State v. Johnson, 97-1906 (La. 3/4/98), 709 So.2d 672; State v. Dorthey, 623 So.2d 1276 (La. 1993), see also, e.g., State v. Mosby, 14-2704 (La. 11/20/15), 180 So.3d 1274.

         Even though the punishment could have been merely a monetary fine (absent the habitual offender bill), defendant effectively received a life sentence, given his age and the lengthy term imposed. In terms of proportionality, other recidivists convicted of obscenity received comparable punishments for vastly more egregious conduct.[2] Though defendant's conduct was offensive, a 45-year sentence is unconstitutionally excessive. See State v. Bonanno, 384 So.2d 355, 358 (La. 1980) ("To determine whether the penalty is grossly disproportionate to the crime we must consider the punishment and the crime in light of the harm to society caused by its commission and determine whether the penalty is so disproportionate to the crime committed as to shock our sense of justice." (citing State v. Beavers, 382 So.2d 943 (La. 1980)). We therefore reverse the appellate court's judgment, vacate the 45-year sentence, and remand to the trial court for resentencing to a punishment that is not unconstitutionally excessive.

         SENTENCE VACATED; CASE REMANDED.

          WEIMER, J., additionally concurring.

         I believe that the defendant in this matter should serve a lengthy sentence; however, the Louisiana Constitution prohibits the imposition of an excessive sentence. See La. Const. Art. I, § 20 ("No law shall subject any person to euthanasia, to torture, or to cruel, excessive, or unusual punishment.").

          CLARK, J., would deny.

          GUIDRY, J., dissents and assigns reasons.

         I respectfully dissent from the majority's decision to grant this writ application and remand this matter to the district court for sentencing. I would not find the defendant's sentence unconstitutionally excessive in light of the facts of the present offense and the defendant's criminal history. Thus, I would find the district court did not abuse its wide sentencing discretion.

         In this case, a Lafourche Parish jury found the defendant guilty of obscenity, a violation of La. R.S. 14:106(A)(1), for masturbating in the presence of a female corrections officer as she conducted a nightly security check in the cellblock where the defendant was housed awaiting trial. The court of appeal summarized the facts as follows:

On December 19, 2014, Officer Sheena Hill, a corrections officer at the Lafourche Parish Detention Center, was conducting her nightly security check when she came in contact with the defendant, an inmate at the facility. Officer Hill, as required of female officers, announced her presence by saying "female" or "female on the block" as she entered Block F, where the defendant was housed. Officer Hill testified that the purpose of the announcement is to alert an inmate that a female officer is approaching in order to allow them to get dressed or cover themselves to avoid exposure to the officer. The announcement was made approximately thirty feet from the third cell on the catwalk, where the defendant was located at the time (one cell over from the fourth cell where he was assigned). As she proceeded down the catwalk performing the security check, Officer Hill used a device called a guardian to scan inmate identification tags and report inmate activities. When Officer Hill approached cell three, the defendant was lying in bed two masturbating, with his penis exposed and a towel over his eyes. The defendant had a sheet hanging from the bunkbed, blocking the view of the other inmate in the cell, but allowing a full view from the catwalk. After Officer Hill addressed the defendant, he removed the towel from over his ...

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