WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, FIRST CIRCUIT,
PARISH OF LAFOURCHE
granted; case remanded. Defendant received a 45-year sentence
under the Habitual Offender Law for an obscenity
conviction. While in no way downplaying the
severity of his offense, we are constrained to find that the
sentence violates the prohibition against excessive
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
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.
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. 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.
VACATED; CASE REMANDED.
WEIMER, J., additionally concurring.
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.").
J., would deny.
GUIDRY, J., dissents and assigns reasons.
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.
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