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State v. Debrow

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 26, 2019


          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 186019. Honorable Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Douglas Lee Harville Counsel for Appellant By: Douglas Lee Harville

          LAKEITH L. DEBROW Pro Se

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney MEKISHA S. CREAL TOMMY J. JOHNSON Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before WILLIAMS, STONE, and COX, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         The defendant, Lakeith Debrow, having previously been adjudicated a third-felony habitual offender, was resentenced to 65 years at hard labor without benefits. Debrow filed a motion to reconsider sentence. The trial court denied the motion and Debrow lodged the instant appeal of the imposed habitual offender sentence. For the following reasons, Debrow's sentence is affirmed.


         In 1999, Lakeith Debrow was convicted of the armed robbery and attempted second degree murder of John Sponsel ("Mr. Sponsel"), in violation of La. R.S. 14:64, 14:30.1, and 14:27. Debrow was sentenced to 60 years at hard labor for the armed robbery conviction. After adjudication as a third-felony habitual offender, Debrow was sentenced to life imprisonment for the attempted second degree murder conviction. Both sentences were imposed without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence, and ordered to be served concurrently. On appeal, this Court affirmed Debrow's convictions and sentences. State v. Debrow, 34, 161 (La.App. 2 Cir. 3/2/01), 781 So.2d 853, writ denied, 01-0945 (La. 3/22/02), 811 So.2d 922. This Court set forth the facts of this case as follows:

Robbery and Shooting
The victim, John Sponsel, lived in Greenway Square Apartments on Youree Drive in Shreveport. At 9:30 in the evening on January 28, 1997, Sponsel heard a knock at his apartment door. Unable to see anyone through the doo[r] peephole, Sponsel opened the door. Standing in his doorway were three black males later identified by Sponsel as Jemetric Debrow, Lakeith Debrow and Clifford Owens. A black .25 caliber handgun was immediately placed to Sponsel's head by one defendant; the trigger was pulled but the gun did not fire. The other two defendants were armed with "western-style" .22 pistols. All three wore tube socks on their hands. Jemetric Debrow, Lakeith Debrow and Clifford Owens entered Sponsel's apartment and ordered him to lie face-down on his kitchen floor. They asked where his money and drugs were. One defendant stood guard over Sponsel in the kitchen while the others removed his possessions from the apartment. Among the items taken were a VCR, jacket, face-plate to a car stereo, meat from the freezer and $400.00.
The defendants were in Sponsel's apartment for 15-20 minutes. When Sponsel heard one of the defendants make a statement indicating he was going to be killed, Sponsel tried to escape. Sponsel, who had played center for several local semi-pro football teams, jumped up and rushed the defendant who was guarding him, pushed this defendant to the side and ran towards the front door. As Sponsel reached the front door of the apartment, he was shot in the back twice. Sponsel fell in the door's threshold due to his wounds. As the defendants exited the apartment, Sponsel was shot once in the head. Sponsel was unable to identify at trial which of the defendants fired the shots. The defendants fled the apartment complex in Sponsel's blue Ford Escort, having taken the keys from his apartment.
Michael Luraschi, Sponsel's neighbor, heard popping sounds and then someone crying for help. He opened his door to discover Sponsel on the ground, lying partially out [of his apartment]. Sponsel said that he had been robbed and shot. Luraschi called 911. Sponsel was [subsequently] transported to LSU Medical Center ("LSUMC").
Shreveport Police Department ("SPD") Officers Blackman and Miller were among the first officers to arrive at the shooting scene. Sponsel was found on his back in the doorway [of his apartment], with his head outside and his feet inside. Miller reported to a later arriving detective that he was told by Sponsel that the three black males who had entered his apartment were wearing masks. Blackman also reported to a detective that he was told by EMTs that Sponsel told them he was shot while going into his apartment.
Detective Ronnie Gryder from the SPD's Homicide/Robbery Unit investigated the shooting. He described Sponsel's apartment as ransacked. Gryder noticed where a bullet had ricocheted from the wall of a breezeway outside of Sponsel's apartment [i]nto the [b]reezeway ceiling. He thought the bullet had been fired from the apartment. Gryder went to LSUMC within 90 minutes of the shooting in an attempt to interview Sponsel, but was told by hospital personnel that he could not speak to Sponsel at that time. Gryder returned to LSUMC at 1:50 a.m. on January 29th, a little over four hours after the shooting. Sponsel told Gryder that he was shot from behind as he approached the front door in his effort to escape, and then was shot in the head as the defendants left. Sponsel also told Gryder that one person shot him and that he was first shot while in the kitchen. Gryder did not find blood or shell casings inside Sponsel's apartment. Sponsel was able to give a description of only one suspect.
Detective Carolyn Eaves is an investigator with SPD's Homicide and Robbery unit. At 11:40 p.m. on the night of the shooting, Eaves received a report that Sponsel's Ford Escort had been found [ablaze] in the 1900 block of Walnut Street. The chrome rims, tires, wheels and stereo had been removed. Marlon Hanna, a friend of the three defendants, lived a short distance away from where the vehicle was found.
SPD Officer Danny Duddy was assigned to the Crime Scene Investigation Unit. He found blood on the ground and on a wall in front of Sponsel's apartment. He did not find any blood inside the apartment. Duddy lifted some partial fingerprints from the inside of the door frame, but these prints were unidentifiable. He agreed on the stand that wearing socks over hands would prevent fingerprints from being left.
Detective Cedric Wilson, an investigator with SPD, received a phone call from an anonymous caller on January 29th. The caller said that Cedric Owens and individuals with the nicknames Keke and Meme were involved in [t]he Sponsel shooting. Wilson checked the alias files and came up with the names of Jerry Wilson under "Keke" and Jemetric Debrow under "Meme." Jemetric Debrow's address of 2815 Frederick Street was consistent with information the caller had given.
Three photographic lineups were prepared and brought to Sponsel on the evening of January 30th. Sponsel was in ICU at the time. Sponsel, who was lying on his back, was unable to sit up, turn his head or hold the lineups. Each lineup, which contained six photos, was held by Gryder directly above Sponsel's face. Sponsel picked Jemetric Debrow out of the first lineup. Gryder remembered Sponsel saying that Jemetric Debrow was the one who shot him in the head. However, Wilson recalled Sponsel saying Jemetric Debrow was the person who held the .25 to his head when he opened the door. The gunman had pulled the trigger at that point, but the gun had not fired. Sponsel could not identify anyone in the second lineup, which contained Jerry Wilson's photo. When shown the third lineup, Sponsel picked out Clifford Owens' photo. Gryder recalled that Sponsel responded that Clifford Owens was the one who shot him in the back. Wilson testified that Sponsel said Clifford Owens shot him in the back while he was trying to get away. Because Sponsel was unable to sign the ...

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