Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 327055 Honorable
Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT BY: HOLLI ANN HERRLE-CASTILLO
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT
E. STEWART, SR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE
MONIQUE YVETTE METOYER RICHARD S. FEINBERG ASSISTANT DISTRICT
MOORE, COX, and STEPHENS, JJ.
criminal appeal arises from the First Judicial District
Court, Parish of Caddo, State of Louisiana. The defendant,
Joseph M. Bryant, was charged by bill of information with
attempted aggravated rape (violations of La. R.S. 14:27 and
14:42) and armed robbery (a violation of La. R.S. 14:64).
Following a jury trial, Bryant was convicted as charged. He
was adjudicated a third-felony offender and sentenced to
serve life imprisonment without benefit of probation, parole,
or suspension of sentence. Bryant now appeals. For the
following reasons, we affirm the convictions for attempted
aggravated rape and armed robbery; however, we vacate the
habitual offender adjudication and sentence and remand the
matter for resentencing.
trial held on November 8, 2017, the following evidence was
adduced. On the morning of August 22, 2014, the victim, SS,
was home alone watching television when her doorbell
rang. SS looked through the peephole, and
observed a tall, dark-skinned black male, wearing a baseball
cap, holding a business card. The man, later identified as
the defendant, Joseph M. Bryant, indicated that he worked for
a tree service and inquired if SS desired service at her
home. SS declined, but cracked the door open just enough to
take the business card from Bryant. As she opened the door,
Bryant put his foot in the threshold of the door. SS noted
the perpetrator was much larger than she. Bryant asked SS if
her husband was home. When she said no, Bryant forced his way
into SS's home.
inside the home, SS observed Bryant holding a pocketknife.
Bryant ordered SS not to scream and told her, "I am
going to rape you and kill you," a threat he repeatedly
made during the assault. SS and Bryant walked from the
entryway of her home, through the dining room, into the
kitchen, and eventually ended up in the den. While in the
den, Bryant threw SS onto the sofa and again informed her
that he was going to rape her. While still armed with the
pocketknife, Bryant then straddled SS, throwing both of his
legs on the outside of both of SS's legs and untied her
robe. SS was wearing only a robe, nightshirt, and underwear.
After untying SS's robe, Bryant lifted up SS's
nightshirt and touched her vagina on top of her underwear.
Throughout the incident, SS continually pleaded for her life
and Bryant repeatedly told SS that he planned to rape and
kill her. While pleading for her life, SS offered Bryant her
vehicle, money, and jewelry. Bryant became interested in the
money and got off SS, at which point she wrapped her robe
around herself. Bryant followed her to the master bedroom to
retrieve her purse. The two went back into the den, where
Bryant took $120 cash from SS. Somehow, with his knife still
drawn, the two ended back up in the bedroom. For a second
time, Bryant threw SS onto the bed and told her he would rape
her. Bryant, again, untied SS's robe and straddled
her-she could not move. SS made every effort to protect
herself as she was being attacked.
Bryant stopped, sat up on the bed, and instructed SS to fix
her robe. He then began to tell SS that she was a nice person
and told her that his daughter had recently been killed.
Bryant became emotional and began to weep. At that point,
Bryant got off the bed and the two went into the sunroom,
through the den, into the entryway, and arrived at SS's
front door. Bryant asked for a hug, SS relented, and Bryant
exited the home. Having learned SS's first name at some
point during the incident, Bryant called out to her from the
other side of the door using her name. Bryant asked to
reenter the home, and SS refused. Bryant then asked if SS
intended to call the police and requested reentry a second
time. Again, SS refused and eventually Bryant left. Afraid to
call the police, SS called her husband, who then called
Bryant was apprehended in connection with other incidents and
arrested. When SS was shown a six-person photographic lineup,
she identified Bryant as the man who entered her home on the
morning of August 22, 2014. SS additionally made an in-court
identification of Bryant at his trial.
to trial, on June 3, 2015, Bryant's trial counsel made an
oral motion for the appointment of a sanity commission. On
September 14, 2015, after receiving reports from Dr. Marc
Colon and Dr. George Seiden, the trial court found that
Bryant lacked the ability to meet the legal criteria to
assist in his own defense as required by State v.
Bennett, 345 So.2d 1129 (La. 1977). Bryant was ordered
to receive treatment at the Eastern Louisiana Mental Health
System, Forensic Division in Jackson, Louisiana
("ELMHS"). The criminal proceedings were stayed
pending Bryant's restoration to competency.
April 27, 2016, the staff psychiatrist at the ELMHS opined
that Bryant had been restored to capacity. However, due to
further concerns regarding his mental capacity, the trial
court held the matter open pending a report from Bryant's
medical providers. As a result, on May 31, 2016, a subsequent
hearing was conducted, and Dr. Colon testified. After that
testimony, the trial court determined that Bryant's
competency was not regained, and the stay in his proceedings
January 10, 2017, a final sanity hearing was held. The sanity
commission was composed of Dr. Laura Brown and Dr. John
Roberts, and both doctors opined that Bryant was malingering,
or reporting severe symptoms that were likely not accurate.
Dr. Roberts confirmed that Bryant's behavior when being
evaluated differed from that of his behavior on the unit. Dr.
Roberts further testified that it is difficult to know a
patient's motivations and whether or not his motivation
skews functioning. However, in this case, that consideration
did not affect Bryant's restoration of competency.
the trial court deemed Bryant competent to proceed to trial,
which commenced on November 8, 2017. Based on the evidence
presented at trial, the jury returned verdicts of guilty as
charged of attempted aggravated rape and armed robbery.
Notably, Bryant does not challenge the sufficiency of the
habitual offender hearing was held on January 4, 2018. Prior
to the hearing, motions for post-verdict judgment of
acquittal and new trial were denied by the trial court. John
McCain, of the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office, testified
to two prior felonies committed by Bryant which occurred in
Texas, where he was tried. Bryant was previously convicted of
robbery on October 31, 1994, and of sexual assault on the
same date but for a completely unrelated incident. Based on
those prior convictions, the trial court adjudicated Bryant a
third-felony offender and sentencing was held on the same
day. The trial court sentenced Bryant to life imprisonment
without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
sentence. Bryant subsequently filed a motion to reconsider
sentence, which was denied, and this appeal ensued.
first assignment of error, Bryant contends the trial court
erred in finding him competent to proceed to trial.
Specifically, Bryant argues he was deprived of a fair trial
when he was forced to proceed to trial while he was still
incompetent and unable to assist his trial counsel in his
defense. In response, the state submits that several
qualified physicians found Bryant competent to stand trial,
and they noted he was malingering to avoid having the case
proceed to trial. Further, his actions during the crime
indicated a calculated plan, that of a competent individual.