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State v. Laurant

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

July 31, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
BRANDON R. LAURANT

          APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 530-169, SECTION "K" Honorable Arthur Hunter, Judge.

          LEON CANNIZZARO, JR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY ORLEANS PARISH DONNA ANDRIEU ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY CHIEF OF APPEALS IRENA ZAJICKOVA ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR STATE/APPELLEE.

          Sherry Watters LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Paula A. Brown, Judge Dale N. Atkins

          JAMES F. MCKAY III, CHIEF JUDGE.

         The defendant, Brandon R. Laurant, appeals his convictions and sentences for attempted manslaughter and illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the defendant's convictions and sentences.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On August 2, 2016, in a two count bill of information, the State charged the defendant in count 1 with attempted second degree murder, La. R.S. 14:(27)30.1, and in count 2 with illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, La. R.S. 14:95.1. The defendant pled not guilty to all charges. The trial court found probable cause for attempted manslaughter, La. R.S. 14(27)31, instead of attempted second degree murder.

         Prior to the start of trial on September 13, 2018, the State and defense stipulated to the defendant's two prior felony convictions. [1] That same day, the jury found the defendant guilty of attempted manslaughter and of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

         On October 22, 2018, the State filed a multiple bill of information. The defendant filed a Motion for Post-Verdict Judgment of Acquittal, which the trial court denied. The defendant was sentenced to serve twenty years for attempted manslaughter and twenty years for being a felon in possession of a firearm, to be served consecutively. Defense counsel objected to the sentences, but did not file a written motion to reconsider sentence.

         The defendant appeals the non-unanimous ten-to-two jury verdict, finding him guilty of attempted manslaughter. He also argues that his consecutive sentences are excessive.

         STATEMENT OF FACT

         On May 27, 2016, at approximately 3:30 a.m., after a night of celebration with friends in a Warehouse District nightclub, the victim walked outside to relieve himself in some bushes. The defendant, in the company of his girlfriend, told the victim to "take it somewhere else." A brief verbal confrontation ensued, after which the defendant shot the victim multiple times and fled the scene in a blue vehicle.

         NOPD Officer Daniel Oquendo responded to the shooting, which occurred in the 600 block of Fulton Street. The victim had been shot in the back and leg and was unable to communicate. Crime lab technicians photographed and processed the scene for evidence. Officer Oquendo located six shell casings and a bullet fragment located at the scene. Witnesses described the shooter as a thin black male approximately twenty-seven years old, having a scar on his face, carrying a white, gold-studded Michael Kors backpack, and wearing a white shirt and gray jogging pants. After concluding his investigation at the scene, Officer Oquendo relocated to University Medical Center. He was unable to interview the victim because he was in critical condition and unable to speak. Officer Oquendo learned from medical personnel that the victim sustained eight gunshot wounds.

         During cross-examination, Officer Oquendo recalled speaking to Marcus Gardner, a witness and friend of the victim, from whom he learned that the shooter fled the scene in either a blue or black BMW or Altima.

         Approximately twenty-four hours after the shooting, Detectives Patrick Guidry and Steve Nolan interviewed the victim at University Medical Center. Guidry learned that the shooter and a female companion fled in a blue 2016 Nissan Altima. Det. Guidry identified a vehicle matching that description from the NOPD field interview database of traffic stops. Further investigation identified the vehicle as belonging to Latoya Chase, who fit the description of the female that witnesses saw with the shooter on the night of the incident. The victim viewed a photographic lineup of several females, including Ms. Chase.[2] However, he was unable to make an identification.

         Further investigation developed the defendant as a suspect. Det. Guidry explained that he received information that an FBI confidential informant had knowledge that the defendant, in the company of his girlfriend, Samira Osgood, shot someone on Fulton Street. The informant also said that a .38 caliber pistol was used in the shooting.[3] An investigation of defendant's criminal history revealed that he had a New Orleans address and was on parole at the time of the shooting. The detective compiled two photographic lineups, each containing a picture of the defendant but different filler photos. The victim identified the defendant as the shooter from one of the lineups, and Mr. Gardner identified the defendant from the other lineup as the person he saw shoot the victim.[4] Det. Guidry secured an arrest warrant for the defendant on the charge of attempted murder. The defendant was arrested at his residence on Pleasant Street in the company of Ms. Osgood. The eyewitness, Mr. Gardner, subsequently identified Ms. Osgood from a photo lineup as the female present with the defendant at the time of the shooting.

         Incident to the search of the vehicle (a Hyundai Elantra) [5] located at the defendant's residence, the police confiscated a Michael Kors brand purse containing two cellphones, a Munchkin brand backpack, one plastic bag containing a rocklike substance and a second plastic bag holding a white powdery substance and nine pain pills. During his testimony, Det. Guidry identified the items seized from the defendant's vehicle.

         Mr. Gardner recounted the March 27, 2016, early morning shooting in the Warehouse District. Mr. Gardner said he, the victim and friends were celebrating a cousin's wedding, which was to take place later in the day. About 3:00 a.m., the celebrants left a nightclub in the 600 block of Fulton Street. Mr. Gardner was speaking with someone when he heard an argument at the end of the block. When he investigated, he realized that the victim was engaged in a verbal confrontation with the defendant. There had been no contact between the victim and the defendant; however, as Mr. Gardner attempted to defuse the situation, the armed defendant pushed him. Mr. Gardner convinced the victim to walk away from the defendant. However, the victim and defendant continued to exchange words. The victim told the defendant, "F--- you," then turned and walked away. The defendant shot the victim several times then fled the scene in a blue Nissan. Mr. Gardner identified the defendant as the shooter from the photo lineup the police emailed him three weeks after the incident. During cross-examination, Mr. Gardner said that the victim and their friends had been partying since about midnight. Mr. Gardner did not notice that the defendant was armed until the defendant pushed him. Mr. Gardner gave an officer at the scene a description of the shooter and later spoke to a detective at the University Hospital.

         The victim testified that prior to the shooting he was employed for ten years as a boilermaker in Baton Rouge; however, because of his gunshot wounds he is no longer able to work. The victim and his wife were in town to attend a wedding, and he said that about 3:00 a.m., on March 27, 2016, the Warehouse District night club where he and friends had been celebrating was closing for the night. Before exiting, he walked to the rear of the club to use the restroom but the line was too long so he left. He walked about a block from the night club and prepared to relieve himself in some bushes, when the defendant told him he could not do that in that area. The two exchanged words and the victim's friend, Mr. Gardner, attempted to quell the confrontation by placing himself between the victim and the defendant. The victim cursed the defendant then turned and walked away. The victim heard someone scream and turned around to see the defendant shooting at him. He was struck by eight bullets, the first two to his back. The defendant continued to fire as the victim fell down. The ...


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