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State v. Samuels

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 14, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
SIRDETRICK SAMUELS Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 344844 Honorable John D. Mosely, Jr., Judge.

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Holli A. Herrle-Castillo Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney WILLIAM J. EDWARDS BRITNEY A. GREEN CHARLES K. PARR Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before WILLIAMS, MOORE, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          WILLIAMS, C.J.

         The defendant, Sirdetrick Samuels, was charged by bill of indictment with second degree murder, in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1. Following a jury trial, he was found guilty of the responsive verdict of manslaughter, La. R.S. 14:31. The defendant was adjudicated a third-felony offender and was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of probation or suspension of sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS

         On November 8, 2016, at approximately 11:00 p.m., 16-year-old Tremon Jackson was shot multiple times while standing outside his grandmother's house located on Boss Street in Shreveport, Louisiana. Tremon's uncle, 20-year-old Quincy Jackson, and a friend, Kenlya Patrick Alford, were witnesses to the incident, and they identified the defendant, Sirdetrick Samuels, as the shooter. The defendant was arrested and charged by bill of indictment with the second degree murder of Tremon.

         During the defendant's trial, Quincy Jackson testified as follows: he and Alford were standing near the driveway of the residence when the defendant walked up and asked, "What's up?"; when Tremon exited the residence, the defendant asked him, "What's up?"; Tremon did not respond; the defendant then asked Tremon if they "were good," and Tremon ignored the inquiry; he (Quincy) turned his back and heard gunshots; he and Alford ran into the garage to avoid the bullets; he looked out and saw the defendant firing a black gun; he did not see the bullets strike Tremon, but he saw Tremon run in the direction of "the gate"; he was unsure how many shots were fired; he saw the defendant flee in the same direction from which he had arrived; he went inside the house to see if Tremon had run inside; he and Alford found Tremon lying in the yard, bleeding from several gunshot wounds; Timothy Stewart, his sister's boyfriend, was down the street when he heard gunshots; when Stewart drove up to the house, he and others placed Tremon inside Stewart's vehicle to drive Tremon to the hospital; Stewart's vehicle "broke down" before they reached the hospital; he called 911 from the car; EMS arrived and transported Tremon to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival; when he was initially questioned by police officers, he refused to provide them with the name of the shooter;[1] he identified the defendant as the shooter after he was transported to the police station; and neither he nor Tremon had been smoking marijuana on the night of the shooting.

         Kenlya Patrick Alford testified as follows: on the night of the incident, he and Quincy were standing outside Quincy's house when the defendant approached them and spoke to them; when Tremon walked outside, the defendant asked him if they "were good"; Tremon did not reply; the defendant reached in a downward direction and came up with a gun; he "ducked" when he heard gunshots; he ran into the garage to hide beside a parked car; he knew it was safe to come out and look for Tremon when he saw the defendant flee the scene; he and Quincy found Tremon on the side of the house near the front yard; Stewart arrived and attempted to drive Tremon to the hospital; and Stewart's car "broke down" on Texas Street.

         Kenneth Joshua testified as follows: he was the boyfriend of Lisa Jackson, who is the mother of Quincy and the grandmother of Tremon; he was in the bathroom of the residence when he heard gunshots; he ran to the back door of the house; when he reached the door, Quincy and Alford were entering the house, asking if he knew the whereabouts of Tremon; he, Quincy and Alford ran outside and found Tremon in the front yard; Quincy and Alford initially told him that "somebody" walked up to them, asked for a cigar, and began shooting; Alford was "acting strange" and was exhibiting an "unusual" response to the shooting; and he did not see the defendant in front of the house that night.

         Timothy Stewart testified as follows: his mother lived down the street from the scene of the shooting; he was leaving his mother's house when he heard gunshots; he drove to the Jacksons' house and saw that Tremon had been shot and was not breathing; he rushed to drive Tremon to LSU Medical Center; he bypassed Willis-Knighton Hospital because it did not "handle" gunshot wounds; his car "broke down" on Texas Street; Quincy called 911 and the paramedics transported Tremon to the hospital; and Quincy and Alford told him that "Detrick" shot Tremon.

         Corporal John Madjerick, a crime scene investigator with the Shreveport Police Department ("SPD"), testified as follows: when he arrived at the hospital, he was informed that Tremon was deceased; he collected the plaid shorts that Tremon had been wearing at the time of the shooting; he also collected a small "baggy" of suspected marijuana that the medical staff had found in Tremon's sock; he processed the scene of the shooting and took photographs; and he collected five expended 9 millimeter casings from the scene and a projectile that was found under the vehicle parked in the garage.

         Agent William Moak, of the SPD, testified that he interviewed Alford on the night of the shooting. According to Agent Moak, Alford initially denied having any knowledge of the incident. He also testified that Alford denied knowing the identity of the shooter, and claimed that the shooter "came out of nowhere" wearing a black hoodie. The agent further testified that Alford eventually identified the defendant as the shooter.

         Detective Logan McDonald testified that he interviewed Quincy and Alford. He stated that he showed both men a "confirmation photograph" of the defendant, and they both positively identified the defendant as the person who shot Tremon. Det. McDonald also testified that he obtained a warrant for the defendant's arrest. He stated that three days after the warrant was issued, the defendant turned himself in accompanied by his attorney.

         Two witnesses testified for the defense. Lamaria Cooper testified that she was with Stewart the night Tremon was shot. She stated that she heard gunshots but did not see the person who was shooting. According to Cooper, she saw Alford running down the street, but she did not see the defendant.

         Sandra Bryant, the defendant's great-aunt, testified that she learned that the defendant was wanted in connection with a murder from watching a "story on the news." She stated that she drove the defendant to the police station, where he met with an attorney and turned himself over to law enforcement officers.

         Other evidence presented at the defendant's trial demonstrated that approximately one month prior to the shooting, the defendant committed a drive-by shooting from a stolen truck. Tremon had been one of the victims of that drive-by shooting. The police officers learned that the defendant was a passenger in the stolen vehicle and that he had been dropped off at the hospital after shooting himself in the hand while committing the drive-by shooting. Blood evidence, which contained the defendant's DNA, was discovered in the backseat of the stolen vehicle.

         At the conclusion of the trial, a jury found the defendant guilty of manslaughter, a responsive verdict to the charged offense of second degree murder. The trial court denied the defendant's motions for new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal. The defendant was adjudicated a third-felony offender and was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of probation or suspension of sentence.

         The defendant now appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         The defendant contends the trial court erred in excusing for cause one of the alternate jurors after the trial commenced. He argues that there was no evidence to demonstrate that the alternate juror was incompetent to serve. The defendant also argues that the trial court failed to provide the attorneys with the opportunity to question the excused alternate juror to explore the basis for the dismissal. According to the defendant, the proper remedy for the trial court's error is to set aside his conviction.

         Once a jury has been selected and sworn, the accused has a right to have his fate decided by the particular jurors selected to try him. State v. Cass, 356 So.2d 396 (La. 1977); State v. Traylor, 51, 901 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/28/18), 246 So.3d 665, 669, writ denied, 2018-0493 (La. 2/11/19), 263 So.3d 893. If it is discovered after a juror has been accepted and sworn, that he is incompetent to serve, the court may, at any time before the first witness is sworn, order the juror removed and the panel completed in the ordinary course. La.C.Cr.P. art. 796.

         The trial court has the discretion to decide whether a juror has become disqualified to perform his or her duties and, if so, what action to take. State v. Fuller, 454 So.2d 119 (La. 1984); State v. Bass, 52, 014 (La.App. 2 Cir. 5/23/18), 248 So.3d 639, writ denied, 2018-0939 (La. 3/6/19), 266 So.3d 896. Absent a clear showing of abuse of discretion, the trial court's ruling as to the qualifications ...


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