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State v. Legaux

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 27, 2019


          On Appeal from the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Docket No. 587, 896 Honorable Reginald T. Badeaux, III, Judge Presiding

          Warren L. Montgomery District Attorney Matthew Caplan Assistant District Attorney Covington, Louisiana Attorneys for Appellee, State of Louisiana

          P. David Carollo Slidell, Louisiana Attorney for Defendant/Appellant, Roslyn G. Legaux


          PENZATO, J.

         The defendant, Roslyn G. Legaux, was charged by misdemeanor bill of information with running a stop sign resulting in the death of another, a violation of La. R.S. 32:123(E)(1)(c) & (d)(ii). She pled not guilty. Following a jury trial, she was found guilty as charged. She was sentenced to twelve months at hard labor, suspended, two years of probation, and fined $500. She now appeals, [1]contending: (1) the trial court erred in denying the defense motion to continue on the basis of the production of a State witness on the day of trial; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict; and (3) the trial court erred in overruling the defense objection to the admissibility of the traffic citation. For the following reasons, we affirm the conviction, amend the sentence, and affirm the sentence as amended.


         On December 3, 2015, Billy Beasley and his wife, Coral, were struck by the defendant's vehicle as they travelled on Louisiana Highway 433/Thompson Road in Slidell. The intersection at which the defendant entered Highway 433 from Robin Street was controlled by a stop sign. There was no stop sign controlling traffic for vehicles travelling on Highway 433. On December 5, 2015, Coral died as a result of injuries she sustained in the accident.


         In assignment of error[2] number 2, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction due "to the varying testimony as to whether [she] stopped at the stop sign or ran the stop sign and the impact of the vehicles as to where it actually occurred and specifically, the victims['] vehicle pulling to the left on [Highway 433] caused it to go into the northbound lane."

         In cases such as this one, where the defendant raises issues on appeal both as to the sufficiency of the evidence and as to one or more trial errors, the reviewing court should preliminarily determine the sufficiency of the evidence, before discussing the other issues raised on appeal. When the entirety of the evidence, both admissible and inadmissible, is sufficient to support the conviction, the accused is not entitled to an acquittal, and the reviewing court must review the assignments of error to determine whether the accused is entitled to a new trial. State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731, 734 (La. 1992); State v. Smith, 2003-0917 (La.App. 1st Cir. 12/31/03), 868 So.2d 794, 798. Accordingly, we will first address the defendant's second assignment of error, which challenges the sufficiency of the State's evidence.

         A conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand, as it violates due process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; La. Const, art. I, § 2. In reviewing claims challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, this court must consider "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); see also La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B); State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1308-09 (La. 1988). The Jackson standard, incorporated in Article 821, is an objective standard for testing the overall evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. State v. Watts, 2014-0429 (La.App. 1st Cir. 11/21/14), 168 So.3d 441, 444, writ denied, 2015-0146 (La. 11/20/15), 180 So.3d 315.

         When a conviction is based on both direct and circumstantial evidence, the reviewing court must resolve any conflict in the direct evidence by viewing that evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. When analyzing circumstantial evidence, Louisiana Revised Statute 15:438 provides that, in order to convict, the fact finder must be satisfied that the overall evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. The facts then established by the direct evidence and inferred from the circumstances established by that evidence must be sufficient for a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of every essential element of the crime. Watts, 168 So.3d at 444.

         Louisiana Revised Statutes 32:123, in pertinent part, provides:

A. Preferential right of way at an intersection may be indicated by stop signs[.]
B. [E]very driver and operator of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection. After having stopped, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles which have entered the intersection from another highway or which are approaching so closely on said highway as to constitute an immediate hazard.

         Billy Beasley, the decedent's husband, testified at trial. On the day of the accident, he and his wife, the decedent, Coral, were travelling southbound on Highway 433. He testified "[the defendant] didn't stop at the stop sign and just run straight out into the main highway and we collided." Immediately prior to the collision, Beasley stated, "we're going to hit her" or "she's going to hit us." Following the collision, both vehicles went into a ditch with water. Beasley's watch stopped at the time of the accident - 12:45. He testified and identified photographs showing the collision occurred at the ...

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