FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
CALCASIEU, NO. 25778-15 HONORABLE G. MICHAEL CANADAY,
Douglas Lee Harville Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Roman Joseph Lastrapes
Joseph Lastrapes Louisiana State Prison PRO SE
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Roman Joseph Lastrapes
Foster DeRosier District Attorney, 14th Judicial District
Karen C. McLellan Shelley A. Deville Assistant District
Attorneys COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Billy H.
Ezell, and John E. Conery, Judges.
E. CONERY, JUDGE.
November 5, 2015, Defendant, Roman Lastrapes, was charged by
bill of indictment with the first degree murder of Linda
Moore, perpetrated during the commission of an aggravated
rape, in violation of La.R.S. 14:30(A)(1). Defendant sought
and was granted a waiver of his right to jury trial and was
ultimately tried and convicted by the trial court on March
27, 2018 of the first degree murder of Linda Moore. Defendant
sought a new trial, which was denied after a hearing.
Defendant waived delays, and the court proceeded to sentence
him on June 8, 2018. Defendant received the mandatory
sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor to be served
without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of
sentence. Defendant, through counsel, now appeals his
conviction and sentence. Defendant also filed a pro se appeal
of the trial court's ruling denying him the right to
withdraw his waiver and exercise his right to a jury trial.
For the following reasons, we affirm.
and his then attorney, Mr. Robert Shelton, filed a motion for
speedy trial and a "Motion to Waive Trial by Jury,"
which were both signed on November 10, 2016, and set for a
November 28, 2016 hearing. The "Motion to Waive Trial by
Jury" included Defendant's signature and the
following passage: "ROMAN LASTRAPES, defendant,
further states that he fully understands his right to a trial
by jury and thus waives right [sic] knowingly, voluntarily,
was not present at the November 28, 2016 hearing, but the
trial court ordered the Clerk of Court to serve Defendant
with certified copies of both motions. The attorneys and the
trial court discussed the motion for speedy trial, noting the
time delays would begin to run, but Defendant's new
January 17, 2017 trial date was within the time delays
allowed for a speedy trial motion. At no point was the
"Motion to Waive Trial by Jury" discussed. The
assistant district attorney present stated that the District
Attorney's Office had not yet indicated whether it
intended to seek the death penalty. However, a later minute
entry, dated January 4, 2017, indicated that the district
attorney's office had communicated to Defendant's
previous attorney, Mr. Shelton, that the State would not seek
the death penalty in this matter.
December 1, 2016, the trial court granted the State's
"Motion and Order to Fix Status Conference,"
setting the conference for December 12, 2016, to discuss a
possible attorney conflict based upon Mr. Shelton's
relationship to the victim. At the December 12, 2016 hearing,
Mr. Shelton withdrew from representing Defendant based upon
Mr. Shelton's relationship to the family of the victim.
Additionally, the trial court ruled it would hold all filed
motions in abeyance so that subsequent counsel could decide
which motions he or she would like to adopt.
record reflects that Mr. Richard White from the public
defender's office assumed Defendant's defense in July
2017. Subsequently, Defense counsel requested two
continuances, which the trial court granted. The case was
rescheduled for trial on March 27, 2018.
March 26, 2018, one day before the bench trial was scheduled
to begin, Defendant and defense counsel sought to withdraw
Defendant's jury trial waiver and sought a jury trial.
Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 780(D)
specifically states, "A waiver of trial by jury is
irrevocable and cannot be withdrawn by the defendant."
counsel argued that Defendant had waived his right based upon
the advice of Mr. Shelton,  that neither Defendant nor
present defense counsel knew the strategic reason Mr. Shelton
believed it was in Defendant's best interest to do so,
and Defendant's present counsel did not agree with the
decision to waive jury trial. The trial court deferred ruling
on the mode of trial until the following day so that
transcripts of prior pre-trial hearings held on October 3,
2016, November 28, 2016, and December 12, 2016, could be
March 27, 2018, the trial court ruled Defendant's trial
would commence as a bench trial, noting Defendant's
waiver filed in November of 2016 was in proper form and was
irrevocable under La.Code Crim.P. art. 780(D). Defense
counsel objected, again noting he could not determine why
Defendant's former counsel, Mr. Shelton, felt a bench
trial would be in Defendant's best interest.
bench trial then began, and at the conclusion of the trial on
March 29, 2018, the trial court found Defendant guilty of the
first degree murder of Linda Moore stating in part:
The totality of the evidence, both circumstantial and
scientific, exclude every reasonable hypothesis. The Court is
convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is
responsible for the death of Linda Moore and as such he will
be found guilty of first degree murder. As per Article 814 we
need to -- or 873 -- I need to set a sentencing date.
8, 2018, Defendant filed a "Motion for New Trial,"
once more arguing his trial should have been a jury trial
because the tactical reasoning for initially waiving his
right to a jury trial was lost when Mr. Shelton died. He also
asserted "it was particularly important that
Defendant's female peers constitute part of such jury.
Terry Welke, M.D., coroner for Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana,
and clearly a witness with unmistakably pro-prosecution
proclivities, offered certain evidence that likely would have
been viewed as borderline absurd if heard by female
jurors." Defendant summarized his argument by stating he
was denied the effective assistance of counsel and his jury
trial waiver should not have been considered irrevocable,
despite the clear and unambiguous language of La.Code Crim.P.
art. 780(D), because new counsel disagreed with prior
hearing on the Motion for New Trial held the same day,
defense counsel argued a bench trial adversely affected his
ability to represent Defendant, "I feel like I ended up
trying the case with one hand tied behind my back as a
result, and I respectfully contend, Your Honor, that,
consequently, Mr. Lastrapes was denied -- effectively denied
right to counsel."
trial court denied the motion for new trial and defense
counsel objected; however, Defendant waived delays and
proceeded to sentencing. Defendant was sentenced to
"life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of
probation, parole or suspension of sentence."
now appeals his conviction and sentence. Through counsel,
Defendant contends there was insufficient evidence to convict
him, particularly arguing the State failed to prove Linda
Moore's murder was not committed by either Paul Delafosse
or Marlin Jenkins. Defendant raises an additional claim pro
se that his right to a jury trial was denied when the trial
court refused to allow Defendant to withdraw his waiver of
jury trial. Defendant contends "he did not knowingly and
intelligently waive his right to a jury trial." For the
following reasons, this court affirms Defendant's
conviction and sentence.
Hunter, Jr., Chief Investigator for the Calcasieu Parish
Coroner's Officer with thirteen years of experience, was
the first witness to take the stand. The court accepted Mr.
Hunter as an expert in the field of death investigations
without objection. He testified he was assigned to the crime
scene once the coroner's office was informed Linda
Moore's body had been found. Mr. Hunter identified
numerous photographs he had taken of the scene. Mr. Hunter
testified that based on blood found in multiple areas between
the street and where the victim's body was found, it was
his opinion Ms. Moore was attacked outside of the alleyway
and forced into the alleyway by her attacker.
upon the liquidity of bodily fluid which was located on Ms.
Moore's buttocks, Mr. Hunter testified he believed the
victim's body had not moved since said bodily fluid was
deposited. Mr. Hunter noted he took a swab of the fluid which
was subsequently sent off for DNA testing. Mr. Hunter noted
there were blue jeans laid on the ground directly in front of
Ms. Moore's body, which he felt were likely placed there
so that her assailant could sexually assault her without
injuring his knees. Mr. Hunter also noted there was broken
glass on the ground near the victim's body. He further
testified that there was residue on Ms. Moore's hands
which matched the nearby shed, likely an indication of a
Hunter testified Ms. Moore had a number of facial injuries
consistent with blunt force trauma from a fist and noted the
evidence indicated she was still alive and breathing when she
sustained her injuries, which included a fracture of her nose
where the bone was actually exposed. He also noted there was
a linear pattern on Ms. Moore's face that was consistent
with her sweatshirt being pulled over her head and no
movement from where she was assaulted. Mr. Hunter also noted
there were broken bottles and pools of blood on the ground,
which became visible once Ms. Moore's body had been
removed, indicating she did not move from that location and
she did not willingly lay down on the ground.
Hunter testified that he would expect the assailant would
have abrasions or lacerations on his hands if he indeed used
his fists to assault Ms. Moore. He again confirmed his
opinion that Ms. Moore's body did not move from where she
was beaten. He further opined Ms. Moore was likely
incapacitated from her injuries.
cross-examination, Mr. Hunter testified there was no evidence
Ms. Moore's body was dragged at any point. Mr. Hunter
acknowledged he was at some point informed the name Marlin
Jenkins had become a part of the investigation, but noted he
never interviewed Mr. Jenkins, nor could he have picked him
out of a lineup. Mr. Hunter testified he did not believe Ms.
Moore's body was posed for effect. He then reiterated the
placement of the body, the state of Ms. Moore's clothing,
and the bodily fluid dripping down her buttocks was
consistent with her being sexually assaulted in the exact
location where she was found.
Terry Welke, the coroner for Calcasieu Parish, was accepted
as an expert in forensic pathology. Dr. Welke testified that
Ms. Moore's death was a homicide resulting from blunt
force injuries of the head. Dr. Welke testified as to the
contents of his autopsy report, which included the following
description of facial injuries:
Lacerations (skin tears) are: on the mid-forehead, 1-3/8
inches; between the eyes, 1/8-inch; left bridge of nose,
V-shaped, 3/8 x 3/8-inch; mid-portion of the lower lip,
3/16-inch. Bruises involve: right forehead; left and right,
eye orbits; left jaw. Abrasions (scrapes) involve:
mid-forehead, 1-1/2 x ¾-inch in greatest dimension;
outside of the left eyebrow, 3/8 x 3/16-inch. There are
numerous broken bones (fractures) of the face: nasal bone;
left and right eye orbits; maxilla (bony portion of upper
mouth holding the teeth). As a result of the aforementioned
injuries, there are bruises involving the white portion
(sclera) of each eye. Internally: Pink foam is in the voice
box (larynx); blood is in the windpipe and lower airways
(trachea/bronchi); the lungs are heavy and blood-filled;
blood is in the stomach. Blood is present on the undersurface
of the scalp overlying the back of the head (occiput); the
injury is predominantly greater on the right side.
Welke also noted he found "intact non-motile sperm"
in Ms. Moore's vagina. He opined that indicated sexual
activity was relatively recent, as sperm only remain intact
for around sixteen hours in a live person, and Dr. Welke
noted the time would be lessened for someone who died shortly
after intercourse. When asked how he believed Ms. Moore died,
Dr. Welke opined:
In my mind's eye I felt that there was an assault,
meaning a physical assault of some -- near the scene, and
then Ms. Moore had become incapacitated but still alive, and,
basically, placed on the ground or fell backwards on the
ground, and then additional injuries occurred to her face,
and then the sexual activity occurred. And I felt that due to
the position of the body that the legs were probably over the
shoulders of the assailant, and then after the orgasm had
occurred, the assailant basically had taken Ms. Moore's
legs and then basically pushed them off his shoulders, and
then that's why they were in the position of being on the
asked if he thought someone could have left the semen in Ms.
Moore in a different location, Dr. Welke responded "I
say the attack occurred at the scene." He also stated
that it was his expert opinion the person who deposited ...