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State v. Simmons

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

October 9, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JAVONTAE D. SIMMONS AKA "TAE"

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 15-4164, DIVISION "M" HONORABLE HENRY G. SULLIVAN, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Thomas J. Butler Andrea F. Long Douglas W. Freese Lindsay L. Truhe

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, JAVONTAE D. SIMMONS AKA "TAE" Mary Constance Hanes

          Panel composed of Judges Stephen J. Windhorst, Hans J. Liljeberg, and Timothy S. Marcel, Pro Tempore

          STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE

         Defendant, Javontae D. Simmons, a/k/a "Tae," [1] appeals his convictions for second degree murder, conspiracy to commit second degree murder, and two counts of attempted second degree murder, asserting one assignment of error regarding the denial of his motion for mistrial after a juror revealed, on the third day of trial, that the State's expert witness had taught her forensic science at Loyola. Based on the following, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of the second degree murder of Stacy Johnson Jr., in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1 (count one), conspiracy to commit second degree murder, in violation of La. R.S. 14:26 and La. R.S. 14:30.1 (count two), and two counts of attempted second degree murder of Develle Washington and Robert Cooley, in violation of La. R.S. 14:27 and La. R.S. 14:30.1 (counts three and four). On May 14, 2018, defendant filed a motion for new trial and motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal, both of which the trial court denied prior to sentencing.

         The trial court sentenced defendant on count one to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence; on count two, to thirty years imprisonment at hard labor; and on each of counts three and four, to fifty years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The court further ordered the sentences to run concurrently with each other. The trial court denied defendant's motion to reconsider sentence and granted his motion for appeal.

         On April 6, 2015, twenty-year-old Stacy Johnson Jr. was shot and killed outside a friend's residence in Harvey, Louisiana, in the early morning hours of April 7, 2015. At trial, Dr. Marianna Eserman testified that she performed the autopsy on the victim who died, Stacy Johnson, Jr., and concluded that Mr. Johnson died as a result of gunshot wounds to his chest and right leg.

         At the time of the shooting, the victim, Develle Washington and Robert Cooley were sitting in a Pontiac G6 in front of Robert Cooley's residence located at 3716 Clover Lane smoking marijuana when they heard gunshots shatter the car window where the victim was sitting. Detective William Roniger of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office testified that the Pontiac G6 was struck by numerous rounds of ammunition on the passenger side of the vehicle, and that of the three men inside the vehicle, neither the victim, nor Robert were the intended targets of the shooting. He explained that the gunshots were fired randomly into the vehicle occupied by several people in which only one person was the intended target.

         Sergeant Thomas Gai of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office was the lead investigator assigned to Mr. Johnson's homicide. On April 7, 2015, approximately 12:45 a.m., Sergeant Gai arrived on the scene, where he observed Mr. Johnson's body lying several feet from the driver-side open door of a white vehicle parked in front of the residence. It was obvious to Sergeant Gai that the victim had been shot in the back. He also noticed several spent cartridge casings scattered in the front yard and driveway of the Cooley residence. Based on his on-scene investigation, including the different calibers of spent casings recovered, Sergeant Gai believed there were three shooters involved who were positioned at various locations throughout the front yard, shooting towards the white Pontiac.

         According to Sergeant Gai, later in the day on April 7, 2019, JPSO received a telephone call from an anonymous source who told them a black male and a black female were in possession of the firearms used in Mr. Johnson's murder and that they intended on selling the weapons to someone at the Oakwood Mall. The source further advised Sergeant Gai of the specific weapons used in the commission of the murder and named "Tae" (Defendant), "Rasta" (Dorian Lonzo), and "Dae Dae" (Dashawn Butler) as the individuals involved.[2] The source stated that defendant personally admitted to him that he "did the shooting."

         Based on the anonymous tip discussed above, Detective Roniger and other officers recovered the murder weapons involved in the homicide during a stop of a vehicle occupied by Kirklon Boyd and Ashley Degree. Inside the vehicle, the officers recovered the 7.62 caliber rifle and the 9 mm Beretta handgun, both of which were used in the homicide. Boyd and Degree were detained and their cell phones seized. Linda Tran, a firearm and tool-mark identification expert, testified that three different semiautomatic weapons were fired at the scene of the homicide. Ms. Tran testified that two of the weapons were recovered from Boyd and Degree, including the 7.62 rifle and the 9 mm pistol. She confirmed that the 9 mm casings found at the scene were fired from the recovered 9 mm pistol and that the 7.62 caliber casings found at ...


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