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State v. Barber

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

October 23, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
CHESTER BARBER

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. CHARLES, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 17, 600, DIVISION "D" HONORABLE M. LAUREN LEMMON, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Joel T. Chaisson, II, Louis G. Authement

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, CHESTER BARBER Cynthia K. Meyer

          Panel composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Stephen J. Windhorst, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          MARC E. JOHNSON, JUDGE

         Defendant, Chester Barber, appeals his convictions and sentences for second degree kidnapping and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, claiming he was incompetent to proceed to trial and that his combined 42-year sentence is excessive. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Defendant's convictions and sentences.

         Defendant was charged in a bill of information on December 8, 2017 with two counts - second degree kidnapping in violation of La. R.S. 14:44.1 (count one) and theft of a motor vehicle in violation of La. R.S. 67.26 (count two). The State subsequently amended count two on November 5, 2018 to charge Defendant with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in violation of La. R.S. 14:68.4. After being found competent, Defendant proceeded to trial on November 13, 2018, and was found guilty as charged on both counts.

         On February 25, 2019, the trial court sentenced Defendant to 40 years imprisonment on count one, with the first two years to be served without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence, and two years imprisonment on count two to run consecutively. This appeal followed.

         FACTS

         In October 2017, Defendant moved to Louisiana to live with his younger half-sister, Dorothy Mackenzie. The two were not close growing up, but Ms. Mackenzie allowed Defendant to move in with her in her double-wide trailer on Paul Fredrick Street in Luling.

         On the night of October 9, 2017, Ms. Mackenzie had driven her ex-husband, Bill Mackenzie's, truck to the trailer and put the keys on the kitchen table. Later that night, Defendant started to say he could not trust anyone and that the cops were going to come inside the house and get him. The next morning, Defendant approached Ms. Mackenzie right after she awoke and tied her to a chair, saying he did not want to but that he could not trust anyone. He tied both her hands behind her back, tied her legs together, and placed tape over her mouth, all while continuing to say that he could not trust anyone and that the cops were coming to get him. Defendant then left the trailer.

         Ms. Mackenzie could not remember the length of time she was tied but knew that she fell over in the chair and tried to scream for help. She denied that Defendant hit her, used a weapon, or hurt her. Ms. Mackenzie was able to reach her cell phone, which was on the table a few feet away, and call her daughter, Patricia.

         Patricia testified that she received the call at approximately 7:00 a.m. on October 10th. Patricia recounted that her mother was crying and told her she needed help. Patricia went to her mother's home and found a locked padlock on the outside of the front door and noted that Bill's truck was not there. She could hear her mother inside and unsuccessfully tried to enter. Patricia called 9-1-1, and police arrived at approximately 7:45 a.m.

         The police were unable to remove the padlock and had to break the latch of the door to get inside. Upon entering the trailer, Deputy Adam Coley saw Ms. Mackenzie lying on the floor with her hands tied behind her back, her feet bound with a shoelace, and blue tape wrapped around her mouth. After the bindings were cut off, Deputy Coley was able to see the marks and bruises on the victim's wrists and hands from being tightly bound. It appeared that some of the blood flow had been cut off to her hands as they were cold to the touch and indentations were visible on her skin where the string was tied tight. Deputy Coley described Ms. Mackenzie as scared, very lethargic, and emotionally traumatized. She was taken out of the house on a gurney, and informed Deputy Coley at that time that it was Defendant who tied her up.

         At approximately 9:00 a.m., Sergeant Giovanni Tarullo went to see Ms. Mackenzie in the emergency room and observed red ligature marks around her neck, both wrists, and right ankle. Sergeant Tarullo stated that Ms. Mackenzie was very upset and told him that Defendant had tied her up.

         Meanwhile, at approximately 8:50 a.m., Captain Christian Wiggins with the Franklin Fire Department received a call to investigate a single-vehicle accident. Upon arrival to the scene, Captain Wiggins observed a gray Chevy Silverado in a ditch, and Defendant, who was not inside the vehicle at the time but nearby, identified himself as the driver of the vehicle. Defendant was apprehended by police after he attempted to flee.

         Bill testified that he is the owner of the gray Chevy Silverado, and he denied that he ever allowed Defendant to drive his vehicle. Similarly, Ms. Mackenzie denied that she ever allowed Defendant to borrow Bill's vehicle on the day of the incident or at any time. After being contacted by a towing company, Patricia and Bill drove to Franklin, Louisiana, to get his vehicle. Inside the truck, Patricia observed an open duffle bag, with a large dragon knife sticking out of it, that she knew belonged to Defendant.

         ISSUES

         On appeal, Defendant challenges the trial court's finding that he was competent to stand trial and asserts his total 42-year sentence is excessive.

         DISCUSSION

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