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State v. Johnson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 20, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
LEAVERN JOHNSON, III Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 358, 729 Honorable Katherine C. Dorroh, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Carey J. Ellis, III Counsel for Appellant

          LEAVERN JOHNSON, III Pro Se

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          JASON W. WALTMAN SUZANNE M. WILLIAMS MALLORY RICHARD Assistant District Attorneys

          Before STONE, COX, and THOMPSON, JJ.

          THOMPSON, J.

         This criminal appeal arises following a jury trial of the defendant, Leavern Johnson, III ("Johnson"), [1] in the First Judicial District Court, Caddo Parish, the Honorable Katherine Dorroh presiding. Johnson was convicted of the crime of possession of a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon by a convicted felon and was sentenced to ten years at hard labor. Johnson now appeals his conviction and sentence. His appellate counsel has filed a motion to withdraw, along with a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396, 18 L.Ed.2d 493 (1967), alleging that there are no non-frivolous issues upon which to base the appeal. This Court held the motion to withdraw in abeyance and allowed Johnson 30 days within which to file a pro se brief. As of this date, no pro se brief has been filed. For the following reasons, appellate counsel's motion to withdraw is granted and Johnson's conviction and sentence are AFFIRMED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Johnson was charged by bill of information with illegal possession of stolen firearms, in violation of La. R.S. 14:69.1, and possession of a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon by a convicted felon, in violation of La. R.S. 14:95.1. On July 9, 2018, Johnson waived formal arraignment and pled not guilty to both charges. On January 14, 2019, the state filed an amended bill of information, charging Johnson with only possession of a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon by a convicted felon, in violation of La. R.S. 14:95.1.[2] Johnson was again arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty to the amended charge.

         After arraignment, jury trial on the matter began. Prior to completing jury selection, the parties stipulated to not "elicit any testimony or introduce any evidence that the gun itself was stolen or whom it was stolen from." The state also filed, without objection from the defense, a notice of its intent to call Sergeant Skyler VanZandt ("Sgt. VanZandt"), of the Shreveport Police Department, as an expert in fingerprint analysis and identification, in compliance with La.C.Cr.P. art. 719. Subsequently, but prior to the completion of jury selection, Sgt. VanZandt took fingerprints of Johnson in open court to use as a known sample for later comparison in relation to Johnson's previous felony conviction. Once the jury was selected, witnesses were placed under the rule of sequestration and the trial began with opening statements from the state, followed by the defense waiving opening statement. At trial, the following evidence was adduced:

         On June 7, 2018, at approximately 11:00 p.m., Corporal Michael Tong ("Cpl. Tong") was patrolling West Cedar Grove, with Corporal Leroy Bates ("Cpl. Bates"), when they noticed someone riding a bicycle with no lights against the flow of traffic.[3] Johnson was riding his bicycle southbound on Dowdell Street in a northbound lane, between West 70th and West 71st Street. Cpl. Tong was driving behind Johnson heading southbound with Cpl. Bates in the front passenger seat. Both officers were in uniform. Cpl. Bates noted that, because Johnson presented a safety hazard as he could potentially get hit by a car, they decided to make a stop with Cpl. Tong activating his lights and sirens.[4] Johnson did not stop.

         Cpl. Tong testified that he "gave chase" in his vehicle and even rolled down his windows to get Johnson to stop but he refused. Cpl. Bates noted that Johnson stood up on his bike to pedal faster in an effort to avoid them. During the pursuit, Cpl. Bates attempted to use the radio to inform officers of their location. Johnson then proceeded west on West 71st Street, towards Linwood Avenue. As Cpl. Tong was pursuing Johnson, he attempted to cut Johnson off, and Johnson went into a ditch. Johnson then "threw off his bike and took off toward the vacant lot."

         The vacant lot was described as grassy and completely empty with a wooded area in the back and a drainage ditch on the side. Cpl. Tong confirmed that the area was ...


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