APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16-119, DIVISION
"C" HONORABLE JUNE B. DARENSBURG, JUDGE PRESIDING.
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D.
Connick, Jr., Terry M. Boudreaux, Juliet L. Clark.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, JOHN SPEARS, Cynthia K.
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA,
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Jeffrey M. Landry, J. Taylor Gray.
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Marc E.
Johnson, and Robert A. Chaisson.
E. JOHNSON JUDGE.
John Spears, appeals his conviction and life sentence for
second-degree murder from the 24th Judicial
District Court, Division "C". For the following
reasons, Defendant's conviction and sentence are
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
February 18, 2016, a Jefferson Parish Grand Jury returned an
indictment charging Defendant with the second degree murder
of Anthony Tardo, in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1. Defendant
pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on February 19, 2016.
On May 17, 2016, Defendant withdrew his not guilty plea and
entered a plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of
insanity. Trial commenced on June 13, 2017, before a
trial, Officer Mark Stein of the Kenner Police Department
testified that he responded to a shooting inside of Houston
Marine, in Kenner, Louisiana, on December 4, 2015. Defendant
was standing outside of the business next to his car with his
hands above his head and an unloaded gun on top of the car.
Officer Stein described Defendant as calm and cooperative.
With the aid of Officer Gregory Alphonso, Defendant was
detained and while being handcuffed, stated, "he's
in the building . . . the man was messing with me."
Joshua Wilkerson, also of the Kenner Police Department,
arrived at the scene shortly after Officer Stein and
discovered that the victim, Anthony Tardo, had been shot and
killed in his office. Officer Wilkerson noted that a cartridge
casing was in the hallway leading to the victim's office.
Herbert Hille was the lead detective on the case for the
Kenner Police Department. He testified that after the
shooting, Defendant exited the building and waited next to
his vehicle for the police to arrive. He explained that
Defendant had ejected the magazine and the round of
ammunition from the gun and placed them on top of his
vehicle. Sergeant Hille testified that a spent casing and a
projectile were recovered inside the building where the
victim was shot. After ballistics testing was performed, it
was concluded that the cartridge casing found in the hallway
outside the victim's office was fired by the gun located
on top of Defendant's vehicle.
Sampson, an employee and instructor at Houston Marine,
testified that on the afternoon of the shooting, he passed
Defendant in the parking lot and recalled telling Defendant
that he was leaving early to pick up his son, to which
Defendant replied, "I'm just going to go into the
building and shoot everybody." Mr. Sampson described
Defendant as a quiet employee but believed that there was
"something going on." Mr. Sampson also described
the victim as a superior supervisor, noting that he never
personally knew of any disputes between Defendant and the
Plack, also an employee at Houston Marine, testified that he
was in the file room near the front of the building when he
heard the victim say, "what the f-k," and then
heard a loud bang. When Mr. Plack went into the hallway to
investigate, he observed Defendant standing outside the
doorway to the victim's office. Mr. Plack testified that
initially his attention was focused on the ground where he
observed an object spinning in the middle of the hallway.
Believing the noise he heard was a CO2 powered car
they played with in the office, he asked Defendant if the
noise was "the toy car," to which Defendant
responded, it "wasn't the stupid car."
Eventually Mr. Plack realized that the spinning object was a
cartridge casing and that Defendant had a gun in his hand.
Defendant, who was expressionless, then stated to Mr. Plack
that the victim was "going to need some first aid,"
before leaving the building. When Mr. Plack entered the
victim's office, he noted that the victim was lying face
down. In his statement to the police, Mr. Plack indicated
that Defendant "had something weird going on,"
testifying that Defendant had "some strange ways of
doing things and he used to yawn a lot at inappropriate
times." Mr. Plack was also unaware of any
work-related issues that might have been going on between the
victim and Defendant.
O'Carroll Jr. was also an employee at Houston Marine and
had seen Defendant that morning. Mr. O'Carroll noted that
it was out of the ordinary that Defendant had not shaved in a
day or two. At the time of the shooting Mr. O'Carroll was
not in the building but recalled receiving a phone call
concerning the shooting later that afternoon. Mr.
O'Carroll testified that he had a conversation with
Defendant about "how crazy the world was getting,"
in reference to their discussion regarding a shooting that
had just occurred in San Bernardino, California the day
before the shooting.
Marine instructor, William Klein, was in the building at the
time of the shooting. He testified that he was sitting in the
office next to the victim's office with his back to the
door. While talking to another co-worker, Mr. Klein heard a
loud pop. When Mr. Klein went into the hallway, he observed
Defendant standing there with a gun in his hand. He recalled
that Defendant calmly told him someone was hurt and to call
9-1-1. Upon entering the victim's office, Mr. Klein
observed the victim lying on the floor under the desk. Mr.
Klein testified that Defendant did not appear shocked but was
calm and seemed almost dazed.
Vallon, another co-worker, testified Defendant was acting
"a little different than usual" and noted that he
did not look like himself on the day of the shooting. She
testified that Defendant was unshaven and not dressed in his
usual work attire. When she heard the gunshot, Ms. Vallon
testified that she ran to the victim's office where
Defendant was standing in the doorway holding a gun. When she
asked Defendant what was going on, he told her that the
victim needed an ambulance. Her co-worker, Vickie Twilbeck,
corroborated Ms. Vallon's testimony and further noted
that, after the shooting, it appeared that Defendant had no
remorse. However, on cross-examination, Ms. Twilbeck
testified that she told the police that it did not appear
that Defendant wanted anything permanent to happen to the
victim and that he appeared to be in "disbelief."
Co-worker James Gilless also added that after the shooting,
Defendant's face was stoic and expressionless.
Andrews testified that she worked with Defendant, and that,
on the morning of the shooting, she asked Defendant about his
upcoming birthday. She recalled that Defendant did not
respond at first but then told her, "it doesn't
matter." Ms. Andrews testified that Defendant had a
"blank stare" when talking to her; however, she did
not find this strange as "that's the way he was all
the time." She stated that Defendant was not a man of
many words, but on that particular day, he appeared as though
he was "confused almost." Ms. Andrews also
testified Defendant was not a very social person and did not
have a lot of motivation. Ms. Andrews further recalled a time
when Defendant told her that the victim did not like him and
that is why Defendant "just comes into the office, does
his job, and then goes home."
Wooten confirmed that Defendant was always well-groomed but
appeared "real rough" and "scruffy" on
the day of the shooting. Ms. Wooten testified that on the day
of the shooting, Defendant neglected to sign in as required
for all instructors; thus, Ms. Wooten reported Defendant to
her boss-the victim. Ms. Wooten also spoke to Defendant
regarding the unsigned form and was told by Defendant he
would get to it later. Later that day, Defendant went into
Ms. Wooten's office and signed the form. Ms. Wooten
confirmed that the victim often encouraged Defendant, as he
did all of the employees at Houston Marine, to better
themselves and to learn as much as possible. She testified
that she assisted the victim with the scheduling of classes,
and she occasionally requested that certain instructors
"shadow" a class being taught by another
instructor. Ms. Wooten recalled that, on a couple of
occasions, Defendant would refuse to shadow the class to
which he was assigned; so, she had to report Defendant to the
the shooting, Defendant was transported to the Kenner Police
Department, where a health and property screening was
conducted. Pursuant to the health screening, Defendant was
asked about any medical conditions he may have had, and
Defendant indicated that he had diabetes, high cholesterol,
kidney issues, and depression. He further indicated that he
was on medication for his diabetes, cholesterol, and kidneys.
It did not appear to the booking officer, Caitlin Wadsworth,
that Defendant was down or depressed, hearing voices,
reacting strangely, disoriented, or suicidal. Officer
Wadsworth testified that Defendant was calm and polite during
their interaction. Defendant had in his possession several
different medications for his diabetes and high blood
pressure, including Metformin, Pioglitazone, Lisinopril,
Glipizide, Lantus, and NovoLog.
in jail, Defendant placed a phone call to his wife. During
the phone call, he told his wife that he "f--ked up.
Mother f--ker just kept aggravatin' me and
aggravatin' me, and aggravatin' me." When his
wife questioned him as to why he did not "just walk
away," Defendant responded, "[w]ell that's what
I say now, that's what I say. I say, I say that every
day. I say f--k, I say I bring my coun . . . my son to
counselin' to handle, to . . . to be able to deal with
his anger and yet I go off and do sumpin it . . . an . . .
and this happens." He further told his wife that the
victim kept "f--kin" with him. During the phone
call, Defendant also spoke to his children, informing them
that he had "made a terrible mistake" and should
have "just walked away." He cautioned his children
about letting their anger get the best of them and warned
them not to let "somebody aggravate you, push you to
that point." Defendant further acknowledged that he
should have quit or just "walked away from this motha
f--ka." Before ending the phone call, Defendant informed
his wife of his upcoming bail hearing, stating, "only
thing that can help me maybe, maybe is uh is my VA medical
records where I got an . . . and stress with depression and
uh you know stuff like that." At the end of the call,
his wife stated that she would do all she could to help him.
the State rested, the defense called Emmett Spears,
Defendant's brother. Emmett, a registered nurse,
testified to the history of mental illness in their family.
He explained that his mother suffered from depression, and
his three uncles and one aunt have paranoid schizophrenia. He
stated that because of his family's history, he choose to
work as a psychiatric mental health nurse. Emmett testified
regarding changes he saw in his brother that were of concern
to him. He explained that in 2012, Defendant disclosed to him
that he believed a Caucasian male was following him. Emmett
found this odd, as he did not observe any such activity. He
also testified about Defendant's paranoia regarding his
wife's alleged infidelity. Emmett further stated that he
had knowledge of Defendant hearing voices and testified that
Defendant was prescribed psychotropic medication, which he
was unable to take because they were prohibited at Houston
Marine due to Coast Guard regulations.
wife, Sabrina Spears, also a registered nurse, testified that
sometime around 2010-2012, Defendant was diagnosed with
schizophrenia and depression. As a result, Defendant was
prescribed medications for these conditions, which she stated
helped him initially but that he stopped taking his
medication because they interfered with his ability to work.
She explained that when Defendant did not take his
medications, he became paranoid, irritable, and irrational.
Spears described an instance when Defendant purchased a
device to search their house for any recording devices that
might have been hidden in their home. She also recalled that
Defendant removed some mirrors from their home and kept the
curtains drawn because he felt someone was watching them.
Another time, she stated she awoke in the middle of the night
to find Defendant standing in the street looking around. Mrs.
Spears further discussed Defendant's suspicion regarding
her own activities. On one occasion, Mrs. Spears stated that
she received a phone call from Defendant warning her not to
go home because someone was at the house. There was another
instance when the FBI called her because her husband reported
that her life was in danger. With respect to his job, Mrs.
Spears testified that Defendant would complain that
"they [were] sabotaging his computer," and that
they had cameras watching him at work.
morning of the shooting, Mrs. Spears recalled that Defendant
was fidgety, irritated, unshaven, and was wearing wrinkled
clothing. Mrs. Spears testified that she only learned of the
shooting the evening after it happened, when she received a
phone call from her sister informing her about it. She
further testified that Defendant only carried a gun with him
when he would check on their rental properties. Mrs. Spears
admitted that she spoke to Defendant after the shooting, and
he explained to her the bills that needed to be paid,
doctors' appointments for their children that needed to
be taken care of, and medical records from the VA medical
facility that he needed her to obtain.
testified on his own behalf that he received his GED when he
was 16 years old and that he went to college but never
graduated. He testified that he served in the army for two
years but was honorably discharged for being "unable to
adapt to military life." He then worked offshore for a
number of years before he started working at Houston Marine
as a maritime instructor. According to Defendant, he has
suffered from depression and schizophrenia while working at
Houston Marine, for which he was receiving treatment at the
VA medical center. Defendant identified notations in his
medical records, which referenced diagnoses made in 2012
regarding his "delusional disorder" and
"depressive disorder." He also identified a
progress note from an office visit with endocrinology
regarding his diabetes in December of 2014, which identified
his past medical history, depression and paranoid
schizophrenia. Defendant explained that the medications he
was prescribed for those conditions made him drowsy and
incapable of performing normal functions; thus, he admitted
he was not always compliant in taking them. He further
testified that, during his work as a merchant marine, he was
required to obtain a waiver from the Coast Guard to take
certain medications, which he was not able to obtain with
respect to his psychotropic medications.
testified that when he began working at Houston Marine as an
instructor, he felt as though he was being undermined at
work. He stated that he felt as if his work was being
sabotaged. He also testified that, on a few occasions, he
left work to find his car with flat tires from holes that had
been punctured in their sides. Defendant believed he was
being ridiculed at his workplace, stating that on one
occasion, he overheard the victim and another employee call
him a "stupid ass ni--er." From that point forward,
he testified that he tried to keep his distance from the
victim as much as possible. He admitted that, while he
reported his delusions to his family members, he did not
report them to his physicians because he did not "think
about it at the time of the appointment."
explained that on the date of the shooting, he planned on
going to his rental property after work, so he brought his
gun with him. He testified that when he arrived at his
office, it was another normal day at work. But later in the
day, he overheard the victim say something to another
co-worker in the hallway, and noticed the two of them look at
him and laugh. The next thing Defendant remembered, he was
outside in the parking lot, unloading the gun, and placing it
on top of his car. It was at that time that he saw the police
come towards him. He did not recall firing the gun or
speaking to any co-workers while in the building.
cross-examination, Defendant was questioned extensively
regarding his medical history. Defendant confirmed that on
May 11, 2015, as part of his employment requirements, he
filled out an application for renewal of license and medical
waiver on which he indicated he was taking a low dose of the
medication Seroquel (a.k.a. Quetiapine) "as
needed." According to a letter dated May 28, 2015, his
physician, a staff psychiatrist at the VA medical center,
explained that Defendant was prescribed the Seroquel for
sleep and that the medication had not been refilled since May
of 2014. In the letter from his physician, she also indicated
that Defendant was last seen at the VA medical center on
April 20, 2015, and was not currently prescribed any
psychotropic medication. It was also noted on his license
renewal application that Defendant answered "no"
regarding any history of schizophrenia. Defendant explained
that while he signed the application, a medical professional
filled out the answers for him.
was then questioned regarding various medical records
obtained from his visits to the VA medical center.
Specifically, on June 27, 2013, Defendant's medical
records indicated that his mood was within normal limits,
that he had been looking for a steady job, "and that he
has reactive mood changes, which he considers normal."
He further reported to his physician on that date that he was
taking 50 milligrams of Quetiapine to help with irritability
and sleep. Defendant denied any suicidal or homicidal
thoughts and denied any auditory hallucinations, visual
hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. On January 30, 2013,
while Defendant reported his anxiety, there remained no
mention of any delusions or schizophrenia. Also, on February
25, 2013, Defendant reported to his physician that he was
taking Quetiapine at bedtime but denied any side effects from
his medication, and stated that his mood was variable. His
physician noted that he continued to have difficulty trusting
his wife and that they were going to start going to couples
therapy. On the same visit, Defendant again denied auditory
hallucinations, visual hallucinations, delusions, or
paranoia. Defendant's progress note from December 15,
2014, indicated Defendant presented with no evidence of
anxiety or depressed mood.
also admitted at trial that in a progress note dated May 19,
2015, his physician indicated there was "no evidence of
anxiety or depressed mood." He also did not report to
his physician on May 19, 2015, that he had a family history
of mental illness. Also, in another progress note dated April
20, 2015, the note read "he is no longer requiring the
use of psychotropic. He is not interested in therapy or
scheduled MH f/u at this time." The note also
indicated that Defendant denied any auditory hallucinations,
visual hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. Then on
January 26, 2015, his physician noted there to be no evidence
of anxiety or depressed mood. In sum, between 2012 and the
date of the shooting on December 4, 2015, Defendant was not
prescribed any other psychotropic medications other than
Quetiapine, which his physician indicated was for sleep.
rebuttal, the State called Dr. Richard Richoux, expert in
forensic psychiatry, who testified that he was ordered by the
court, along with Dr. Rafael Salcedo, a forensic
psychologist, to conduct a competency evaluation of Defendant
to determine his sanity at the time of the
offense. Dr. Richoux testified that in conducting
his examination, the first step was to determine whether
Defendant suffers, or may have previously suffered, from an
identifiable mental disease or defect. Next, if a mental
disease or defect is identified, it must then be determined
whether that mental disease or defect prevented Defendant
from being able to appreciate the wrongfulness of the
criminal actions he engaged in at the time of the offense. In
order to make this determination, Dr. Richoux stated that he
interviewed Defendant, reviewed the police reports and the
statements given to the police, and read Defendant's
Richoux testified that he, along with psychologist Dr. Rafael
Salcedo, co-authored a report dated September 28, 2016,
summarizing the findings of their evaluation of Defendant
regarding his state of mind at the time of the December 4,
2015 offense. After review of Defendant's medical
records, Drs. Richoux and Salcedo noted that Defendant was
receiving treatment for depression and sleep difficulties at
the Veterans Administration Hospital and being treated with
low doses of Seroquel (a.k.a. Quetiapine), often prescribed
for individuals with sleep difficulties. They noted that,
while the records did make mention of a distant diagnosis of
delusional disorder dating back to 2012, subsequent progress
notes in the record made no mention of delusional disorder,
rather, the ongoing diagnoses listed included depression,
insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, and problems associated
with his diabetes, including chronic pain.
Richoux testified that it is only when Quetiapine is
prescribed in doses of 1000 milligrams or more a day is it
being used for anti-psychotic purposes. Defendant testified
that his dosing was between 50 and 100 milligrams, which Dr.
Richoux stated is often used to combat sleep difficulties.
Dr. Richoux explained that Quetiapine is not a
"first-line anti-psychotic," meaning that it is not
the first drug that is prescribed to treat paranoid
schizophrenia but rather is only typically prescribed as a
"second-line" drug when the first-line drug has
failed to produce the desired effect or because of adverse
side effects from the first-line drug.
Richoux also testified that when interviewing Defendant about
his recollection of his thoughts and actions at the time of
the offense, he indicated that his memory was hazy. However,
Dr. Richoux believed Defendant demonstrated an adequate
understanding as to why the police were on the way to the
scene of the crime, seeming to suggest that he was capable of
appreciating the wrongfulness of his actions and the
illegality of them. Specifically, Dr. Richoux recalled that
Defendant told him "[o]f course I was expecting the
police to come. When you're sitting on the car and
realizing what you just did, you figure, of course,
they're coming." He also agreed that when someone
tells another person to call 9-1-1 for help, it means they
are aware that something bad has happened. Dr. Richoux then
testified that "blackouts," as testified to by
Defendant at trial regarding his recollection of the
shooting, are not usually a symptom of paranoid schizophrenia
or delusional disorder. However, Dr. Richoux admitted that
there is no medical testing that can be performed to
determine whether someone is telling the truth as to whether
they remember the events that occurred during a certain
period of time. Nevertheless, Dr. Richoux went on to testify
that there is no direct relationship between blacking out and
being unable to distinguish right from wrong while one is in
a blackout state.
on their assessment, Drs. Richoux and Salcedo failed to find
evidence that Defendant
has ever suffered from a major psychiatric disorder, i.e.,
depression is a fairly common psychiatric disorder, which
even in severe forms does not typically lead to such a level
of behavioral and psychological disorganization as to so
grossly impair an individual that they are incapable of
distinguishing right from wrong, as opposed to more serious
diagnoses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Otherwise, there was no indication of any other psychiatric
problems or treatment for any other psychiatric
Richoux testified that they determined, based on
Defendant's description of his behavior at the time of
the offense, Defendant "did not appear to have been
manifesting symptoms of a psychiatric disorder, per se, and
certainly not one which would have so gravely impaired him as
to limit his capacity to distinguish right from wrong."
Thus, Drs. Richoux and Salcedo concluded that Defendant was
able to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the
offense and recommended he be found to have been legally sane
at that time.
conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict of
guilty as charged on June 15, 2017. On July 24, 2017, the
trial court denied Defendant's oral motions for new trial
and post-verdict judgment of acquittal and then sentenced
Defendant to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit
of parole, probation, or suspension of
sentence. On May 22, 2018, Defendant filed a
pro se letter inquiring into the status of an
appeal, which the trial court construed as a request for an
out-of-time appeal; thus, on June 1, 2018, the trial court
granted Defendant an out-of-time appeal. The instant
appeal, Defendant alleges six assignments of error, namely:
1) a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was required
in this case; 2) the evidence was insufficient to support the
verdict of second degree murder; 3) he was denied his right
to a fair trial and an impartial, attentive, and alert jury;
4) the jury verdict should be declared invalid because it was
not unanimous; 5) his life sentence is unconstitutionally
excessive; and 6) the record on appeal is incomplete and
of Evidence and Verdict of Not Guilty by Reason of
these interrelated assignments, Defendant argues he carried
his burden of proving his insanity by a preponderance of the
evidence through the testimony of his co-workers, his family,
and his medical records. He contends the evidence presented
showed he suffered from schizophrenia and delusional
paranoia. Defendant avers that his mental illness deluded him
into believing the victim was sabotaging his work, and that
while under this delusion, he was unable to distinguish right
from wrong at the time of the shooting. He maintains that the
expert testimony presented by the State failed to rebut the
evidence of insanity he presented. Defendant also argues the
evidence is insufficient to support the verdict of second
degree murder because he "blacked out" at the time
of the shooting and thus was unable to form the requisite
specific intent. Alternatively, he contends that due to his
belief that the victim was sabotaging his work and directing
racial slurs and ridicule toward him, at most, the evidence
supports a verdict of manslaughter.
State responds that the jury heard from all witnesses and
reviewed all the evidence and ultimately arrived at the
conclusion that, despite Defendant's allegations of
mental illness, Defendant was able to distinguish right from
wrong at the time of the offense. Thus, viewing the evidence
in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the State
avers that any rational trier of fact could have concluded
Defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence
that Defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect which
prevented him from distinguishing right from wrong at the
time of the offense. It also maintains that Defendant's
actions of pointing a loaded gun at the victim and shooting
him in the chest support a finding by the trier of fact that
Defendant acted with the specific intent to kill. The State
further maintains that Defendant possessed the mental
capacity to form specific intent and that he acted with such
intent when he shot and killed the victim. Finally, the State
contends the evidence does not support the lesser offense of
manslaughter, and the evidence was sufficient to support the
jury's second degree murder finding.
was charged with second degree murder in violation of La.
R.S. 14:30.1, which is defined as the killing of a human
being when the offender has specific intent to kill or
inflict great bodily harm. Defendant changed his initial plea
of "not guilty" to the plea of "not guilty and
not guilty by reason of insanity." The jury rejected
Defendant's insanity defense, finding him guilty as
charged. Defendant argues that he met his burden of proving
by a preponderance of the evidence that he did not know right
from wrong at the time of the offense and, therefore, should
be exempt from criminal responsibility. Defendant further
argues that the State failed to carry its burden of proving
he had specific intent to kill the victim, and alternatively,
that the evidence presented by the State only supports a
verdict of manslaughter.
argument regarding the sufficiency of the evidence will be
addressed first. In considering an accused's plea of not
guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the trier of
fact must first determine whether the State has proven the
essential elements of the charged offense beyond a reasonable
doubt. State v. Abbott, 11-1162 (La.App. 5 Cir.
5/31/12); 97 So.3d 1066, 1068-69. The trier of fact may then
proceed to the determination of whether the defendant was
incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong at the
time of the offense. Id., 97 So.3d at 1069.
appropriate standard of review for determining the
sufficiency of the evidence was established in Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560
(1979). According to Jackson, the standard is
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. Id. Under the Jackson
standard, a review of a criminal conviction record for
sufficiency of evidence does not require the court to ask
whether it believes that the evidence at trial established
guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Flores,
10-651 (La.App. 5 Cir. 5/24/11); 66 So.3d 1118, 1122.
the reviewing court must decide, after viewing the evidence
in the light most favorable to the prosecution, whether any
rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.; Jackson,
443 U.S. at 319; see also State v. Ortiz, 96-1609
(La. 10/21/97); 701 So.2d 922, 930, cert. denied,
524 U.S. 943, 118 S.Ct. 2352, 141 L.Ed.2d 722 (1998);
State v. Holmes, 98-490 (La.App. 5 Cir. 3/10/99);
735 So.2d 687, 690. It is not the function of the appellate
court to assess credibility or re-weigh the evidence.
State v. Smith, 94-3116 (La. 10/16/95); 661 So.2d
442, 443. The trier of fact shall evaluate credibility, and
when faced with a conflict in testimony, is free to accept or
reject, in whole or in part, the testimony of any witness.
State v. Bradley, 03-384 (La.App. 5 Cir. 9/16/03);
858 So.2d 80, 84, writs denied, 03-2745 (La.
2/13/04); 867 So.2d 688 and 08-1951 (La. 1/30/09); 999 So.2d
argues the State failed to prove he possessed the requisite
specific intent to kill the victim, as nearly every witness
who was present during the shooting testified that he
requested help be called for the victim after he shot him. He
also argues that the testimony at trial established he was
not acting like himself on the day of the shooting and that
he had no recollection of the shooting, which he maintains
the State failed to refute as a reasonable hypothesis that he
did not have the capacity to form specific intent.
Alternatively, he argues, the State's evidence only
supports a verdict of manslaughter.
intent is defined as "that state of mind which exists
when the circumstances indicate that the offender actively
desired the prescribed criminal consequences to follow his
act or failure to act." La. R.S. 14:10(1). Whether a
defendant possessed the requisite intent in a criminal case
is a question for the trier of fact, and a review of the
correctness of this determination is guided by the
Jackson standard. State v. Spears, 05-0964
(La. 4/4/06); 929 So.2d 1219, 1224; State v. Gant,
06-232 (La.App. 5 Cir. 9/26/06); 942 So.2d 1099, 1111,
writ denied, 06-2529 (La. 5/4/07); 956 So.2d 599.
Specific intent may be inferred from the circumstances and
from the defendant's actions, and the intent to kill or
to inflict great bodily harm may be inferred from the extent
and severity of the victim's injuries. Id.
Defendant is correct in his assertion that nearly all of his
co-workers who were present at the time of the shooting
testified that he stated to them that they should call 9-1-1,
they also testified that Defendant was expressionless, calm,
and appeared to have no remorse. Also, after the shooting,
when asked by his wife what had happened, Defendant informed
her that the victim just kept "aggravating" him.
Moreover, the evidence presented at trial concerning
Defendant's actions prior to the shooting established
that he armed himself with a gun, entered his office
building, walked down the hallway into the victim's
office, shot the victim in the chest, and then walked back to
the parking lot where he waited for the police. A
defendant's act of aiming a lethal weapon and discharging
it in the direction of his victim supports a finding by the
trier of fact that the defendant acted with specific intent
to kill. See State v. Hidalgo, 95-319 (La.App. 5
Cir. 1/17/96); 668 So.2d 1188, 1197. Mr. Sampson, an employee
and instructor at Houston Marine, also testified that he
passed Defendant in the parking lot and recalled telling
Defendant that he was leaving early to pick up his son, to
which Defendant replied, "I'm just going to go into
the building and shoot everybody."
although Defendant argues he had no recollection of the
shooting, thereby lacking the capacity to form specific
intent, the jury chose to reject Defendant's theory as to
his specific intent in this regard and accept the evidence
presented by the State that established Defendant's
actions after the shooting contradicted his assertion that he
"blacked out" and could not remember what happened.
Specifically, Defendant told the arresting officer on the
scene that the victim was in the building and that he
"was messing with" him. Defendant also placed a
recorded phone call to his wife while in jail where he told
her that the victim "just kept aggravating" him and
that in hindsight he should have just walked away. As
previously noted, specific criminal intent may be inferred
from the circumstances present in the case and the actions of
the defendant. See Gant, supra. Further, there was
no testimony presented that, even if the event could not be
remembered, specific intent could not have been
formed. (See generally State v. Leroux,
641 So.2d 656 (La.App. 5th Cir. 1994), where evidence of the
defendant's alcoholic blackout did not preclude a murder
these reasons, we find the evidence, when viewed in the light
most favorable to the State, was sufficient to convince a
rational trier of fact, beyond a reasonable doubt, that
Defendant had the specific intent to kill the victim, thus,
supporting the verdict of second degree murder.
also argues he bore his burden of proving by a preponderance
of the evidence that he was insane at the time of the offense
through the testimony of his co-workers, his family members,
and his medical records and, therefore, should be exempt from
Louisiana, the law presumes a criminal defendant is sane.
Abbott, 97 So.3d at 1068 (citing La. R.S. 15:432).
To rebut this presumption of sanity and avoid criminal
responsibility, the defendant has the burden of proving the
affirmative defense of insanity by a preponderance of the
evidence. Id. (citing La. C.Cr.P. art. 652). This
burden is not borne by proving the mere existence of a mental
disease or defect. Rather, to be exempted from criminal
responsibility, the defendant must show he suffered a mental
disease or defect which prevented him from distinguishing
between right and wrong at the time he committed the conduct
in question. Id. (citing La. R.S. 14:14). The
determination of sanity is a factual matter. Abbott,
97 So.3d at 1068.
evidence, including both expert and lay testimony, along with
the defendant's conduct and actions before and after the
crime, may be considered in determining whether the defendant
has met his burden of proof. Abbott, 97 So.3d at
1069. A determination of the weight of the evidence is a
question of fact that rests solely with the trier of fact,
who may accept or reject, in whole or in part, the testimony
of any witness, and if rational triers of fact could disagree
as to the interpretation of the evidence, the rational
trier's view of all of the evidence most favorable to the
prosecution must be adopted. State v. Williams,
07-1407 (La. 10/20/09); 22 So.3d 867, 875-76, cert.
denied, 560 U.S. 905, 130 S.Ct. 3278, 176 L.Ed.2d 1184
review of a claim for sufficiency of evidence in an action
where an insanity defense has been raised, the appellate
court, applying the standard outlined in Jackson v.
Virginia, supra, must determine whether under
the facts and circumstances of the case, any rational
fact-finder, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable
to the prosecution, could conclude, beyond a reasonable
doubt, that the ...