FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LAFAYETTE, NO. CR 159452 HONORABLE MARILYN C. CASTLE,
ANNETTE ROACH LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT: MICHAEL JEROME COCHRAN
A. STUTES DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT
ROYALE L. COLBERT, JR. ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY COUNSEL
FOR STATE-APPELLEE: STATE OF LOUISIANA
composed of John D. Saunders, Elizabeth A. Pickett, and Van
H. Kyzar, Judges.
ELIZABETH A. PICKETT JUDGE.
defendant, Michael Jerome Cochran, allegedly raped a minor
child, T. J., who was five to eight years old at the time of
the crime. The defendant was charged with the aggravated rape
of T.J. between October 9, 2010, and October 5, 2013, a
violation of La.R.S. 14:42.  A unanimous jury found him guilty
of the responsive verdict of attempted aggravated rape, a
violation of La.R.S. 14:27 and 14:42(A)(4), on August 21,
2018. The trial court denied the defendant's "Motion
for Post-Verdict Judgment of Acquittal; Alternatively Motion
for New Trial" at a hearing on December 11, 2018. The
trial court immediately sentenced the defendant to
twenty-five years at hard labor without benefit of parole,
probation, or suspension of sentence. The trial court denied
the defendant's motion to reconsider his sentence on
January 15, 2019. The defendant now seeks review of his
conviction and sentence.
1. The evidence introduced at the trial of this case, when
viewed under the Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307,
99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979)[, ] standard, was
insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, all of the
elements of attempted aggravated rape or the charged offense
of aggravated rape.
2. The trial court erred in finding the Hearts of Hope
recorded forensic interview was admissible, to the extent
noted, as it contained other alleged bad acts both with the
same victim and with other girls.
3. The sentence imposed by the trial court violates the
Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and
La. Constit. Art. I, § 20, as it was nothing more than
cruel and unusual punishment and, thus, excessive.
4. The trial court erred in sentencing Appellant immediately
following the denial of his Motion for Post-Verdict Judgment
of Acquittal; Alternatively, Motion for New Trial and without
obtaining a valid waiver from Appellant.
5. Counsel's representation of Appellant fell below that
guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, all appeals are
reviewed by this court for errors patent on the face of the
record. After reviewing the record, we find there is one
error patent that has been assigned as error in Assignment of
Error Number Four and will be discussed in that assignment of
OF ERROR NUMBER ONE
defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove
all the elements of attempted aggravated rape or aggravated
rape beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard of review in a
sufficiency of the evidence claim is "whether, viewing
the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution,
any rational trier of fact could have found proof beyond a
reasonable doubt of each of the essential elements of the
crime charged." State v. Leger, 05-11, p. 91
(La. 7/10/06), 936 So.2d 108, 170, cert. denied, 549
U.S. 1221, 127 S.Ct. 1279 (2007) (citing Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781 (1979); State
v. Captville, 448 So.2d 676, 678 (La.1984)). The
Jackson standard of review is now legislatively
embodied in La.Code Crim.P. art. 821. It does not allow the
appellate court "to substitute its own appreciation of
the evidence for that of the fact-finder." State v.
Pigford, 05-477, p. 6 (La. 2/22/06), 922 So.2d 517, 521
(citing State v. Robertson, 96-1048 (La. 10/4/96),
680 So.2d 1165; State v. Lubrano, 563 So.2d 847
(La.1990)). The appellate court's function is not to
assess the credibility of witnesses or to reweigh the
evidence. State v. Smith, 94-3116 (La. 10/16/95),
661 So.2d 442.
factfinder's role is to weigh the credibility of
witnesses. State v. Ryan, 07-504 (La.App. 3 Cir.
11/7/07), 969 So.2d 1268. Thus, other than insuring the
sufficiency evaluation standard of Jackson,
"the appellate court should not second-guess the
credibility determination of the trier of fact," but
rather, it should defer to the rational credibility and
evidentiary determinations of the jury. Id. at 1270
(quoting State v. Lambert, 97-64, p. 5 (La.App. 3
Cir. 9/30/98), 720 So.2d 724, 727). Our supreme court has
However, an appellate court may impinge on the fact
finder's discretion and its role in determining the
credibility of witnesses "only to the extent necessary
to guarantee the fundamental due process of law."
State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1310 (La.1988). In
determining the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a
conviction, an appellate court must preserve "'the
factfinder's role as weigher of the evidence' by
reviewing 'all of the evidence . . . in the light most
favorable to the prosecution.'" McDaniel v.
Brown, 558 U.S. [120, 134], 130 S.Ct. 665, 674, 175
L.Ed.2d 582 [(2010)] (quoting Jackson v. Virginia,
443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560
(1979)). When so viewed by an appellate court, the relevant
question is whether, on the evidence presented at trial,
"any rational trier of fact could have found
the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt." Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319, 99 S.Ct. at
2789. Applied in cases relying on circumstantial evidence, .
. . this fundamental principle of review means that when a
jury "reasonably rejects the hypothesis of innocence
presented by the defendant[ ], that hypothesis falls, and the
defendant is guilty unless there is another hypothesis which
raises a reasonable doubt." State v. Captville,
448 So.2d 676, 680 (La.1984).
State v. Strother, 09-2357, pp. 10-11 (La.
10/22/10), 49 So.3d 372, 378 (third alteration in original).
rape is a rape . . . where the anal, oral, or vaginal sexual
intercourse is deemed to be without lawful consent of the
victim because . . . the victim is under the age of thirteen
years." La.R.S. 14:42(A)(4). "Any person,
who, having a specific intent to commit a crime, does or
omits an act for the purpose of and tending directly toward
the accomplishing of his object is guilty of an attempt to
commit the offense intended[.]" La.R.S. 14:27(A).
"Mere preparation to commit a crime shall not be
sufficient to constitute an attempt[.]" (La.R.S.
number of witnesses testified in the defendant's case.
The defendant consistently denied the charges against him and
maintained his innocence.
Cormier of the Breaux Bridge Police Department investigated
the defendant after Dr. Lawrence Christy reported "that
the mother of a juvenile female contacted him regarding her
daughter being inappropriately touched," and she wanted
her daughter to be examined. The defendant's sister,
Jene'a Frederick, had told the child's mother about
the inappropriate contact. Lieutenant Cormier arranged for
the victim to give a forensic interview at Hearts of Hope
(HOH), a child advocacy center. Information obtained during
Lieutenant Cormier's investigation showed an incident had
occurred when the defendant made the victim perform oral sex
on him at the food stamp office in Lafayette.
victim was ten years old at the time Lieutenant Cormier
received the report. The incident occurred when the victim
was approximately five to eight years old. Lieutenant Cormier
first interviewed the victim's mother. He also
interviewed Mrs. Frederick's husband, Robert Frederick.
the victim's HOH interview, she indicated the first of
three separate incidents of assault occurred at her
grandmother's residence in Breaux Bridge. She said the
defendant called the victim to the back of the residence and
placed his penis in her mouth.
second incident, the subject of the present charge, took
place at the food stamp office in Lafayette. When Lieutenant
Cormier learned of that incident, he contacted the Lafayette
Police Department. No one ever reported a specific date or
time for this incident to Lieutenant Cormier.
Cormier's report indicated Mr. and Mrs. Frederick and the
victim's mother went inside the food stamp office, and
the victim remained in their vehicle with the defendant. The
defendant made the victim put his penis in her mouth. When
Mr. Frederick returned to the vehicle, the defendant
"picked up his pants." During this incident, the
defendant slapped the victim when she refused his
instructions. The victim said "she was always threatened
with bodily harm."
third incident occurred at the St. Francis Assisi Church in
Breaux Bridge. The defendant took the victim home in her
grandfather's vehicle but stopped at the church's
hall on the way. He again made the victim perform oral sex on
him. At the time of trial, the defendant was also facing
charges in connection with the two Breaux Bridge incidents.
victim did not report the incidents to her mother because
"[s]he was scared." Lieutenant Cormier testified
juveniles often did not report sexual assaults because they
were embarrassed or felt no one would believe them.
Frederick was incarcerated at the time of trial for failing
to pay traffic tickets. He testified that he and his wife had
been married "[a]bout eight years," and he had
known the defendant "[a] few years."
the group arrived at the food stamp office, Mr. Frederick,
his wife, and his cousin went inside. The defendant and the
victim stayed in the vehicle. Mr. Frederick told Lieutenant
Cormier he had returned to the vehicle and "seen [sic]
[Defendant's] pants unzipped a little bit. And [the
victim] was in the front seat." The defendant was in the
back seat, and the victim was "[s]miling and
Frederick said he "ain't [sic] never seen
[Defendant] make her do nothing [sic]." Mr. Frederick
told his wife what he had seen, and she told the victim's
mother. He denied ever telling his wife or Lieutenant Cormier
that the victim was crying that day or that she appeared to
want to be rescued.
victim's mother 
Jean-Batiste, the victim's mother and the defendant's
aunt, had cerebral palsy since birth. She learned something
happened between her daughter and the defendant when Ms.
Frederick came to her house and told her. She said that she
talked to the victim, who told her the defendant "made
her put her mouth on his wee-wee and suck." The
victim's mother made an appointment with Dr. Christy and
contacted Lieutenant Cormier. He "hooked [her] up with .
. . Hearts of Hope." At the time of trial, the
victim's mother said the victim was "so-so. Some
days have bad, some days have good days."