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State v. West

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 18, 2019



          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Thomas J. Butler Seth W. Shute Emily E. Booth


          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Jude G. Gravois, and Hans J. Liljeberg


         Defendant-Appellant, Edward West, was convicted before the 24th Judicial District Court, Parish of Jefferson, of two counts of armed robbery and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant's motion for new trial was denied on November 8, 2018, and Defendant appealed. He assigns error to the judgment denying the motion for new trial arguing that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for armed robbery of Ruth Peacock and that his conviction based on a non-unanimous jury verdict is unconstitutional.


         On the evening of November 19, 2016, at approximately 7:50 p.m., Amie Lafrance was heading home from her shift at Sam's Club, 1527 Manhattan Boulevard, Harvey, Louisiana. After arriving at her vehicle in the parking lot of Sam's Club, Ms. Lafrance realized someone had approached her from behind. Ms. Lafrance turned to see an African-American man wearing black jeans and a black hoodie, with the hood raised over his head. He asked Ms. Lafrance where the nearest bus station was located. She answered, and the man repeated his question, then stood looking at Ms. Lafrance for several seconds before moving toward her and lunging at the clutch in her hand. When Ms. Lafrance did not immediately release the clutch, the man pulled a short-barreled revolver from somewhere at his side, pointed it at her, and then pushed her to the ground, scattering her belongings. After grabbing twenty dollars from inside Ms. Lafrance's clutch, the suspect fled in the direction of the Wal-Mart, which is located in the same parking lot as Sam's Club. Ms. Lafrance immediately dialed 911 and reported the crime.

         Meanwhile, Ruth Peacock and her daughter Sandra were walking to their vehicle after shopping at Wal-Mart. While loading items into the vehicle, Ms. Peacock heard honking and looked in the direction of the noise; as she looked she saw a man walking across the parking lot. Not thinking anything of it, Ms. Peacock continued loading her vehicle. However, Ms. Peacock shortly sensed someone approaching and turned just as a dark-skinned man with dark pants and a dark hoodie passed by her and grabbed the purse off of her arm. Ms. Peacock yelled, "My purse!" as the man moved quickly away, at which point the man turned his head such that Ms. Peacock could see the "sneer" he flashed her from beneath his hood. Ms. Peacock's daughter, Sandra, chased after the suspect as he ran across the Wal-Mart parking lot toward Manhattan Boulevard. As Sandra continued to follow the man across the parking lots of Lowes and PetSmart, other shoppers joined in the chase.

         At approximately 7:52 p.m., a witness called 911 to report that a black male wearing a black hoodie and jeans had just stolen a woman's purse and ran in the direction of PetSmart. At the same time, Deputy Henry DeJean was responding to the first 911 call and met Sandra Peacock and the other witnesses in the PetSmart parking lot. The excited group ran up to Deputy DeJean pointing and shouting that the man was crossing Manhattan heading toward the Twin Tire shop. Deputy DeJean caught sight of the suspect in his side mirror and quickly turned his vehicle around to give chase. After making the turn onto Ute Drive from Manhattan Boulevard, Deputy DeJean observed the suspect climb over the fence behind the Twin Tire shop at the 1600 block of Ute Drive. Deputy DeJean continued to follow the suspect's movements through the small apartment complex behind Twin Tire as he waited for back-up to set up a perimeter.

         Deputy DeJean believed the suspect had entered one of the apartments at 1628 Ute Drive, and as a perimeter was secured around the complex, witnesses in the parking lot of the complex pointed officers in the direction of the same building. As officers were working to systematically clear each apartment building looking for the suspect, a K-9 unit arrived and tracked from where the suspect was seen jumping the fence to the front door of apartment B. From where Deputy DeJean was standing, he was able to see inside the kitchen of apartment B where he observed a black male sitting at the table with a Hispanic female and two Hispanic males. After clearing the other apartments in the building, officers knocked on the door of apartment B and announced their presence.

         According to Defendant, his mother lives at 1616 Ute Drive, Apartment E. Defendant claims to have traveled from the seventh ward by bus on the date in question to see his mother. After stopping by a certain apartment to buy a bag of weed, Defendant bought some cigars for rolling weed and a diet coke for his mother at the RaceTrac gas station. Defendant's mother was not at home when he arrived at her apartment, so he knocked on the door of 1628 Ute Drive, apartment B, to borrow Daniel Jiminez's phone. Jiminez, who was at home that evening with his sister Martha and her husband Daniel Mota, remembered Defendant wearing a dark jacket of some sort when he first answered the door, but after staying outside on the phone for three to five minutes, Defendant came back inside the apartment wearing a white button-down shirt.

         When Deputy DeJean knocked on the door of apartment B, everyone in the apartment came to the door except Defendant. Jiminez said that Defendant had been there for about fifteen minutes prior to Deputy DeJean knocking on the door. Deputy DeJean noticed that Defendant was wearing an ill-fitting white button-down shirt and sweating. After asking Defendant to come to the door, Deputy Dejean observed a cellophane bag containing marijuana and ecstasy in the front pocket of Defendant's shirt. Deputy DeJean placed Defendant under arrest at that time and read him his Miranda Rights. After obtaining consent to search apartment B, officers recovered a black sweatshirt lying across the bed in the bedroom used by Daniel Jiminez and Martha's son. A Smith & Wesson revolver with a wooden handle and a two or three-inch barrel was recovered from a dresser drawer inside the bedroom as well.

         Amie Lafrance and Ruth Peacock were brought separately to 1628 Ute Drive to perform a show-up identification. Amie Lafrance noted that Defendant was dressed differently than when he had robbed her, but she positively recognized his face. Ms. Peacock warned officers that she might not be able to identify the suspect because she did not get a good look at his whole face. However, although Defendant was wearing a white shirt instead of the dark coat Ms. Peacock was expecting, she recognized Defendant as the man who had robbed her when Defendant turned to give an officer the same "sneer" she had seen before.

         On November 23, 2016, officers were dispatched to 1700 Ute Drive. The owner of the residence found a purse belonging to Ruth Peacock and a Smith & Wesson .38 snub-nosed revolver located in the space between a chain-link fence and a wooden security fence that run parallel to one another ...

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