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State v. Duckett

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

December 18, 2019


          APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 536-589, SECTION "H" Honorable Camille Buras, Judge



          Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods, Judge Dale N. Atkins


         Defendant, Tyrone Duckett ("Defendant"), appeals his convictions and sentences for one count of second-degree murder, one count of attempted second-degree murder, and one count of obstruction of justice. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Defendant's convictions and sentences.


         On August 17, 2017, Defendant was indicted on three counts: the second-degree murder of Ferniqua Johnson; the attempted second-degree murder of Damion Blanton; and obstruction of justice, violations of La. R.S. 14.30.1, La. R.S. 14:(27)30.1 and La. R.S. 14:130.1, respectively.[1]

         Following a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty on all counts. On October 23, 2018, the district court sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment for the second-degree murder of Ferniqua Johnson; the maximum statutory limit of fifty years imprisonment for the attempted second-degree murder of Damion Blanton; and the maximum statutory limit of forty years imprisonment for obstruction of justice. The district court further ordered that all sentences run consecutively. This appeal followed.


         At trial, Detective Jamaane Roy of the New Orleans Police Department ("NOPD") Homicide Division testified that, on the evening of May 1, 2017, he was dispatched to the 1600 block of Spain Street in response to a shooting. When he arrived on the scene, he learned that one victim, Ferniqua Johnson, was found deceased in the back of a shotgun-style residence located on North Claiborne Avenue, around the corner from the crime scene. Det. Roy testified that he observed a trail of blood splatter from the crime scene to the house that led through the residence where Ms. Johnson's body was located. Det. Roy also located three spent casings and five live rounds at the crime scene, which he testified he sent to the NOPD ballistics lab for testing.

         Det. Roy testified he learned there was a second victim of the shooting who had already been transferred to University Medical Center for treatment of his injuries. Det. Roy met with the second victim, Damion Blanton, at University Medical Center. Mr. Blanton informed Det. Roy that there were two people involved in the shooting: an African American female with bright red hair and an African American male with "jacked up teeth."

         Det. Roy obtained two surveillance videos from a residence on Spain Street. The videos showed Mr. Blanton walking on Mandeville Street and then turn onto Derbigny Street before taking a right onto Spain Street while constantly looking behind him. A gold Toyota or Lexus with dark tinted windows and aftermarket rims could be seen following Mr. Blanton in the video. Eventually, the video showed Mr. Blanton running while the gold car stops and a male front seat passenger wearing a dark colored shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes could be observed exiting the vehicle with what appeared to be a bulge in the waistband of his pants before getting back into the vehicle after the car appeared to go around the block. The gold car was also observed pulling into a driveway of a house at the corner of Derbigny and Spain Streets and stopping while the driver of the vehicle got out to look in an alley before getting back in the vehicle and driving away. Eventually, the front seat passenger could be seen exiting the vehicle again and walking up St. Roch Street.

         At another point in the video, Mr. Blanton could again be seen walking up Spain Street with Ms. Johnson and an unknown male. A male brandishing a weapon is then seen on the video. Det. Roy testified he believed the man with the weapon was the same man seen exiting the gold vehicle based on the fact that the clothing was the same. The man then fires the weapon at Mr. Blanton and Ms. Johnson. Mr. Blanton is then seen running up Spain Street toward North Claiborne Avenue, while Ms. Johnson falls to the ground. The video then shows the shooter standing over Ms. Johnson attempting to fire another shot before leaving. Ms. Johnson is then seen rising from the ground and walking up Spain Street toward Claiborne Avenue.

         Det. Roy also went to Jack's Meat Market, a store located approximately two blocks from the house where Ms. Johnson's body was found. There, he obtained surveillance video from the day of the shooting and observed an African American female with bright red hair at the store that day. The store clerk at Jack's Meat Market informed Det. Roy that he knew the woman as "Kayla" and that she had a boyfriend who was known as "Tee." Det. Roy also obtained surveillance video from inside the store and observed a man fitting the description Mr. Blanton gave of the shooter who also appeared to be wearing the same clothing as the shooter from the other surveillance video of the shooting. Det. Roy obtained a still shot of the suspect from the video and published it to the media.

         Through his investigation of the shooter's accomplice known as "Kayla," Det. Roy eventually obtained the name of a possible female suspect-Raekeda Ikerria Kayla Wright. Det. Roy obtained a photograph of Ms. Wright and compiled a photographic line-up including the photograph, which he showed to Mr. Blanton. Mr. Blanton identified Ms. Wright as the driver of the vehicle. Det. Roy then obtained an arrest warrant for Ms. Wright, who was arrested approximately seven days after the shooting.

         At the time of her arrest, Ms. Wright gave a statement to Det. Roy in which she identified herself as the woman with the red hair from the surveillance video from Jack's Meat Market, but denied being involved in any shooting. Likewise, Ms. Wright denied being in a relationship with a man known as "Tee." She also had a cell phone, which was confiscated.

         Det. Roy obtained a search warrant for the contents of Ms. Wright's cell phone. He testified that he had the phone "dumped" and obtained all of the contents that were stored in the phone. Through the phone dump, Det. Roy testified he was able to see multiple videos and photos of Ms. Wright with one man. In at least one photo, Ms. Wright labeled the man as "Zaddyyy" (sic). Det. Roy testified that the man in the videos and photos appeared to be Defendant. Det. Roy also testified that he was able to determine that Ms. Wright communicated by text with a number labeled as "Zaddy" in her phone 488 times in the two weeks surrounding the shooting. In these conversations, "Zaddy" referred to Ms. Wright as "Kayla" on some occasions and, on other occasions, she referred to him as "Tyrone." Ms. Wright discussed moving a car on the day after the shooting with "Zaddy" and there was also at least one photo of a gold Toyota Camry in Ms. Wright's phone with a man that appeared to be Defendant sitting in the driver's seat. Det. Roy testified that the phone dump data showed that at some point, a person who identified himself as "Tee" contacted Ms. Wright from a second phone number.

         Det. Roy also testified that, after Ms. Wright was arrested, she made phone calls from jail to a person she referred to as "Zaddy" while she referred to herself as "Kayla." The phone calls Ms. Wright made to "Zaddy" were entered into evidence at trial. In the phone calls, "Zaddy" can be heard asking Ms. Wright "What did they say about me?" to which Ms. Wright responds: "They rattin'." Later, Ms. Wright can be heard telling "Zaddy" to "throw the phones away." Later, "Zaddy" tells Ms. Wright that he "ditched" the phone.

         Det. Roy testified that he ran the phone number of the man Ms. Wright called from jail whom she referred to as "Zaddy" and the number was registered to the Defendant. Det. Roy testified that he then obtained a photograph of Tyrone Duckett, compiled a photographic line-up including the photograph, and presented it to Mr. Blanton. Mr. Blanton positively identified Defendant as the shooter. On the basis of Mr. Blanton's identification, Det. Roy issued a warrant for Defendant's arrest.

         Defendant was arrested pursuant to the warrant approximately two weeks after the shooting. He gave a statement to Det. Roy. According to Defendant, he was not the shooter, and he denied he was "Kayla's" boyfriend. He denied that he had ever been inside the gold car. He claimed that he heard around the street that it was "Kayla" and her boyfriend-a man he knew as "Tank"-who committed the shootings.

         Dr. Erin O'Sullivan, who was qualified as an expert in forensic pathology, testified at trial that she performed an autopsy on Ms. Johnson and she located three gunshot wounds to Ms. Johnson's neck, shoulder, and trunk. Dr. O'Sullivan opined that Ms. Johnson's cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds and classified it as a homicide.

         Sean McElrath, who was qualified as an expert in firearms and ballistics testing, testified at trial that, of the five specimens that were submitted to him for testing-including what he identified as three spent .22 caliber casings recovered from the scene, an unknown projectile recovered from Mr. Blanton's body, an unknown projectile recovered from Ms. Johnson's body, a bullet fragment recovered from Ms. Johnson's body, and lead fragments recovered from Ms. Johnson's body-he could conclusively say that all, but the bullet fragment, were fired from the same weapon.

         Raekeda Wright, who also goes by the name "Kayla," testified[2] that she was in a romantic relationship with Defendant at the time of the shooting and that they shared a car-a gold vehicle, which she positively identified as the gold car shown in the surveillance videos. She testified that, on the day of the shooting, she was in the neighborhood earlier in the day, that she left and then returned to find Defendant playing dice. Ms. Wright stated that Defendant entered her gold vehicle after finishing the dice game and that he seemed upset because he had lost money. Ms. Wright testified that she did not know at the time that Defendant was planning on shooting anyone, but that she did suspect that "something was up." Defendant told her to drive around the block, which she did. She testified that she let Defendant out of the vehicle twice when he asked to her to and that, when he re-entered the vehicle the second time, she saw that he had a gun. He told her it had jammed.

         Following the shooting, Ms. Wright testified she and Defendant continued to communicate from various numbers via text message. Ms. Wright testified they discussed moving the vehicle. She testified that her original statement to Det. Roy that she was not in a romantic relationship with Defendant and was not involved in the shooting was not truthful and that she lied because she loved Defendant and was afraid that he would retaliate against her or her family if she told the truth. Ms. Wright identified Defendant as the shooter on the surveillance video. Finally, she testified that, while she was at one point in a romantic relationship with a man called "Tank," she was not in a relationship with him at the time of the shooting and he was in jail at the time of the shooting. Mike Reese of the Louisiana Office of Probation and Parole also testified he determined that "Tank"-whose given name is Cedrick Wright-was incarcerated at the time of the shooting.

         Mr. Blanton testified that, at the time of the shooting, he was living at the corner of North Claiborne Avenue and Spain Street. He testified that, on May 1, 2017, he played dice with some people from the neighborhood, including Defendant, and he won two to three thousand dollars. He testified that he knew Defendant from seeing him around the neighborhood, but he did not know Defendant well.

         Mr. Blanton identified himself on the surveillance video of the shooting, saying he was shot in the buttocks. Mr. Blanton also identified Ms. Johnson on the video and said that he was walking with her on Spain Street on the evening of the shooting because he had seen someone following him in a gold car, and he called his girlfriend to walk home with him. Ms. Johnson came to walk home with him instead. Mr. Blanton also testified that he asked a third male to walk with them because Mr. Blanton knew he carried a gun. Mr. Blanton further testified that he saw the shooter coming at him and saw that the ...

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