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State v. McKinney

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 26, 2019



          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Honorable Bridget A. Dinvaut Briana C. Robertson


          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg


         Defendant, Shawn Michael McKinney, appeals his convictions and sentences for aggravated battery and aggravated criminal damage to property. For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's convictions and sentences.


         On May 25, 2018, the St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney filed a bill of information charging defendant, Shawn Michael McKinney, with aggravated battery, in violation of La. R.S. 14:34 (count one), and aggravated criminal damage to property, in violation of La. R.S. 14:55 (count two). Defendant was arraigned and pled not guilty to the charged offenses on May 31, 2018.

         Trial commenced before a six-person jury on February 20, 2019 and concluded on February 22, 2019 with a verdict of guilty on each count. On March 25, 2019, defendant's motion for a new trial was denied. On that same date, after waiving sentencing delays, the trial court sentenced defendant to concurrent ten-year sentences at hard labor on each count and imposed concurrent five thousand dollar fines on each count.

         On April 22, 2019, defendant filed a motion for an appeal, which was granted by the trial court on April 23, 2019. On appeal, defendant argues two assignments of error:

1) trial counsel gave ineffective assistance of counsel because not only was self-defense never pled, but justification was also taken out of the jury instructions, which in turn adversely affected defendant in the outcome of the case; and
2) the trial court committed error sufficient to reverse the ruling when the judge sentenced defendant to the maximum sentences on the subject charges.


         Corporal Daniel Materne of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office responded to a call regarding a shooting on March 4, 2018 which occurred in the roadway between 198 and 202 West 2nd Street in LaPlace, Louisiana.[1] Upon his arrival, Corporal Materne observed blood on the door of a residence at 202 West 2nd Street and several shell casings in the roadway. He then witnessed a black male subject, later identified as defendant's brother, Bobby McKinney, pick up a gun magazine which was located in front of his residence at 202 West 2nd Street. Because it was an active crime scene, Corporal Materne ordered Bobby to drop the magazine, which Bobby indicated belonged to him. Bobby further informed Corporal Materne that the firearm associated with the magazine was inside his house. Bobby permitted Corporal Materne to retrieve the firearm from his house and turned it over to Crime Scene Detective Michael Schaeffer.

         While on the scene, Corporal Materne was also informed by Sergeant Grant Pierre that an anonymous person had approached Sergeant Pierre and advised him that Shawn McKinney, defendant, "did the shooting."

         Detective Schaeffer, also with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriffs Office, testified regarding the collection of evidence from the crime scene. He explained that the firearm collected from the McKinney home located at 202 West 2nd Street was a 9 mm firearm, that there were no 9 mm casings found at the scene of the shooting, only .40 caliber casings, and that the 9 mm firearm was later ruled out as having been fired on the scene. Specifically, twelve spent .40 caliber casings and a blue baseball hat were recovered from the roadway. Also recovered were a projectile and a projectile jacket fragment which were located inside of a vehicle involved in the shooting belonging to Harold George. A second projectile and partial projectile jacket were recovered in the street at the scene of the shooting. A projectile was also recovered from the shoe of the shooting victim, Ariane Jacques. Photographs were taken at the scene by Sergeant Staty Lewis of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriffs Office who identified several bullet holes in the vehicle, including the trunk, rear bumper, and one in the rear passenger-side door. Sergeant Lewis noted that one of the photographs depicted a projectile jacket fragment on the rear passenger floorboard and a projectile on the rear driver side of the fender well. Photographs were also taken by Detective Schaeffer of the injuries defendant had sustained as a result of an altercation he had had with Harold George prior to the shooting.

         Harold George testified that he knew defendant through his ex-girlfriend, Shanta White. He explained that on the evening of March 4, 2018, he and defendant had a verbal altercation while at a birthday party for one of defendant's relatives. According to Harold, defendant approached him and told him to "get the f**k up. [... ] I'm not going to let you young boys play with me." Harold testified that he got up and went inside to retrieve Shanta and they left the party. Harold testified that he was driving, Shanta was in the passenger seat, and Ariane Jacques, the victim, was in the back seat behind Shanta. While on their way to Shanta's house, they saw defendant walking on the side of the road. Shanta encouraged Harold to stop and talk to defendant about "the situation that happened" at the party. Harold pulled over and he and Shanta got out of the car. He testified that defendant immediately approached him and asked him what he wanted. Harold then asked defendant if he was "trying to fight" him, to which defendant replied, "yeah." When defendant stepped closer, Harold hit him. They began to fight and defendant was beaten up "pretty bad" until Shanta pulled Harold off of defendant. According to Harold, when defendant took off running, he got into his car and was driving away when he heard bullets hitting his car. When he looked in the rearview mirror, he observed defendant, who was wearing a blue baseball hat, shooting at his vehicle.

         Once backseat passenger Ariane Jacques informed Harold that she had been shot in the foot, he took her to the hospital. Harold indicated that he did not call the police because he was afraid, given his altercation with defendant. While at the hospital, law enforcement was notified of the incident, and upon speaking with Harold, he informed them that he did not know who shot at his car. He admitted that he did not tell the officers the truth at that time because he was fearful he would get into trouble for the fight that had occurred. However, Harold later gave a second statement where he indicated that he and defendant had an altercation and that defendant shot at his car.

         Ariane Jacques, a friend of Harold and Shanta, testified that while in the car leaving the party, Harold and Shanta were arguing. She recalled Harold telling Shanta that he felt disrespected and did not understand why he was being "spoken to in a certain way." Ariane testified that they were on their way back to Shanta's house when they saw defendant walking home and Shanta suggested they stop so defendant and Harold could "figure things out." Ariane stated that Harold stopped the car and approached defendant, recalling that their interaction began verbally at first and then escalated into a physical altercation which occurred in front of their vehicle which Harold had parked in an empty lot. According to Ariane, Harold "got the best of Shawn, knocked him out, he fell on the ground." She recalled that defendant then got up and ran towards a vehicle that was parked to the left of the lot. Ariane testified that Harold then got back in the vehicle and made a U-turn out of the lot and began driving away. It was at that time that Ariane was struck in her foot by a bullet. Ariane explained that she heard the gunshots but did not see who was firing the gun because she was in the back seat. However, she recalled that Shanta was apologizing on defendant's behalf for what happened. She further testified that she did not see Harold with any weapons that night and that they were being shot at while they drove away despite the fight being over.

         Shanta White, defendant's cousin, testified regarding her close relationship with defendant. She recalled that she went to a party with Harold and Ariane on March 4, 2018, but did not recall any incident between Harold and defendant at the party. She stated that she had a lot to drink at the party, so Harold was going to drive her back to her house. Shanta stated that on their way to her house, she saw defendant getting out of a car at his house. Shanta testified that she did not speak with defendant, but recalled that an altercation between defendant and Harold ensued in a grassy area near defendant's home "from what [she] was told." She stated that Harold "got the best of defendant, but she did not recall how the fight ended, only that she ran home after the fight and did not know where defendant went.

         Shanta gave two statements to the police. In her first statement, she told the police that she did not know what happened that night. In her second statement, Shanta told the officers that she attempted to break up the fight between defendant and Harold and that she saw Harold get back into his car and saw defendant fire a gun that night. When questioned at trial regarding her second statement, Shanta testified that she did not recall identifying defendant as the shooter. She explained that her second statement was influenced by conversations she had had with her family, discussions with those involved in the altercation, information obtained from the police that defendant had confessed to the crimes, and the fact that she had been drinking heavily that night. Shanta testified that she later learned defendant had not confessed. Shanta then identified an affidavit she signed documenting that she had been coerced by the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriffs Office who led her to believe that defendant had confessed to the crimes, which was why she gave her second statement, noting that she did not actually see what happened that night. Shanta further indicated in her affidavit that she did not witness who was responsible for the shooting and did not witness defendant possess or fire a weapon on March 4, 2018.

         Major Larry LeBlanc, commander of criminal investigations at the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office, testified that he too responded to the scene of the shooting and that upon his arrival, he noticed a gravel parking area next to a residence at 202 West 2nd Street (the McKinney residence) where it appeared the gravel had been disturbed. Approximately thirty-five yards from that location, Major LeBlanc also observed spent casings in the roadway. While at the scene, Major LeBlanc spoke with Bobby McKinney, defendant's brother, who informed him that he would locate defendant and bring him to the Criminal Investigations Division for questioning. A couple of hours later, defendant arrived at the Criminal Investigations Division and spoke with Major LeBlanc after waiving his Miranda[2] rights. Defendant told Major LeBlanc that on the night of the shooting, he had attended a family party at Bot's reception hall in LaPlace and spoke to a male, whose name he could not recall. He stated that he was unsure whether he may have offended the man. Defendant explained that a short time later, he left the party with a friend, Benny Tassin, and went back to his house. Benny soon left defendant's house at which time defendant began walking across the gravel parking lot towards his cousin's house. It was at that time that a car came up behind him, and the man whom he thought he had offended that night at the party exited the vehicle, and they began fighting. Defendant stated that he was knocked to the ground and struck several times; thus, defendant retrieved a gun he had in his waistband and began firing at the man and his vehicle. He further stated that after the incident, he threw his gun in the river. Major LeBlanc testified that defendant's statement was not recorded, explaining that another detective, Katie Evans, was tasked with taking defendant's recorded statement, but that once defendant was advised of his rights, "things started rolling," and after Major LeBlanc's interview with defendant, defendant refused to talk.

         Detective Katie Evans was assigned to the case as lead detective. She testified that she spoke to all of the witnesses and the victim. She concluded that their statements corroborated one another, as well as the evidence found at the scene of the shooting. Based on her investigation, Detective Evans determined that defendant shot at Harold's vehicle while it was driving away. Detective Evans further testified that the shell casings found on the scene were swabbed for DNA, but were never sent to the crime lab for testing due to an oversight on her part. On cross-examination, Detective Evans admitted that in her report, she noted that the anonymous source that officers originally spoke to on the scene could not be tracked down and that the information provided by the source, who was inside when the shooting occurred, did not corroborate any of the information the other witnesses provided. Detective Evans also testified that in Shanta's first statement given on the night of the shooting, Shanta told the officers that Ariane was arguing with defendant outside of the vehicle when the shooting commenced.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ...

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