Appealed from the 21st District Court In and for
the Parish of Tangipahoa State of Louisiana Case No. 1402849
Honorable Robert H. Morrison, II, Judge Presiding
M. Perrilloux District Attorney Patricia Parker Amos
Assistant District Attorney Amite, Louisiana Counsel for
Appellee State of Louisiana
T. Vo Clark Mandeville, Louisiana Counsel for
Defendant/Appellant Christopher Nicholls Eason
Christopher Nicholls Eason Saint Gabriel, Louisiana
Defendant/Appellant In Proper Person
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, PENZATO, AND LANIER, JJ.
defendant, Christopher Eason, was charged by grand jury
indictment with second degree murder, a violation of La. R.S.
14:30.1. He pled not guilty. Following a jury trial, he was
found guilty of the responsive offense of manslaughter, a
violation of La. R.S. 14:31. See La. Code Crim. P. art.
814(A)(3). He was sentenced to thirty years at hard labor. He
now appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence,
venue and jurisdiction, his sentence as excessive, and the
denial of his motions for mistrial and new trial based on
alleged juror misconduct. For the following reasons, we affirm
the defendant's conviction and sentence.
charred body of the victim, Kimberly Bowman, a white female,
was recovered from a burned car in Orleans Parish early on
October 20, 2014. Examination of the body revealed the victim
did not die from smoke inhalation, but rather from a fatal
gunshot wound through her chest prior to being burned.
According to expert testimony, the victim survived seconds or
minutes after being shot, but less than an hour.
Michael Raines testified at trial that he lived at the
Contempo Apartments in Hammond, and he had sold marijuana to
the victim prior to her death. On October 19, 2014, the
victim called "for something," but Raines did not
have any drugs to sell. Raines told the victim "she
could come through, somebody would be out there." The
victim told Raines to "give her a few minutes"
because she was cashing a check at the "money
center" in Walmart. According to Raines, the defendant
was at a dice game across the street when Raines yelled to
him, "that a girl going to be coming through trying to
get some smoke, and she was going to pull up across the
street." Thereafter, Raines heard two gunshots and saw a
car speeding off. He believed it was the same car the victim
had used the previous day when buying drugs from him. Raines
called the victim's phone, but there was no answer. He
then called the defendant's phone, and initially, there
was also no answer. Raines, however, kept calling both
phones. The defendant eventually answered and was frantic,
stating "she's bleeding, she's bleeding,"
and then hung up.
to Raines, the defendant came to Raines' apartment the
next morning and told him "[the victim] upped with a gun
and [the defendant] had to shoot her[.]" The defendant
also told Raines that after shooting the victim, the
defendant drove her to New Orleans and "set the car on
fire." The defendant told Raines to dispose of
Raines' phone because the victim had called him. Raines
denied killing the victim.
Ray Walker also testified at trial. In October 2014, he was
living with the defendant, the defendant's girlfriend
Elexis Maryland, her brother, and her daughter in an
apartment in the Contempo Apartments. Walker had been on
probation for carnal knowledge of a juvenile. He had failed
to report to his probation officer, and an arrest warrant was
outstanding for him. Walker testified that on the night in
question, the defendant told him, "[the defendant] was
going to go hit a lick[, ]" which was street talk for
"to try to get any means of money," or "to do
something wrong." The defendant stated he had an
"easy lick" for money from a white female. Walker
testified he unsuccessfully tried to dissuade the defendant
from his plan, both "[b]ecause it was wrong," and
because Walker was afraid of any police attention due to his
outstanding warrant. Walker later fell asleep while playing
games on his phone.
awoke to his phone ringing. The defendant was on the line and
stated he "just committed a murder" in the back of
the Contempo Apartments. The defendant further told Walker
that he had driven the body to New Orleans and burned it in
the car. According to Walker, the defendant told him that
"he [the defendant] walked up to the car and tried to
rob her or whatever, and he pulled a gun, and she pulled a
gun, and he shot her." The defendant then told Walker to
let him talk to Maryland. Thereafter, Walker and Maryland
drove to New Orleans and picked up the defendant.
Schaffer also testified at trial. He and the defendant were
"associates," and the defendant confided in him.
Schaffer testified the defendant told him "they were
supposed to have a lick." A white lady was
"supposed to come through to get ... some weed."
The defendant was supposed to sell the lady drugs, "but
[the defendant] reached for his gun because he was going to
pull a lick." The victim, however, also reached for her
gun. They wrestled and, in the struggle, the defendant shot
the victim. The defendant pushed the victim over, got into
her car and left. He drove the car to "some
projects" in New Orleans and "burned the car
up." The defendant then called his girlfriend.
defendant also testified at trial. In 2014, he was living
with Maryland in the Contempo Apartments in Hammond.
According to the defendant, during the night of October 19,
2014, Raines called him and wanted the defendant to
"ride somewhere with him." The defendant met Raines
at Raines' apartment and walked with him to a car parked
about thirty seconds away. The defendant claimed Raines left
his phone with his girlfriend and told her to call the
defendant if she needed to contact Raines. The defendant
testified Raines opened the door of the car, revealing a body
on the front floor of the vehicle. The defendant claimed he
was scared and initially refused to get in the vehicle, but
eventually got into the vehicle because he was afraid Raines
would shoot him if he tried to run away. According to the
defendant, Raines stated "we have to go somewhere and
get rid of the body." The defendant claimed Raines then
drove the vehicle to an abandoned building in New Orleans.
According to the defendant, once they arrived, he made an
excuse to leave, stating he was "going to go get some
help from somebody." The defendant then borrowed a phone
and called Maryland to come and pick him up. The defendant
denied murdering the victim. He also denied confessing that
he had killed someone to Walker and Schaffer. Analysis of
cell site information indicated that Raines' phone did
not leave the Hammond area between 9:00 p.m. on October 19,
2014 and 6:00 a.m. on October 20, 2014.
OF THE EVIDENCE
se assignment of error number two, the defendant argues the
evidence was insufficient to support the conviction because
"not one of the witnesses were testifying on a personal
eyewitness account that they saw Defendant pull the trigger
that ended the life of the victim." The defendant
further complains that the State failed to present scientific
or physical evidence that he killed the victim.
cases such as this one, where the defendant raises issues on
appeal both as to the sufficiency of the evidence and as to
one or more trial errors, the reviewing court should
preliminarily determine the sufficiency of the evidence,
before discussing the other issues raised on appeal. When the
entirety of the evidence, both admissible and inadmissible,
is sufficient to support the conviction, the accused is not
entitled to an acquittal, and the reviewing court must review
the assignments of error to determine whether the accused is
entitled to a new trial. State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d
731, 734 (La. 1992); State v. Smith, 2003-0917
(La.App. 1 Cir. 12/31/03), 868 So.2d 794, 798.
conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand as it
violates Due Process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; La. Const,
art. I, § 2. The standard of review for the sufficiency
of the evidence to uphold a conviction is whether, 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. Jackson
v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61
L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). See also La. Code Crim. P. art.
821(B); State v. Ordodi, 2006-0207
(La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660. The Jackson standard of
review, incorporated in Article 821, is an objective standard
for testing the overall evidence, both direct and
circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. State v.
Mitchell, 2016-0834 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/21/17), 231 So.3d
710, 731, writ denied, 2017-1890 (La. 8/31/18). 251
conviction is based on both direct and circumstantial
evidence, the reviewing court must resolve any conflict in
the direct evidence by viewing that evidence in the light
most favorable to the prosecution. When analyzing
circumstantial evidence, La. R.S. 15:438 provides that, in
order to convict, the fact finder must be satisfied that the
overall evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis of
innocence. The facts then established by the direct evidence
and inferred from the circumstances established by that
evidence must be sufficient for a rational trier of fact to
conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was
guilty of every essential element of the crime. State v.
Watts, 2014-0429 (La.App. 1 Cir. 11/21/14), 168 So.3d
441, 444, writ denied, 2015-0146 (La. 11/20/15), 180
State ex rel. Elaire v. Blackburn, 424 So.2d 246,
251 (La. 1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 959, 103
S.Ct. 2432, 77 L.Ed.2d 1318 (1983), the Louisiana Supreme
Court recognized the legitimacy of a "compromise
verdict," i.e., a legislatively approved
responsive verdict that does not fit the evidence, but that
(for whatever reason) the jurors deem to be fair, as long as
the evidence is sufficient to sustain a conviction for the
charged offense. If the defendant timely objects to an
instruction on a responsive verdict on the basis that the
evidence does not support that responsive verdict, the court
overrules the objection, and the jury returns a verdict of
guilty of the responsive offense, the reviewing court must
examine the record to determine if the responsive verdict is
supported by the evidence and may reverse the conviction if
the evidence does not support the verdict. However, if the
defendant does not enter an objection (at a time when the
trial judge can correct the error), then the reviewing court
may affirm the conviction if the evidence would have
supported a conviction of the greater offense, whether or not
the evidence supports the conviction of the legislatively
responsive offense returned by the jury. Id.
case, there was no objection to the instruction on the
responsive verdict of manslaughter. The jury's ultimate
reasoning for returning this responsive verdict is unclear,
but it is possible that this verdict represented a
"compromise." Regardless of the jury's ultimate
reasoning, the evidence ...