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State v. Selders

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

December 27, 2019


          On Appeal from the 21 st Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Livingston State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 36170

          Scott M. Perrilloux District Attorney Patricia Amos Assistant District Attorney Amite, Louisiana Attorneys for Appellee, State of Louisiana

          Gwendolyn K. Brown Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorney for Defendant/Appellant, Ollie Montrell Selders, Jr.


          PENZATO, J.

         The defendant, Ollie Montrell Selders, Jr., was charged by grand jury indictment with second degree murder, a violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1 (count I); and obstruction of justice, a violation of La. R.S. 14:130.1 (count II). He pled not guilty on both counts. He filed a pre-trial motion in limine, which was denied. Following a jury trial, he was found guilty as charged on both counts. He moved for a post-verdict judgment of acquittal, but the motion was denied. On count I, he was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. On count II, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment at hard labor to run concurrently with the sentence imposed on count I. He now appeals, challenging the denial of his motion to present impeachment evidence at trial and the rulings on the motion in limine and for a post-verdict judgment of acquittal. For the following reasons, we affirm the convictions and sentences.


         On June 27, 2017, the defendant called 911 and asked for an ambulance because the victim, Letisha Rheams, his "old lady," had a hole in her back. Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office deputies arrived at the defendant's trailer in Livingston Parish. There was a pool of blood by the stove in the kitchen, which was smeared out to the front porch in a dragging pattern.[1] There was blood splatter on the wall by the stove. There was a suitcase in the kitchen by the washing machine. A 20-gauge shotgun shell casing was on top of a pile of clothes next to the washing machine. Three additional 20-gauge shotgun shell casings were in the area of the master bedroom. A fifth 20-gauge shotgun shell casing was on the ground by the steps to the rear door. There were three holes in the wall of the master bedroom caused by shotgun blasts that exited the exterior of the trailer, and two cell phones on the ground outside the master bedroom window. There was no rust or weather damage around the holes in the bedroom wall. The defendant told the police at the scene that he had put the shotgun in the woods. The shotgun was recovered from an area of tall grass approximately forty-five feet from the rear of the trailer. The defendant speculated that the victim may have accidentally shot herself after "grabbing" the shotgun while dragging a clothes basket.

         In a July 6, 2017 videotaped interview concerning the incident, the defendant claimed the victim was alive and uninjured when he left to meet his mother and run some errands for about forty-five minutes on the day of the incident. A friend, Jerry Addison, picked up the defendant and drove him back to the defendant's trailer after completing the errands. The defendant stated he opened the door of his trailer and immediately saw smoke from the toaster. He indicated he found the victim on the floor, thought she may have had a seizure, and was unable to revive her. He claimed he only discovered the victim had been shot when the 911 operator asked him to look at the victim's body to see if he could tell what was wrong with her. According to the defendant, his shotgun was on the floor pointing straight at the victim. The defendant claimed he took the weapon outside to keep it away from his children or anyone else that came into the trailer. The defendant speculated the victim had been accidentally shot after propping the shotgun on a wire used to secure the back door and turning her back on the weapon. He stated there was no trigger guard on the shotgun and "it is easy, too, too easy for an accident to happen." The defendant also indicated he was aware the victim had been "messing with" Eric Charles for about four months. He claimed, however, he was not bothered by the affair.

         Addison testified at trial that he had known the defendant since they were "kids in school." Addison denied shooting the victim. According to Addison, on June 27, 2017, the defendant called and asked him for a ride to pick up a pack of cigarettes. Addison had taken Percocet and Xanax that morning before going to a doctor's appointment, and picked up the defendant between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. from the defendant's parents' house. The defendant's parents' house was located at the front of Selders Lane while the defendant's home was located at the back of Selders Lane.

         Addison drove the defendant to meet his mother, to Dollar General, to a double-wide trailer, and then back to the defendant's trailer. The defendant got out of Addison's vehicle and started walking toward his trailer while Addison stayed in the vehicle listening to loud music. After the defendant had walked approximately twenty to twenty-five feet to his front door, Addison exited his vehicle to urinate by the right side of the trailer. According to Addison, as he was walking back to his vehicle, he heard the defendant shouting, "Tish, what did you do," "what have you done," and "Jerry, help me." Addison turned to look at the trailer and saw smoke coming from it. He walked into the trailer and saw the victim laying on the floor and the defendant trying to pick her up. He helped the defendant move the victim out to the front porch. Addison indicated the defendant was on the phone "with 911" and gave his shirt to Addison to put pressure on the victim's wound.

         Dr. Jimmie Smith, forensic pathologist at the East Baton Rouge Coroner's Office, conducted an autopsy of the victim. Dr. Smith concluded the victim died as a result of a shotgun wound to her back, which perforated her spleen, left lung, and heart. She died less than ten minutes after being shot. Based upon the autopsy, Dr. Smith estimated that the victim was two to three feet from the muzzle of the shotgun when she was struck in the left lower back.

         Cheryl Swearinger of the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory was accepted as an expert in the field of firearms and ballistics analysis. She examined the shotgun recovered from the scene of the incident. The weapon was a "break action," "hinge action," or "crack barrel" shotgun, meaning one shotgun shell could be placed in the barrel at a time. The weapon could then be closed, the hammer cocked back, and the trigger pulled to fire the shotgun. The weapon could not be fired unless the hammer was pulled back. Swearinger intentionally attempted to cause an accidental firing of the weapon, but was unsuccessful. The weapon did not have a "trigger guard," but Swearinger testified the hammer served as a "safety" and functioned properly.

         RIGHT TO ...

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