FROM THE THIRTY-SIXTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
BEAUREGARD, NO. CR-548-1983 HONORABLE C. KERRY ANDERSON,
R. Lestage District Attorney Richard A. Morton Assistant
District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana
Pasquarella Kristin Wenstrom Hannah Van De Car Louisiana
Center for Children's Rights COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Aaron G. Hauser
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Phyllis M.
Keaty, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.
CANDYCE G. PERRET JUDGE
Aaron Hauser, was indicted on July 19, 1983, for the July 4,
1983 first degree murders of his stepmother, Joan Hauser, and
her son, John Leidig, violations of La.R.S. 14:30. He pled
guilty to both counts without capital punishment and was
sentenced to two concurrent life terms without benefit of
parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on April 26,
1984. He now seeks review of the trial court's denial of
his motion to correct his illegal sentences pursuant to
Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455
(2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, __U.S.__, 136
S.Ct. 718 (2016). For the following reasons, we reverse the
trial court judgment upon finding that Defendant has provided
sufficient evidence to show he is not irreparably corrupt and
is entitled to resentencing to two concurrent life sentences
with the possibility of parole.
committed the first degree murders of his stepmother and her
son on July 4, 1983, with the help of an accomplice, William
Kinkade. Defendant was born on October 13, 1965, making him
seventeen years, eight months, and twenty-one days old at the
time of the murders.
parents separated in 1977 when he was around twelve years old
and his sister Robin was fourteen. Custody was granted to
Defendant's father, George Hauser. Defendant
testified he went to live with his mother, Frances Hauser, to
get away from his father. The next year, Defendant's
parents agreed to transfer his custody to Frances. George
testified he saw no future for Defendant in his home.
agricultural worker, George worked "from daylight to
dark and sometimes more." Frances was the children's
primary caretaker before the separation. When the children
were little, George read books to them. As they got older,
they would watch television together. The children grew up
"just like any typical farm kids[, ]" sometimes
going fishing and performing "a few minor
chores[.]" Although George was "not a lovey-dovey
man," he "had appreciation for kids[, ]" and
most children liked him. The children played and visited with
their cousins who lived nearby and participated in
"school parties, Four-H Club activities." Defendant
"was just a normal kid" who spent his time with
George or Frances, his cousins or "some other kids in
the neighborhood." Every two years the family visited
Frances's family in Maryland; in the other years, the
family vacationed at various places around the country.
Hausers' divorce became final on January 4, 1979. In
August of 1979, the Hausers agreed to transfer custody of
Defendant's sister Robin to Frances. Defendant said Robin
asked to live with Frances because George did not want her
anymore. He said George put all of Robin's things
"in garbage bags and put them out on the attorney's
parking lot." Defendant and Frances rented a trailer and
brought Robin and her things back to Kerrville, Texas.
described Defendant as "the average kid" in
relation to his performance in school. George did not whip
the children, but he disciplined them with lectures. He did
not consider Defendant to be a troublesome child. He thought
Defendant wanted to live with Frances after the divorce
because she babied him. George did not think the children
ever feared him.
had limited contact with his children once they moved to
Texas with their mother. They saw each other only when George
would "go get them," and he "didn't have
funds to run to Texas." Still, he testified he saw them
about every two weeks. However, Defendant testified George
never called or wrote to the children after they went to live
with their mother. Defendant disagreed with George's
testimony that he saw them every other week and took them out
to eat. He said George never initiated any contact with them.
When asked whether Defendant and Joan had a loving
relationship after he and Joan were married, George replied,
"If you was [sic] a little kid and a strange woman moved
in, would you have a loving relationship? You may have a
respect, but you wouldn't have a loving
dropped out of school in the ninth grade, but he obtained his
GED and wanted to further his education. He thought about
going to Sowela Technical Community College to learn welding.
When he told his father, George said Sowela cost $25 per
month, so he would give him $25 a month but no more.
Defendant looked at other options, but they were too
expensive, so he enlisted in the Navy at age seventeen with
his mother's consent. He "felt like that was the
only way out to have a better life."
to Defendant's testimony at the resentencing hearing,
after he enlisted, he was beaten and sexually assaulted in
boot camp. Mr. Kinkade was Frances's next-door neighbor,
and he had also been in the Navy. Frances told Mr. Kinkade
about what happened to Defendant, and he and Mr. Kinkade
became good friends.
told no one in a position of authority about the assault, but
he called Frances a few days later "and tried to tell
her some of what happened." Defendant denied the
incident happened when questioned by Navy investigators.
Their report of the attack indicates Defendant had a lump on
his head and two fractured ribs when the investigators spoke
to him. Defendant was discharged for medical reasons
regarding his eyesight, and he returned to Kerrville.
testified Frances spoke to George about the assault and
insisted that Defendant himself tell George what happened.
Finally, Defendant called his father. After about thirty
seconds of conversation, George told Defendant he was not his
responsibility anymore, and the conversation ended.
testified he never knew anything about Defendant being abused
in the Navy. In fact, he believed Defendant "never was
active or inducted or whatever. He was just wanting to."
However, when asked about Defendant joining the Navy, George
also testified Defendant had called one night and said
whatever was going on "didn't suit him." George
explained, "And he was wanting me to do something, but
how could I do anything from here and this is up around the
Great Lakes somewhere? And I told him, son, that's just
part of it; you've got to learn to live, to take
directions from somebody else."
"wanted to do anything to strike back" at George.
He felt George "was responsible for what happened to
[him] in the Navy[.]" Defendant said, "I felt like
everything bad in my life at that time was caused by
him." He believed "if he would have been a father
to me, at least sometime in my life when I really needed it,
I wouldn't have been hurting like I was then."
Defendant no longer felt that way, but he testified, "No
17-year-old boy that something like that happen to him is
going to be able to think clearly and rationally."
felt George had hurt his mother and his sister. Also, he felt
if George "would have helped [him] get some kind of a
more decent life, [he] wouldn't have enlisted in the
Navy, [and the assault] wouldn't have happened." He
wanted to get back at his father. Defendant "didn't
have much of a relationship" with his stepmother Joan,
and he had no ongoing relationship with his stepbrother John.
George considered himself to have "somewhat of a loving
relationship" with John.
Kinkade gave a statement on the day of the murders in which
he said Defendant had been upset about three weeks before
when he had asked his father for money from a trust or other
type of fund. George would not give him the money. Mr.
Kinkade later agreed to go to Louisiana with Defendant to
pick up some of his things. In Kerrville, they planned their
trip to Beauregard Parish as a robbery. Defendant asked Mr.
Kinkade to accompany him to take things his father had that
belonged to him. He specifically mentioned education money
that Defendant thought George had. They purchased surgical
gloves so they would not leave fingerprints. Prior to the
trip, Defendant paid for guns that Mr. Kinkade purchased in
his name because Defendant was underage.
pair left Kerrville on a Sunday evening in Frances's
pickup truck and arrived in Beauregard Parish around 3:00
a.m. Frances was out of town to attend a relative's
funeral. They parked their vehicle in the woods and left the
truck with Defendant and Mr. Kinkade carrying flashlights
they had purchased in Kerrville. Defendant carried a .223
caliber "mini-14" semi-automatic rifle, and Mr.
Kinkade carried a .357 revolver. They waited in a shed near
the house until daylight. Defendant took the mini-14 and led
Mr. Kinkade under a fence and through a barn until they got
close to the house. They saw a man leave the house, and
Defendant went inside. While Mr. Kinkade waited outside for
Defendant, he heard gunfire and a woman's scream from
inside. He fled the scene to a nearby house and reported a
shooting to the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Department.
testified he did not see Joan's car at the house, and he
thought no one was home. He wanted to retrieve a rock
collection George would not let him have and a small coin
collection. However, Defendant said the main reason was
"to let him know that - you know, that I hurt and that I
felt like he hurt me a lot when I was a little kid."
Defendant opened a door on the side of the house, still armed
with the mini-14, and saw Joan there. He said he "just
was overcome with emotion," and he went in the house and
shot her. He then walked down the hall to his former bedroom
and saw John in his bed. Defendant felt that was still his
bedroom, and he was upset to see John there. He shot John in
the face and the right arm. John's body was found in his
bed with the covers pulled up over it. No blood was found on
the outer covers, suggesting Defendant covered John after he
cellmate of Defendant gave a statement saying Defendant told
him about shooting Joan and John and robbing the house.
Defendant told the cellmate he then found a pitcher of
Kool-Aid in the refrigerator and drank it. Defendant admitted
to his cellmate that he originally said Mr. Kinkade had
murdered the victims.
cellmate gave a statement saying Defendant told him he wanted
to "get back at his step mother and step brother for
what they had done to him when he was little." Defendant
described the shootings to him and told him how he found some
money and took it, drank some Kool-Aid, took the car, and
left. The cellmate said Defendant laughed the entire time he
told his story.
the murders, Defendant looked around the house for his
collections, focused on wanting his things. Texas authorities
arrested Defendant in Kerrville later in the day in the
vehicle he and Mr. Kinkade had taken to DeRidder. They seized
gold and silver coins, a mini-14 semi-automatic rifle,
ammunition, a pair of surgical gloves, and other items. When
George later went through the house, he said gold and silver
coins, paper money, savings bonds in his name, and a savings
passbook were missing.
autopsy report indicated she sustained two gunshot wounds,
either of which could have been fatal. One wound was to the
right cheek below the right eye, and the second wound was to
the right posterior chest. John's autopsy report
indicated he also sustained two gunshot wounds. The wound to
his head, just below the right eye, caused his death. A
second wound was to his right forearm.
Kinkade was also charged with two counts of first degree
murder and one count of aggravated burglary for his part in
these events. State v. Kinkade, 470 So.2d 442
(La.App. 3 Cir. 1985). He pled guilty to attempted aggravated
burglary in exchange for dismissal of those charges. This
court affirmed his sentence of fifteen years at hard labor,
enhanced with an additional mandatory two-year term to be
served consecutively and without benefit of parole,
probation, suspension of sentence, or credit for good time
pursuant to La.R.S. 14:95.2 because his crime involved the
use of a firearm.
believed the State should pursue the death penalty for
Defendant's crimes. However, he was advised that a jury
would probably not do that, and he believed Defendant would
spend his life in prison without parole. George's
stepchildren (Joan's surviving children) agreed to life
sentences without parole. George believed Defendant would
"never be a productive citizen." He had not
communicated with Defendant since the murders because he had
no "interest in associating with somebody with that
frame of mind." Although Defendant wrote to George a few
times during his first year or two at Angola, he "never
asked for forgiveness or apologized or anything." George
preferred that Defendant "stays locked up." If
Defendant were released, George would "like for the
Court to have him stay out of Beauregard Parish . . . ."
Joan's four children, two were adults, and one was in
college. Only John lived in George's home. John told his
father he would rather live with George in the country than
with his father in town. George considered that
"somewhat of a loving relationship."
testified he was a Christian who believed in the hereafter.
At first, he said he believed people could change. However,
George stood by his belief that, even in spite of evidence,
Defendant has not changed since the murders. He felt
Defendant had the opportunity for a relationship as he was
growing up in George's home, but instead, he chose
"to go out and kill two people."
Raymond Leidig, a veterinarian who was Joan's first
husband, testified the District Attorney's office had
advised him and his children "on what to accept" as
Defendant's plea. Dr. Leidig understood Defendant
"had pleaded guilty and would take life imprisonment
without parole." He believed Defendant "should
stay, serve his sentence" for the rest of his life. When
asked if he believed people could be rehabilitated, Dr.
Leidig responded, "I believe people can be saved and
forgiven by God."
ten years after the murders, Dr. Leidig received a letter
from Defendant in which Defendant asked for Dr. Leidig's
forgiveness. Dr. Leidig told Defendant he had forgiven him,
"but the two people on this earth that needed to forgive
him were in the grave and that the only forgiveness he could
seek further than that would be forgiveness from the Lord God
and I wished that he would." Defendant wrote Dr. Leidig
again to say "he had found God in a prison church
service[, ]" and he thanked Dr. Leidig for responding to
Leidig said Defendant wrote him again about a month later. He
"just about called every name that any person could call
anybody; and some of them wasn't [sic] too nice. And
low-rated me for not writing him back after the second
letter." Dr. Leidig described Defendant's words as
"[p]rofanity and anything else you want to think
of." Dr. Leidig told the trial court, "when the
Supreme Court made this ruling, they were unable to make a
ruling that would raise my son and his mother from the grave.
Since they've got to stay there, my personal feeling is
that the man that put them there should have to stay where he
is." When asked about his beliefs of convicted felons,
he explained, if you serve your time that is set, put upon
you by the courts, you have the right to be released."
Dr. Leidig could not say whether Defendant had been changed
with rehabilitation, but he would be glad if that were true.
Kay Leidig Kelly, John's sister, testified she had been
in favor of the death penalty for Defendant, but "[a]s
long as he was going to stay" in prison, she "was
good with that. Because [she] would not have to deal with
this again, ever." Ms. Kelly opposed Defendant having
parole eligibility. She worked in the medical field, and she
had "seen what the outcome of some supposedly
rehabilitated people have done."
Kelly testified she was never aware of any conflict that had
arisen between Joan and Defendant or John and Defendant. She
knew of nothing that may have provoked Defendant. Ms. Kelly
heard the testimony insinuating Defendant lacked attention
from and had a tough life living with George. She noted her
mother and brother contributed nothing to that, but they were
the ones he killed. She said John enjoyed his life on the
farm, liked being outdoors, and never complained about
George, who she said she had never seen get mad. Her mother
likewise never complained about George being abusive or mean.
Ms. Kelly described George as "a wonderful man" who
was very good to her mother and her brother. She has had no
contact with or from Defendant since the murders.
Leidig, Joan's son and John's brother, testified he
had no bad feelings toward Defendant. However, he felt
Defendant "should stay in prison to serve his sentence
which was agreed to at that time." He did not think
Defendant should have parole eligibility. Neither Joan nor
John ever told Mr. Leidig of any conflict with Defendant or
of anything that might have provoked him. Mr. Leidig did not
recall ever meeting Defendant, and he had never had any
contact with him. He considered Defendant's acts to be
those "of a cold-blooded killer." He thought those
acts "elevate this crime to a different level[.]"
He also felt Defendant "chose life without parole, not
35 years then parole."
March 19, 2013, Defendant filed a pro se motion to correct an
illegal and invalid sentence based on Miller. The
trial court denied the motion without a hearing on March 22,
2013, finding Defendant was an adult over the age of eighteen
and not a juvenile, as his motion alleged. This court denied
Defendant's writ application on the grounds that
Miller, 567 U.S. 460, did not apply retroactively.
State v. Hauser, 13-391 (La.App. 3 Cir. 8/5/13)
(unpublished opinion). The Louisiana Supreme Court denied his
writ application. State ex rel. Hauser v. State,
13-2028 (La. 7/31/14), 146 So.3d 202.
filed a motion to have counsel appointed to represent him on
August 7, 2013. The trial court denied that motion because
Defendant was represented by counsel at the time he was
sentenced and because Miller did not apply
September 4, 2014, Defendant filed a petition for writ of
habeas corpus in the United States District Court
for the Western District of Louisiana. While Defendant's
habeas writ was pending, the State filed a motion to
implement the new rule of law set out in Miller and
Montgomery on April 13, 2016. The motion explained
that legislation pending at the time would incorporate those
decisions into Louisiana law; once that legislation was
enacted, Defendant would be entitled to the hearing he
requested in his motion to correct his illegal and invalid
sentence. Thus, the State asked the trial court to reconsider
Defendant's motion in light of Miller and
Montgomery. The trial court issued an order on April
13, 2016, for a hearing to be set within sixty days of the
effective date of the anticipated new legislation
implementing Miller and Montgomery.
State filed another motion to reconsider Defendant's
sentence on June 23, 2016. That motion sought a sentencing
hearing pursuant to La.Code Crim.P. art. 878.1 in effect at
the time even though the legislature had failed to enact the
expected legislation. The State noted Defendant would be
entitled to a hearing on his parole eligibility according to
Miller and Montgomery even without new
legislation. In response, the trial court appointed counsel
for Defendant and scheduled a status conference to discuss
13, 2016, Defendant filed another motion to correct an
illegal sentence and set a date for the Miller
hearing. He also asked the trial court to appoint counsel and
to provide funding for experts for his defense team.
Specifically, Defendant's motion sought a defense team of
two lawyers with specialized experience, a fact investigator,
and a mitigation investigator. The trial court denied the
motion as moot and "[a]lready addressed."
made an oral motion to recuse both judges of the Thirty-Sixth
Judicial District Court on July 26, 2016, followed by a
written motion filed on September 9, 2016. Judge Vernon B.
Clark of the Thirtieth Judicial District Court was appointed
to hear the motion. On November 17, 2016, Judge Clark
rendered a written judgment granting the motion to recuse as
to Judge Martha Ann O'Neal but finding no factual basis
to recuse Judge C. Kerry Anderson. The judgment designated
Judge Anderson as the presiding judge for all future
proceedings in the matter.
numerous filings (indicated on the federal court's docket
sheet), on September 2, 2016, the federal court granted
Defendant's petition for habeas corpus and
remanded his case to the trial court for resentencing.
Defendant filed a motion for a "reliable sentencing
hearing" consistent with Miller and for a
funding source for mitigation specialists on April 28, 2017.
The trial court responded by setting a pre-trial conference
to discuss scheduling and pre-trial issues and to set a
September 19, 2017, the State filed its notice of intent to
seek sentences of life without the possibility of parole
("LWOP") pursuant to La.Code Crim.P. art. 878.1 and
2017 La. Acts No. 277. On September 27, 2017, the State filed
an opposition to Defendant's motion for a reliable
sentencing hearing. It also filed procedural objections to
Defendant's claim of a right to resentencing pursuant to
Miller and Montgomery on December 12, 2017.
trial court issued an order on January 24, 2018, setting a
Miller/Montgomery hearing. On January 31, 2018, the
trial court issued another order denying Defendant's
request to provide funds for a mitigation specialist. The
order also denied Defendant's request to require the
State to prove aggravating factors at the
Miller/Montgomery hearing. The trial court filed
written reasons for its rulings.
March 23, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to preclude a life
sentence without parole because of the State's failure to
provide funding for the resentencing hearing. Defendant also
filed a motion for funding for a psychologist or psychiatrist
and other expert witnesses in anticipation of the
resentencing hearing on April 25, 2018. The hearing of
that motion and for resentencing began on April 26, 2018. The
trial court issued an order on May 30, 2018, which stated:
[T]he Court hereby DENIED the motion for Funding to be
provided by the Criminal Court Fund and DENIED that defendant
proved the necessity of expert testimony but hereby ORDERS
the Office of the Public Defender for the 36th
Judicial District or the Louisiana Public Defender Board to
pay the appointed or designated psychiatric/psychological
examination or any other expert deemed desirable by defense
at a cap of $3500 upon receipt of an itemized bill for
resentencing hearing reconvened on July 6, 2018, to accept
exhibits from both parties, hear testimony from witnesses,
and establish a post-hearing briefing schedule. Prior to the
close of the hearing, the trial court ascertained that
Defendant had been given the opportunity to present all the
evidence he wanted. Defendant filed his memorandum in support
of his resentencing on August 14, 2018, and the State filed
its memorandum on August 30, 2018.
December 20, 2018, the trial court issued its ruling and
ordered Defendant to "continue to serve his existing
sentences of life imprisonment without parole eligibility on
each of the two counts of First Degree Murder."
Defendant now appeals that ruling.
appeal, Defendant raises the following assignments of error:
1. The Trial Court Violated Clearly Established Law in Ruling
that Miller v. Alabama Does Not Apply to this Case.
2. The Trial Court Failed to Vacate the Previously Imposed
3. Because the Trial Court Ruled that Miller did not
Apply, it Failed to Undertake the Analysis Required By the
4. The Trial Court Erred in Concluding that Aaron
Hauser's Crime was not the Result of Transient
5. The Trial Court Failed to Conduct an Analysis as to
whether Aaron Hauser is Irreparably Corrupt, resulting in an
6. The Sentencing Judge's Improper Focus on the Nature of
the Crime Further Rendered Him Unable to Undertake the
Analysis Required by the Eighth Amendment.
7. The State Failed to Meet its Burden in Establishing that
Aaron Hauser is the "Worst Offender" with the
8. The Trial Court Erred in Failing to Apply a Presumption
Against Sentencing a Juvenile to Life Without the Possibility
9. The State Failed to Rebut the Presumption that Aaron
Hauser Should be Eligible for Parole When it Failed to Prove
that he is the Rare ...