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Date: 08-01-2020

Case Style:

State of Louisiana v. Cherekita Y. Morehead

Case Number: 53,465-KA

Judge: Jefferson "Jeff" R. Thompson


Plaintiff's Attorney: BRIAN E. FRAZIER
District Attorney
Assistant District Attorney

Defendant's Attorney:

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Cherekita Morehead was convicted of manslaughter in the 37th
Judicial District Court, Parish of Caldwell, Louisiana, and she timely sought
appeal of her conviction and corresponding 25-year sentence. This court, in
State v. Cherekita Morehead, 53,465 (La. App. 2d Cir. 04/22/20), ___So. 3d
___, rehíg granted, affirmed the sentence and conviction, which was
reached by a non-unanimous jury in a 10-2 vote. Immediately prior to this
court rendering its original opinion affirming Moreheadís conviction, the
United States Supreme Court, in Ramos v. Louisiana, 139 S. Ct. 1318, 203
L. Ed. 2d 563 (2019), established that among the rights afforded criminal
defendants by the United States Constitution and the amendments thereto is
the right to require a unanimous jury in order to be convicted of a serious
offense. As Ramos was decided prior to the rendering of this courtís
original opinion, and as manslaughter is a serious offense, Morehead is
entitled to have her non-unanimous conviction reversed, her sentence
vacated, and this matter remanded to the district court.
The testimony and evidence contained in the record of the events
leading up to and immediately following the shooting death of the victim,
Eugene Brown, by Cherekita Morehead, are detailed in this courtís original
opinion. Those events need not be reproduced here, having previously been
detailed, as they are irrelevant to the present question of whether a
conviction by a non-unanimous jury is constitutional. That determination
has recently been resolved by the United States Supreme Court, and it is
incumbent on this court to apply the law in accordance therewith.
Moreheadís jury trial commenced on May 21, 2019, and on May 24,
2019, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter by a vote of 10-2.
A presentence investigation was ordered. On August 13, 2019, Defendant
was sentenced to 25 yearsí imprisonment at hard labor. A motion to
reconsider sentence was denied. This appeal followed. This court rejected
the three assignments of error set forth by Morehead and affirmed the
conviction and sentence in its original opinion. See supra. Morehead timely
filed a motion for rehearing, which was granted by this court. We now
revisit the assignment of error challenging the conviction by a nonunanimous jury.
Assignment of Error: The trial court erred in declaring a legal verdict
where the verdict was not unanimous. A non-unanimous verdict violates
due process and cannot support a conviction.
On review, the defendant argues that the non-unanimous verdict eased
the Stateís burden and allowed a conviction on evidence that did not meet
the burden of proof required or establish all of the necessary elements.
Defendant further argues that a conviction based upon a non-unanimous
verdict does not satisfy due process requirements.
In response, the state argues that the constitutionality of La. C. Cr. P.
art. 782 may not be considered by this Court because it was not properly
raised in the trial court below. The state further argues that the Louisiana
Supreme Court has previously rejected the arguments set forth by Defendant
and that La. C. Cr. P. art. 782 is constitutional.
The recent amendments to La. Const. art. I, ß 17 and La. C. Cr. P. art.
782, which now require unanimous verdicts in felony cases, would now
apply to Defendantís case as given the recent United States Supreme Court
holding in Ramos v. Louisiana, 139 S. Ct. 1318, 203 L. Ed. 2d 563 (2019).
In that case, the Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, as
incorporated by the 14th Amendment, requires a unanimous verdict to
convict a defendant of a serious offense in both federal and state courts. Id.
In this case, the jury was not unanimous in finding the defendant
guilty of the offense charged. Applying the ruling in Ramos, we now
reverse the defendantís conviction, vacate her sentence, and remand this
matter to the district court.
As we are granting the relief sought in the assignment of error
addressing the issue of conviction by a non-unanimous jury, we pretermit
any further discussion or review of any other assignments of error.

Outcome: For the aforementioned reasons, Defendantís conviction is reversed
and the sentence vacated. We remand this matter to the trial court for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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