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Date: 08-01-2020

Case Style:

State of Louisiana v. Jeanell Latrice Jackson

Case Number: 53,497-KA

Judge: James M. Stephens


Plaintiff's Attorney: JAMES E. STEWART, SR.
District Attorney
Assistant District Attorneys

Defendant's Attorney:

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Jeanell Latrice Jackson was charged by bill of information with
aggravated second degree battery, which was later amended to aggravated
battery. The amended bill alleged this crime occurred on January 21, 2018,
and Jackson committed a battery upon Henry Bradford with a dangerous
weapon: hot grease. After Jackson waived her right to a jury trial, a bench
trial commenced on June 20, 2019. There were two witnesses: the victim,
Henry Bradford, and the Shreveport Police Department investigating officer,
Ron Richardson.
Evidence at trial showed that Bradford and Jackson were in a
relationship and living together, along with three children, one of whom was
the couple’s child. Bradford testified at the time of the incident he was
intoxicated, and he and Jackson “passed a few words,” the content of which
he could not recall at trial. However, Ofc. Richardson testified Bradford told
him the argument revolved around cheating rumors. Bradford testified he
could not recall what happened after the conversation, but that while he was
standing outside, he was burned by grease and had to be hospitalized for “a
little grease burn.” Bradford testified he could not recall who put the grease
on him, but “wasn’t but two of us there, so—.” Bradford stated he was not
physically hurt by the burn but was emotionally hurt. Officer Richardson
testified Bradford told him he and Jackson got into an altercation, and she
splashed grease in his face. Officer Richardson recalled that Bradford
expressed to the officer that he was in pain.
Following the burn, Bradford recalled he had trouble seeing, and he
“stumbled” into the street. Someone provided him a ride to the hospital, but
he could not remember who. Notably, there was no evidence that Jackson
drove him to the hospital. While at the hospital, Bradford evidently was
treated for his eye injury, spoke with Ofc. Richardson, and had photos taken;
however, no medical records were introduced at the trial, so the precise
extent of Bradford’s medical condition was unestablished by the state.
Bradford testified he had “fragments” and/or a “splatter of grease” in his eye
and that medical providers put a cleaning solution in it. Bradford also
testified he could not recall his conversation with Ofc. Richardson. The
state admitted the photographs taken of Bradford, a dark-skinned black man,
which showed areas of pink discoloration on his face that Bradford testified
he did not have prior to arriving at the hospital. When asked if the pink
scars were caused by the grease, Bradford replied, “I imagine so.” Bradford
testified it took him four days to heal from his injury, but he did not have
any type of surgery, did not take pain medication, and did not have followup treatment. The state also admitted photographs of the home Bradford and
Jackson shared on the day in question as well as photos of Jackson.
After Ofc. Richardson spoke with Bradford, he went to the house
Bradford and Jackson shared. He entered the home and observed what he
observed to be grease on the living room floor.
At the conclusion of testimony, Jackson moved for a directed verdict,
arguing the state had not excluded the possibility the incident was an
accident and not a deliberate or specific act. Thus, Jackson argued, the state
failed to prove specific intent. The state opposed the motion, arguing it had
proved Jackson’s motive for the attack: she thought Bradford was cheating
on her and “dashed the hot grease in his face.” The motion was denied. The
trial court delayed ruling.
On July 10, 2019, the trial court found Jackson guilty as charged of
aggravated battery. The trial court noted specifically the offense was a
crime of violence, but wanted the minutes to reflect Jackson would be
sentenced as if aggravated battery were not a crime of violence “so that
probation would be available.” Jackson moved for a post-verdict judgment
of acquittal, which was denied. Then, Jackson moved for a post-verdict
judgment modification for a lesser sentence, which the trial court granted,
amending the verdict to guilty of second degree battery.
Subsequently, Jackson was sentenced. Prior to sentencing, the trial
court noted Jackson was a candidate for probation and sentenced Jackson to
five years at hard labor, suspended, and placed her on three years’
supervised probation. The trial court explained she imposed this sentence
because: Jackson did not have a significant criminal history; she was
employed; she had been present for every court appearance; and, Bradford
had significantly downplayed his injuries and did not want to see Jackson go
to jail. Additionally, Jackson was also ordered to pay a $200.00 fine, court
costs, and a $50.00 fee to the Indigent Defender’s Office. The trial court
further stated if Jackson failed to pay, she would be ordered to serve 30 days
in jail.
This appeal by Jackson ensued, wherein she submits the evidence was
insufficient to support her conviction.
Legal Principles
The standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the evidence
claim is whether, after 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 proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560 (1979); State v.
Tate, 2001-1658 (La. 5/20/03), 851 So. 2d 921, cert. denied, 541 U.S. 905,
124 S. Ct. 1604, 158 L. Ed. 2d 248 (2004); State v. Jackson, 51,575 (La.
App. 2 Cir. 9/27/17), 244 So. 3d 764. This standard, now legislatively
embodied in La. C. Cr. P. art. 821, does not provide the appellate court with
a vehicle to substitute its own appreciation of the evidence for that of the
fact finder. State v. Pigford, 2005-0477 (La. 2/22/06), 922 So. 2d 517; State
v. Jackson, supra.
The Jackson standard is applicable in cases involving both direct and
circumstantial evidence. An appellate court reviewing the sufficiency of
evidence in such cases must resolve any conflict in the direct evidence by
viewing that evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. When
the direct evidence is thus viewed, the facts 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. Sutton, 436 So. 2d 471 (La. 1983); State v. Stephens, 49,680 (La.
App. 2 Cir. 5/20/15), 165 So. 3d 1168.
The appellate court does not assess the credibility of witnesses or
reweigh evidence. State v. Smith, 1994-3116 (La. 10/16/95), 661 So. 2d
442. A reviewing court accords great deference to a jury’s decision to
accept or reject the testimony of a witness in whole or in part. State v.
Stephens, supra.
Where there is conflicting testimony about factual matters, the
resolution of which depends upon a determination of the credibility of the
witnesses, the matter is one of the weight of the evidence, not its sufficiency.
State v. Bailey, 50,097 (La. App. 2 Cir. 9/30/15), 180 So. 3d 442.
Louisiana R.S. 14:34.1 provides, in part:
A. Second degree battery is a battery when the offender
intentionally inflicts serious bodily injury [.]
* * * *
(3) ‘Serious bodily injury’ means bodily injury which involves
unconsciousness, extreme physical pain or protracted and
obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the
function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty, or a
substantial risk of death.
Second degree battery is a specific intent crime and, therefore, the
evidence must show that the defendant intended to inflict serious injury.
State v. Fuller, 414 So. 2d 306 (La. 1982); State v. Thomas, 52,617 (La.
App. 2 Cir. 5/22/19), 272 So. 3d 999, writ denied, 2019-01045 (La.
02/10/20), ___ So. 3d ___; State v. Linnear, 44,830 (La. App. 2 Cir.
12/9/09), 26 So. 3d 303. Specific intent is that state of mind that exists when
the circumstances indicate the offender actively desired the prescribed
criminal consequences to follow his act or failure to act. La. R.S. 14:10(1).
Specific intent may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the
offense and the conduct of the defendant. State v. Thomas, supra; State v.
Linnear, supra. The determination of whether the requisite intent is present
in a criminal case is for the trier of fact, and a review of this determination is
to be guided by the standards of Jackson v. Virginia, supra. State v.
Jackson, supra; State v. Linnear, supra.
Here, the evidence shows Bradford presented to the hospital due to
grease burns to his face. To convict Jackson of second degree battery, the
state was required to prove three elements, evidence of which was presented
to trial court.
First, the state was required to prove a battery was committed.
Battery is the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another.
La. R.S. 14:33. In this case, Ofc. Richardson testified when he encountered
Bradford at the hospital shortly after the incident, Bradford told him he had
gotten into an argument with Jackson. When Ofc. Richardson asked
Bradford who had splashed grease in his face, Bradford responded Jackson
had. While Bradford testified that while he could not remember exactly
what transpired that evening, he did recall being burned by grease while he
was outside of the home he shared with Jackson. Importantly, Bradford
admitted there “wasn’t but two of us there.” Therefore, the evidence showed
that a battery was committed by Jackson against Bradford, and this element
was proved.
Second, the state was required to prove the battery to Bradford
resulted in serious bodily injury, which, according to La. R.S. 14:2(C),
involves: unconsciousness; extreme physical pain; protracted and obvious
disfigurement; protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily
member, organ, or mental faculty; or, a substantial risk of death. Here, the
evidence showed that Bradford was injured seriously enough to be
transported to the hospital. As a result of the injuries, he had trouble seeing
after being burned; he had fragments in his eye; the skin on his face turned
pink; and, it took him at least four days to recover. Accordingly, the state
proved this element.
Finally, the state was required to prove specific intent. Specific intent
is that state of mind which exists when the circumstances indicate the
offender actively desired the prescribed criminal consequences to follow his
act or failure to act. La. R.S. 14:10(1). Specific intent may be inferred from
the circumstances surrounding the offense and the conduct of the defendant.
State v. Tate, supra; State v. Broadway, 53,105 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1/15/20),
288 So. 3d 903. This element raises some questions and is the basis of
Jackson’s sole assignment of error.
A case with strikingly similar facts is State v. Speed, 43,786 (La. App.
2 Cir. 1/14/09), 2 So. 3d 582, writ denied, 2009-0372 (La. 11/6/09), 21 So.
3d 299. In that case, where there were no eyewitnesses, the male defendant
also argued the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and the
state failed to prove he had the requisite intent to commit a battery upon his
female victim. The victim in State v. Speed was awakened by hot grease
being poured onto her skin. The defendant was observed running away from
the room. The victim suffered severe burns to her face, back, shoulders, and
right hand, and it took her several months to recover. In State v. Speed, the
victim did not want to pursue charges against the defendant. In fact, she
testified she did not believe the defendant had intent to harm her, and he
claimed the grease accidentally landed on her. However, evidence showed
that the couple had previously argued about an affair the defendant accused
the victim of having. Moreover, the investigating officer testified that
immediately after the incident, and in her interview, the victim accused the
defendant of throwing hot grease at her. The defendant’s conviction for
aggravated second degree battery was upheld in State v. Speed, with the
conclusion the defendant had intentional criminal motive by retaliating
against the victim for having an alleged affair.
Likewise, in this case, the trial court noted that Bradford significantly
downplayed his injuries. It is clear from the testimony that he had
reconciled with Jackson and did not want her to be penalized. Jackson
appears to argue that the splashing of grease was accidental. However, there
is no evidence that points to the incident as accidental. In fact, Bradford’s
initial statement to Ofc. Richardson was the couple argued about cheating,
providing Jackson with the same motive as the defendant in State v. Speed.
Moreover, grease was found on the living room floor of their home, but
Bradford testified he was burned outside the home. Significantly, the
evidence does not indicate Jackson transported Bradford to the hospital.
These facts tend to show that Jackson brought hot grease from the kitchen
through the living room and outside the home to throw in Bradford’s face, a
fact supported by the photographs taken by investigators. Bradford’s
injuries were significant, thus the circumstances surrounding the incident
indicate specific intent.
From this evidence, the trial court could have reasonably inferred that
Jackson intentionally splattered hot grease on Bradford in retaliation for the
alleged affair with the specific intent to inflict serious bodily injury. When
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a
rational trier of fact could have rejected Jackson’s claims that the incident
was unintentional as unreasonable and found the essential elements of the
crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, this assignment of
error is without merit.
Error Patent
Our error patent review of the appellate record reveals that Jackson’s
sentence is illegal in two respects. First, the sentence is illegally lenient.
Notably, a defendant in a criminal case does not have a constitutional or
statutory right to an illegally lenient sentence. State v. Williams, 2000-1725
(La. 11/28/01), 800 So. 2d 790; State v. Burns, 53,250 (La. App. 2 Cir.
1/15/20), 290 So. 3d 721. An illegally lenient sentence may be corrected at
any time by the court that imposed the sentence or by an appellate court on
review. La. C. Cr. P. art. 882(A). This correction may be made despite the
failure of either party to raise the issue. See State v. Williams, supra; State v.
Burns, supra; State v. Leday, 2005-1641 (La. App. 3 Cir. 5/3/06), 930 So. 2d
Specifically, Jackson’s sentence is illegally lenient because the trial
court suspended her sentence for second degree battery, which is a crime of
violence as listed in La. R.S. 14:2. Such a suspension is prohibited by La. C.
Cr. P. art. 893(2), which provides:
The court shall not suspend the sentence of a conviction for an
offense that is designated in the court minutes as a crime of
violence pursuant to Article 890.3, except a first conviction for
an offense with a maximum prison sentence of ten years or less
that was not committed against a family member or household
member as defined by R.S. 14:35.3, or dating partner as defined
by R.S. 46:2151. The period of probation shall be specified and
shall not be more than five years.
Louisiana R.S. 14:35.3 defines a “household member,” in pertinent part, as
any person presently or formerly living in the same residence with the
offender and who is involved or has been involved in a sexual or intimate
relationship with the offender. Here, Jackson and Bradford admittedly lived
together, thus the exception in La. C. Cr. P. art. 893(2) is inapplicable.
However, La. C. Cr. P. art. 890.3(A)(1) provides that the district
attorney may make a written recommendation to the court that the offense
should not be designated as a crime of violence for the purpose of the
defendant’s eligibility for suspension or deferral of sentence pursuant to
Article 893. In this case, the record is void of any such written
recommendation from the district attorney. Nothing in the statute or case
law suggests the trial court can make its own recommendation, which from
the record appeared to be the trial court’s objective. Accordingly, the
sentence is illegally lenient. Notably, on remand for resentencing, the
district attorney may provide such written recommendation.
Second, the trial court sentenced Jackson to default time in the parish
jail for failure to pay fine or costs. An indigent defendant cannot be
subjected to default jail time in lieu of the payment of a fine, costs or
restitution. State v. Malmay, 52,824 (La. App. 2 Cir. 9/25/19), 280 So. 3d
947; State v. Barrett, 51,921 (La. App. 2 Cir. 4/11/18), 247 So. 3d 164, writ
denied, 2018-0744 (La. 2/18/19), 265 So. 3d 770. A defendant’s indigent
status in such a situation may be discerned from the record. State v.
Malmay; State v. Barrett. Where a defendant is represented at trial by the
Indigent Defender’s Office, or on appeal by the Louisiana Appellate Project,
we have considered it error for a trial court to impose jail time for failure to
pay court costs. State v. Malmay; State v. Barrett.
In this case, Jackson’s indigent status has been shown by her
representation at trial by the Indigent Defender’s Office and her current
representation on appeal by the Louisiana Appellate Project. Thus, the
imposition of default jail time by the trial court was in error. Accordingly,
we hereby instruct the trial court to delete that portion of Jackson’s sentence
that includes default jail time for failure to pay court costs.

Outcome: For the stated reasons, the conviction of Jeanell Latrice Jackson is
affirmed. However, for the reasons stated, Jackson’s sentence is vacated and
this matter is remanded for resentencing.

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