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State of Louisiana v. Antonio Sewell
Case Number: 53,571-KA
Judge: Shonda D Stone
Court: COURT OF APPEAL
STATE OF LOUISIANA
Plaintiff's Attorney: JAMES E. STEWART, SR.
RICHARD SOL FEINBERG
ALEX L. PORUBSKY
JASON WAYNE WALTMAN
Assistant District Attorneys
Just Call 855-853-4800 for Free Help Finding a Lawyer Help You.
Shreveport, Louisiana - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant Antonio Sewell charged with armed robbery.
On May 23, 2019, the trial court granted Sewell’s motion to correct an
illegal sentence pursuant to the 2001 amendments to La. R.S. 15:529.1, La.
R.S. 15:308, and State ex rel. Esteen v. State, 16-0949 (La. 1/30/18), 239 So.
3d 233. On November 13, 2019, Sewell was sentenced to 75 years at hard
labor, without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.
Sewell now appeals his resentencing arguing that the sentence imposed was
unconstitutionally harsh and excessive in this case. Sewell also argues that
the split jury vote of 10 to 2 by which he was convicted, was in violation of
his constitutional right to a unanimous jury; and that he is entitled to a new
trial pursuant to Ramos v. Louisiana, --- U.S ---, 140 S. Ct. 1390, 206 L. Ed.
2d 583 (2020).
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On January 16, 1999, Willie Ashley exited a convenience store on
Jewella Avenue in Shreveport, and was approached by Sewell, who
demanded Ashley’s car. When Ashley refused, Sewell shot Ashley twice in
the leg. Sewell then pointed the gun at Ashley’s chest and demanded
“everything.” Sewell took Ashley’s driver’s license, pager, money, and
vehicle. As Sewell left the scene, his suspicious behavior alerted nearby law
enforcement officers. As the officers attempted to stop Sewell, he fled on
foot and was eventually apprehended. Ashley identified Sewell as his
attacker, and Sewell was subsequently charged with armed robbery, in
violation of La. R.S. 14:64.
Sewell was convicted and adjudicated a third-felony habitual
offender, pursuant to La. R.S. 15:529.1(A)(1)(b)(ii), and sentenced to life
imprisonment, without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of
Id. On appeal, this Court upheld Sewell’s conviction and
sentence. Sewell’s conviction and sentence became final in 2003.
On March 4, 2019, Sewell filed a motion to correct illegal sentence
and argued that his life sentence was illegal in light of the more lenient
sentencing provisions in La. R.S. 15:529.1, as established by the legislature
in Acts 2001, No. 403 (effective June 15, 2001),2
and that they applied in his
1 Sewell was initially charged as a fourth-felony habitual offender, but a prior
conviction for simple burglary was not considered. Sewell’s adjudication was based
upon his prior convictions for unauthorized use of a movable and attempted possession of
a firearm by a convicted felon.
2 The 2001 amendment to La. R.S. 15:529.1(A)(1)(b) provided as follows:
If the third felony is such that upon a first conviction, the offender would
be punishable by imprisonment for any term less than his natural life then:
(i) The person shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a determinate term
not less than two-thirds of the longest possible sentence for the conviction
and not more than twice the longest possible sentence prescribed for a first
(ii) If the third felony and the two prior felonies are felonies defined as a
crime of violence under La. R.S. 14:2(13), a sex offense as defined in La.
R.S. 15:540 et seq., when the victim is under the age of 18 at the time of
commission of the offense, or as a violation of the Uniform Controlled
Dangerous Substances Law punishable by imprisonment for 10 years or
more, or any other crime punishable by imprisonment for 12 years or
more, or any combination of such crimes, the person shall be imprisoned
for the remainder of his natural life, without benefit of parole, probation,
or suspension of sentence.
case pursuant to La. R.S. 15:308 and State ex rel. Esteen v. State, supra,
because his conviction and sentence occurred prior to June 15, 2001. 3
Sewell argued that under the new provision, he was no longer
eligible for a life sentence under La. R.S. 15:529.1(A)(1)(b)(ii), as his two
prior convictions were not crimes of violence, sexual offenses, or violations
of the controlled dangerous substances law.4
Sewell argued that his
sentencing range should be pursuant to La. R.S. 15:529.1(A)(1)(b)(i),
which, based upon the underlying sentencing range for armed robbery, is 66
to 198 years, without benefits.5
On May 23, 2019, after consideration, the trial court determined that
Sewell’s sentence was illegal and placed Sewell’s case on the docket for
On November 13, 2019, Sewell appeared for resentencing. The trial
court recited the procedural history of the case, the factual basis for the
3 La. R.S. 15:308(A) provides, in pertinent part, that Act No. 403 of the 2001
Regular Session of the Legislature created more lenient penalty provisions for certain
enumerated crimes and that these penalty provisions were to be applied prospectively and
retroactively to June 15, 2001, and applied to any crime committed subject to such
revised penalties on and after such date.
La. R.S. 15:308(B) provides, in pertinent part, that these more lenient penalty
provisions shall apply to the class of persons who committed crimes, who were
convicted, or who were sentenced according to the following provisions: La. R.S.
15:529.1(A)(1)(b)(ii) and (c)(ii), provided that such application ameliorates the person’s
In 1999, the penalty for unauthorized use of a movable was as follows: whoever
commits the crime of unauthorized use of a movable having a value of $1,000.00 or less
shall be imprisonment for not more than 6 months. Whoever commits the crime of
unauthorized use of a movable having a value in excess of $1,000.00 shall be imprisoned
with or without hard labor for not more than 5 years. In 1999, the penalty term for
attempted possession of a firearm by a convicted felon was 7˝ years at hard labor,
without benefits. La. R.S. 14:95.1; La. R.S. 14:27.
5 La. R.S. 14:64 provides that whoever commits the crime of armed robbery shall
be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than 10 years and for not more than 99 years,
without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.
conviction and sentence, the basis for granting Sewell’s motion to correct
illegal sentence, and the mandatory sentencing range.
The trial court then reviewed the sentencing guidelines set forth in La.
C. Cr. P. art. 894.1, and found the following applicable aggravating
circumstances: Sewell manifested deliberate cruelty to the victim; he
knowingly created a risk of death or great bodily harm to more than one
person in light of the other store patrons nearby as well as the proximity of
the gas pumps; Sewell used actual violence in the commission of the
offense; his offense resulted in significant injury and economic loss to the
victim, who suffered a bullet in his pelvic bone and required surgery; Sewell
used a dangerous weapon in the commission of the offense; and he
discharged a firearm in the commission of the offense. The trial court
ordered that the case minutes reflect that Sewell was convicted of a crime of
violence; vacated Sewell’s prior sentence; and resentenced him to 75 years
at hard labor, without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.
On November 25, 2019, and again on December 13, 2019, Sewell filed a
motion to reconsider his sentence and argued that he should have been
granted parole eligibility pursuant to La. R.S. 15:574.4(A)(5).6
December 13 and 20, 2019, the trial court denied both motions. The trial
court determined that because Sewell was convicted of armed robbery, a
crime of violence, and sentenced as a third-felony habitual offender to 75
years at hard labor, he was not entitled to parole eligibility.7
6 Both motions were identical.
7 La. R.S. 15:574.4(B)(1) provides that no person shall be eligible for parole
consideration who has been convicted of armed robbery and denied parole eligibility
under the provisions of La. R.S. 14:64.
On November 25, 2019, Sewell filed a motion to appeal his sentence,
arguing that the sentence imposed was unconstitutionally harsh and
excessive, and that he is entitled to a new trial, as the split jury vote of 10 to
2 by which he was convicted, was in violation of his constitutional right to a
unanimous jury, Ramos v. Louisiana, supra. The motion was granted on
December 3, 2019.
Sewell argues that his 75 years at hard labor, without benefit of
probation, parole, or suspension of sentence was harsh and excessive
because it was based solely on the facts of the offense, with no consideration
of his personal or work history. Sewell disputes the trial court’s finding of
aggravating circumstances and asserts that no one else was present at the
time of the robbery and that there was no significant injury or economic loss
to the victim. Sewell further argues that his criminal history had already
been considered in his adjudication as a third-felony habitual offender, and
that his sentence does not further the ends of justice and is a needless
imposition of pain and suffering.
An excessive sentence claim is reviewed by examining whether the
trial court adequately considered the guidelines established in La. C. Cr. P.
art. 894.1, and whether the sentence is constitutionally excessive. State v.
Wing, 51,857 (La. App. 2 Cir. 2/28/18), 246 So. 3d 711; State v. Gardner,
46,688 (La. App. 2 Cir. 11/2/11), 77 So. 3d 1052. A review of the
sentencing guidelines does not require a listing of every aggravating or
mitigating circumstance. State v. Boehm, 51,229 (La. App. 2 Cir. 4/5/17),
217 So. 3d 596; State v. Cunningham, 46,664 (La. App. 2 Cir. 11/2/11), 77
So. 3d 477, writ not cons., 16-0729 (La. 06/03/16), 192 So. 3d 758. When
the defendant’s motion to reconsider sentence raises only a claim that the
sentence imposed was constitutionally excessive, review of the sentence on
appeal is restricted to that claim. La. C. Cr. P. art. 881.1; State v. Williams,
51,667 (La. App. 2 Cir. 9/27/17), 245 So. 3d 131, writ not cons., 18-0017
(La. 03/09/18), 248 So. 3d 322; State v. Turner, 50,221 (La. App. 2 Cir.
1/20/16), 186 So. 3d 720, writ denied, 16-0283 (La. 2/10/17), 215 So. 3d
A sentence violates La. Const. art. I, § 20, if it is grossly out of
proportion to the seriousness of the offense or nothing more than a
purposeless and needless infliction of pain and suffering. State v. Dorthey,
623 So. 2d 1276 (La. 1993); State v. Boehm, supra. A sentence is
considered grossly disproportionate if, when the crime and punishment are
viewed in light of the harm done to society, it shocks the sense of justice.
State v. Weaver, 01-0467 (La. 1/15/02), 805 So. 2d 166; State v. Wing,
The trial court must state for the record the consideration and the
factual basis for the sentence imposed. La. C. Cr. P. art. 894.1(C). The
court must consider the defendant’s personal history, the defendant’s
criminal record, the seriousness of the offense, and the likelihood of
rehabilitation, but there is no requirement that specific matters be given any
particular weight at sentencing. State v. Boehm, supra. All convictions and
all prior criminal activity may be considered as well as other evidence
normally excluded from the trial. State v. Platt, 43,708 (La. App. 2 Cir.
12/3/08), 998 So. 2d 864, writ denied, 09-0265 (La. 11/6/09), 21 So. 3d 305.
The trial court has wide discretion in imposing a sentence within the
statutory limits, so absent a showing of an abuse of that discretion, a
sentence will not be set aside as excessive. State v. Mandigo, 48,801 (La.
App. 2 Cir. 2/26/14), 136 So. 3d 292, writ denied, 14-0630 (La. 10/24/14),
151 So. 3d 600. The reviewing court does not determine whether another
sentence would have been more appropriate, but whether the trial court
abused its discretion. State v. Jackson, 48,534 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1/15/14), 130
So. 3d 993; State v. Esque, 46,515 (La. App. 2 Cir. 9/21/11), 73 So. 3d 1021,
writ denied, 11-2347 (La. 3/9/12), 84 So. 3d 551.
Any sentence imposed under the habitual offender provisions shall be
at hard labor without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence; the
benefit of parole is determined by the sentencing provisions for the
underlying offense. La. R.S. 15:529.1(G); State v. Hopkins, 52,660 (La.
App. 2 Cir. 4/10/19), 268 So. 3d 1226, 1230, writ denied, 19-00841 (La.
9/24/19), 278 So. 3d 978.
The record shows that the trial court properly sentenced Sewell
under La. R.S. 15:529.1(A)(1)(b)(i), as amended in 2001. His sentencing
range was 66 to 198 years, so the imposed sentence of 75 years is statutorily
The trial court articulated the factual basis for the sentence and
specified the facts that it found to be aggravating. Sewell used a firearm to
threaten violence against the victim and then shot the victim twice before
stealing his money and his vehicle. He then resisted the pursuing officers.
The victim required surgery to remove a bullet that lodged in his pelvic
bone. Sewell’s habitual offender charges and adjudication revealed that he
had a history of related conduct: burglary, unauthorized use a of a movable,
and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Sewell’s instant offense
represented a clear escalation in violence that put multiple people at risk of
significant harm or death. The sentence of 75 years may seem harsh;
however, it is only 9 years above the mandatory minimum established by the
legislature in the sentencing provisions for a third-felony habitual offender.
In light of the circumstances of this case, the sentence is not
disproportionate to the harm Sewell caused the victim or the threatened to
nearby citizens. Sewell fails to show that the sentence imposed was
constitutionally excessive or that the trial court abused its discretion in the
pronouncement of such sentence. Sewell’s claim is without merit.
Ramos v. Louisiana
On May 15, 2020, Sewell filed a supplemental assigned error, relying
on the recent ruling in Ramos v. Louisiana, supra, where the Supreme Court
held that the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial requires a unanimous
verdict to convict a defendant of a serious offense.
Sewell argues that the non-unanimous jury issue is properly before
this Court because (1) the matter is on direct review due to his resentence on
November 13, 2019; and, (2) the matter falls within the scope of appellate
review because it constitutes an error patent and is raised as an assigned
Sewell also contends that a violation of the constitutional right to a
8 La. C. Cr. P. art. 912 (C)(1) provides that a final judgment which imposes
sentence is appealable by the defendant. La. C. Cr. P. art. 920 provides that only the
following matters shall be considered on appeal: (1) An error designated in the
assignment of errors; and (2) An error that is discoverable by a mere inspection of the
pleadings and proceedings and without inspection of the evidence.
unanimous jury affects a defendant’s substantial rights and implicates the
reliability of the fact-finding process.9
Sewell asserts that the new interpretation of constitutional law
established in Ramos applies to his case because of his non-unanimous jury
verdict. Sewell argues that because his constitutional right to a unanimous
trial was violated, he is entitled to a new trial.
In a similar case, State v. Brown, 19-370 (La. App. 5 Cir. 1/15/20),
289 So. 3d 1179, 1188, writ denied, 20-00276 (La. 6/22/20), 2020 WL
3453952, the defendant’s convictions and sentences for second degree
murder and armed robbery were affirmed and became final in 1997. In
2018, Brown was resentenced with parole eligibility pursuant to
Montgomery v. Louisiana, --- U.S ---, 136 S. Ct. 718, 193 L. Ed. 2d 599
(2016). Brown filed an appeal in which he only argued that he would be
entitled to a new trial once Ramos was decided because his appeal was “still
pending on direct review.”
The fifth circuit disagreed:
For the following reasons, however, we affirm his convictions’
finality. Issues related to his conviction are not properly before
this court on the instant appeal, given that all such issues
already have or should have been heard during his first appeal.
This current appeal’s sole focus is issues relevant to his
State v. Brown, supra at 1182. The state supreme court denied
Brown’s writ, with Chief Justice Johnson concurring:
I concur in the denial of the defendant’s writ application despite
his conviction by a non-unanimous jury verdict in this case.
After Mr. Brown was re-sentenced pursuant to Miller v.
9 La. C. Cr. P. art. 921 provides that a judgment or ruling shall not be reversed by
an appellate court because of any error, defect, irregularity, or variance which does not
affect substantial rights of the accused
Alabama 567 U.S. 460, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407
(2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana, --- U.S ---, 136 S. Ct.
718, 193 L. Ed. 2d 599 (2016), he was entitled to an appeal of
his new sentence, not the underlying conviction. La. C. Cr. P.
art. 912(C)(1). Therefore his 1996 conviction was final long
before the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Ramos v.
Louisiana, --- U.S ---, 140 S. Ct. 1390, 206 L. Ed. 2d 583
(2020). I write separately to emphasize that this writ denial does
not preclude Mr. Brown from making a collateral challenge to
his conviction by non-unanimous jury verdict under La. C. Cr.
P. arts. 930.3(1) and 930.8(A)(2).
State v. Brown, supra, 2020 WL 3453952, at p. 1.
La. C. Cr. P. art. 782 specifies that a case for an offense committed
prior to January 1, 2019, in which punishment is necessarily confinement at
hard labor shall be tried by a jury composed of 12 jurors, 10 of whom must
concur to render a verdict; however, if the offense was committed on or after
January 1, 2019, the case shall be tried before of jury of 12 persons, all of
whom must concur to render a verdict.
La. C. Cr. P. art. 922 establishes that a judgment of conviction
rendered by the supreme court becomes final once the 14-day delay to apply
for a rehearing has expired. “The Louisiana Constitution does not provide
for a second direct appeal.” State v. Howard, 53,104 (La. App. 2 Cir.
1/15/20), 289 So. 3d 1176, 1179, writ denied, 20-00400 (La. 6/22/20), 297
So. 3d 722. “Once an appellate court renders judgment, and that judgment
becomes final, the criminal defendant no longer has a right to appeal the
decision, but is limited to seeking supervisory review.”
Ramos applies only to matters currently pending on direct review. In
the instant case, Sewell’s conviction became final in 2003, after the state
supreme court denied his challenge of this Court’s 2002 opinion. The trial
court reconsidered Sewell’s sentence in light of the legislative changes and
Esteen, supra, which was limited and did not include reconsideration of any
issues regarding his conviction. As such, it is Sewell’s resentencing that was
pending on direct review when Ramos was decided, not Sewell’s conviction,
which remained final.
Additionally, Sewell has already had the benefit of an error patent
review regarding his conviction in his prior appeal, which was affirmed by
this Court in a 2002 opinion, and by the state supreme court in its 2003 writ
denial. Thus, Sewell is not entitled to a second error patent review. The
instant appeal is related to Sewell’s resentencing. Any issue regarding
Sewell’s conviction is therefore outside the scope of this appeal.
Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, Antonio Sewell’s sentence is affirmed.