On February 21, 1975 Victor Graziano was preparing to open his regular Friday check-cashing business in the rear of Trump's Service Station at the intersection of S. Claiborne Avenue and Toledano Street in New Orleans. He had arrived at the business in his automobile with $8,000.00 in cash and various supplies. He was met there by Jacob Harris, a part-time security guard. Graziano and Harris were in the process of unloading the automobile and entering the building when they were approached by two black males, one armed with a pistol, who indicated that it was a holdup. Harris, startled, dropped the box he was carrying; in an apparent response, the robber with the gun shot Graziano in the hand. The robbers then relieved Harris of his sidearm, grabbed the moneybag containing the $8,000.00, and ran off. During the robbers' flight there was an exchange of gunfire between them and Graziano. The investigating officers, attempting to trace the path of the robbers' flight, found the gun used by the robbers, the gun taken from Harris, small droplets of blood on the sidewalk and a witness who had seen two black men jump into a car driven by a third person. The witness had recorded the license plate number and the car was subsequently discovered parked some distance away with blood stains on the seat and door.
In separate bills of information, allotted to separate sections of the Criminal District Court, the appellant Richard Curtis and one Charles Jackson were charged with this armed robbery. The cases proceeded independently and Charles Jackson was tried and convicted in November, 1975. His conviction has been affirmed in this Court, State v. Jackson, 347 So.2d 172 (La.1977). The appellant Richard Curtis was tried by jury on April 6, 1976 and found guilty as charged. He was sentenced as a multiple offender to serve one hundred ninety-eight years at hard labor in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections without diminution of sentence for good behavior. Before this Court, defendant relies upon five assignments of error for reversal of his conviction and sentence. The remainder of defendant's assignments, not being briefed, are considered abandoned.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 1
In his first assignment of error defendant asserts that the court erred in denying defendant's
The day following the robbery Mr. Graziano, who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound of the hand and wrist, selected defendant Richard Curtis' photograph from a group of pictures shown him by the police, and, without suggestion or prompting of any kind, positively identified Curtis as the robber who had shot him in the hand and disarmed Harris. Graziano was not able to identify Charles Jackson because he had not seen Jackson's face at the time of the crime, and only caught sight of Jackson's back as the latter lifted the bag of money out of the car. Also, at the police lineup held on March 20, a month after the commission of the crime, Graziano identified Richard Curtis.
The police displayed a group of photographs to Jacob Harris on February 25, four days after the armed robbery, and Harris identified the pictures of both Richard Curtis and Charles Jackson as the perpetrators of the instant crime. However, because of illness, Jacob Harris was not able to attend the police lineup on March 20. (Tr. 92 et seq.)
In brief defendant's attacks with respect to identification deficiencies are leveled at the rulings relative to the identifications and testimony of Jacob Harris. Appellant relies on the fact that according to Harris' testimony, Harris was told by the police officers who brought him some photographs four days after the commission of the crime, "We think we got them two guys," which was suggestive, according to appellant, and on the further fact that at a June 4, 1975 police lineup in which Charles Jackson was displayed but Richard Curtis was not Harris identified one Irvin Windham rather than Jackson as one of the armed robbers, and later at Jackson's trial identified one Joseph Duncan as one of the robbers.
First of all we find no support in the record for the contention that any pre-trial identification was designed to avoid lineup requirements of counsel mandated by Gilbert v. California. See State v. Wallace, 285 So.2d 796 (La.1973). Harris' exposure to the photographic lineup occurred four days post robbery and before defendant had been arrested. When the police lineup was conducted and the defendant was identified by Graziano, Harris was unable because of illness to attend. The defense contention that the pre-trial identifications by Harris were so unreliable as to deny defendant due process is likewise without merit. The quality of Harris' testimony was for the jury to assess.
Defendant's chief reliance is upon Harris' testimony that at that first photographic lineup the police officers told him "We think we got them two guys."
First of all we are more impressed with and inclined to believe to be more accurate in this case the testimony of the police officers that no such suggestive statement was made to Harris by them. Even assuming, however, the accuracy of Harris' testimony, under our jurisprudence there is no merit to the contention. In State v. Knight, 323 So.2d 765 (La.1975) we held that the statement of police officers at the time of identification that they have a suspect does not justify a conclusion that the procedure used was impermissibly suggestive, as common sense would warrant the victim of the crime in believing as much.
Furthermore, there was an independent source for Harris' in-court identification of Richard Curtis in that Harris was able to get a good, unobstructed look at Curtis during the course of the armed robbery, which occurred in full daylight (around
Assignment of error number one is without merit.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 2
Defendant complains of the court's restricting defendant's voir dire by disallowing inquiry of a prospective juror, who had been a recent victim of an armed robbery, into whether she had also given testimony concerning that armed robbery and concerning identification.
Defense counsel was permitted to determine that the witness in question had been a victim of an armed robbery about one year prior to being called for jury duty in the present case and that she did not believe that having been a victim of an armed robbery would influence her in the present case.
Defense counsel did not before or after the court's ruling apprise the court of the purpose of the only partially stated and disallowed question which he contends concerned itself with the juror's prior involvement in a trial involving identification issues.
There is no merit to this assignment.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 3
Defendant here contends that the trial court erred in interfering with and restricting the defense cross examination of Jacob Harris in such a way as to adopt the prosecution's thesis that the witness' multiple misidentifications were unimportant to the present case.
Specifically he says that he should not have been shut off when he attempted to cross examine Harris about his prior identifications of two persons as the perpetrators of the armed robbery—Charles Jackson by an in-court identification and Joseph Duncan by a photographic identification. The court erred in shutting off cross-examination of Harris concerning prior mistaken identifications of persons purportedly the robbers, the court's reason being that those mistakes had taken place in the earlier trial of defendant's co-perpetrator Jackson. The complaint is well taken. Effort to show the witness' earlier mistakes as to persons whom he thought were the robbers should have been permitted. However, we do not consider this trial error of sufficient magnitude to warrant reversal of the conviction in light of the fact that independently of this particular effort at cross-examination defendant was permitted to and did establish the point counsel was trying to develop in the disallowed cross-examination. The testimony of Sergeant Orin Mills that Jacob Harris had positively identified Irvin Windham, a fill-in at a June 4, 1975 lineup, established that Harris had made at least one prior mistaken identification. Additionally defense counsel was allowed to read from the transcript of Charles Jackson's trial portions of Harris' testimony in which he identified Joseph Duncan from a photograph as one of the individuals who perpetrated the robbery.
There is no merit to this assignment.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 12
Defendant received as a second offender convicted of armed robbery a sentence of one hundred ninety-eight years at hard labor without entitlement of diminution of sentence for good behavior. He contends that the sentence is illegal because cruel, excessive and unusual under Article I, Section 20 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974. The contention is without merit. See, State v. Cobbs, 350 So.2d 168 (La.1977); State v. Harvey, 329 So.2d 731 (La.1976); State v. Walker, 328 So.2d 87 (La.1976).
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 11
In this assignment defendant complains that assuming his sentence of one hundred ninety-eight years is otherwise valid it should not have been without benefit of diminution of sentence for good behavior.
He contends that the statute employed to deny him the opportunity to earn diminution for good behavior was passed by the
The armed robbery took place February 21, 1975. As of that date persons sentenced on an armed robbery conviction and other felonies, whether first or multiple offender, were afforded the benefit of diminution for good behavior in the discretion of the director of corrections under the provisions of R.S. 15:571.3(B).
In 1975 the legislature amended R.S. 15:571.3 to provide in subsection C that a person sentenced as a multiple offender after September 15, 1975 could, on order of the court, be denied benefit of diminution of sentence for good behavior.
Very recently this Court had occasion to review a contention similar to that put forth here but as it related to application of the 1977 statute (see footnote one above) which mandated the denial of good time diminution. In State v. Wilson, 360 So.2d 166 (La.1978) we held that applying that 1977 act to a defendant whose offense had been committed prior to its enactment but whose sentence was imposed after the effective date of the law was not an unconstitutional ex post facto application of the law.
The distinction between Wilson and the case under consideration is without a significant difference.
That the law has been changed to the defendant's disadvantage, after commission of the crime, is unquestioned. The pertinent inquiry is whether this type of change, of substantial consequence,
Article I, Section 23 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 similarly provides:
In the first United States Supreme Court discussion of the ex post facto prohibition, Justice Chase concluded that the clause proscribes, among other types of laws, "every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed." Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 386, 1 L.Ed. 648 (1798). In subsequent cases, it has been stated that an ex post facto law is one that "renders an act punishable in a manner it was not punishable when committed." Fletcher v. Peck, 10 U.S. (6 Cranch.) 87, 138, 3 L.Ed. 162 (1810). See Garner v. Board of Public Works, 341 U.S. 716, 735, 71 S.Ct. 909, 95 L.Ed. 1317 (1951). Employing these and similar definitions, courts have held that the clause prohibits legislatures from retroactively increasing punishment for past criminal acts. Lindsey v. Washington, 301 U.S. 397, 57 S.Ct. 797, 81 L.Ed. 1182 (1937).
A major principle underlying the ex post facto proscription is that laws which adversely affect individuals who have committed particular past acts fail to provide a fair warning of the extent to which that person can be punished; furthermore, retroactive legislation frustrates reliance upon existing law and does not serve an object of the criminal law by providing guidance for conduct. By proscribing retroactive criminal legislation, Calder and the federal jurisprudence which followed have limited the ends for which the legislature may use the criminal law: the legislature may not punish when no law has been violated and may not use the criminal law for retribution except with prospective application. See generally, 73 Michigan Law Review 1491 (1975).
In applying the ex post facto prohibitions the courts have struck down as unlawful increases in punishment, retroactive changes in the post conviction treatment of individuals. In In re Medley, 134 U.S. 160, 10 S.Ct. 384, 387, 33 L.Ed. 835 (1890) a statute passed subsequent to the offense required that while awaiting execution a defendant remain in solitary confinement in the state penitentiary; the law applicable at the time of the offense provided that while awaiting execution a defendant should simply be confined in the county prison. With execution of the defendant about to take place the United States Supreme Court nevertheless took the occasion to declare unconstitutional, as an ex post facto law, the requirement that the defendant await his death in solitary confinement in the state penitentiary rather than in the county prison. Said the court, in passing,
In a more recent case, Lindsey v. Washington, 301 U.S. 397, 57 S.Ct. 797, 81 L.Ed. 1182 (1937), the United States Supreme Court invalidated a Washington statute as ex post facto legislation which had the effect of making defendant's punishment more severe because of its effect on the sentence he would serve. The law in effect at the time of his offense provided a penalty of not less than six months and not more than fifteen years. The statute was amended after the offense to require the court to impose a fifteen year sentence, with the parole board having the obligation to set a determinate sentence of no less than six months and no more than fifteen years. The Washington State Supreme Court upheld the statute finding that because the maximum and minimum sentences before and after the offense were the same, the statute did not inflict a greater
Changes in the availability of parole (In re Griffin, 63 Cal.2d 757, 48 Cal.Rptr. 183, 408 P.2d 959 (1965)), and restrictions on the availability of bail on appeal (Greene v. State, 238 So.2d 296 (Fla.1970)) have run afoul of the ex post facto prohibition. And more directly pertinent, laws effecting retroactive changes in availability of good time benefits have also been found in violation of the ex post facto prohibition. State ex rel. Nelson v. Ellsworth, 142 Mont. 14, 380 P.2d 886 (1963).
In the jurisprudence of this state until the recent Wilson decision there had been no case directly concerning the ex post facto law proscription and retroactive laws relative to good time (eligibility for diminution of sentence). There have, however, been analogous cases treating retroactive laws concerning eligibility for parole or probation.
In State ex rel. Woodward v. Board of Parole, 155 La. 699, 99 So. 534 (1924), a defendant, sentenced to life imprisonment under a statute which provided for eligibility for parole, petitioned for relief when a
And in State v. Bullock, 263 La. 946, 269 So.2d 824 (1972), the state attempted to apply a statute that allowed a jury to impose a life sentence without benefit of parole, probation, commutation or suspension of the sentence. At the time of defendant's offense, there was no provision allowing the jury to attach those conditions to the sentence. Finding this to be an ex post facto application of the law, this Court stated:
There is no analytical distinction between eligibility for parole (and analogously probation) and eligibility for diminution of sentence through good time. In neither situation is there a vested right. Indeed at the time of commission of the offense in each situation the law simply provides opportunity
We therefore conclude that our recent Wilson decision is incorrect and must be overruled. That the change in the law affecting the opportunity to earn a diminished sentence did not deprive a defendant of any vested right to good time does not alter the fact that the statute applies a new punitive measure to a crime already consummated to the detriment or material disadvantage of the wrongdoer (see Lindsey) and that it has the effect of making the standard of punishment "more onerous" through its effect on release eligibility (see Bullock).
Accordingly, applying R.S. 15:541.3(C) in the sentencing of defendant Curtis after, but for a crime committed before, its effective date, violates the ex post facto clauses of the United States and Louisiana Constitutions. The sentence insofar as it is without benefit of diminution of sentence for good behavior is illegal. The case will therefore be remanded to the trial court for a resentencing.
For the foregoing reasons, the conviction of defendant Curtis is affirmed. The case is remanded to the trial court for resentencing in accordance with law and the opinion of this Court.
JUDGMENT AFFIRMED; CASE REMANDED FOR RESENTENCING.
SANDERS, C. J., dissents adhering to the holding of State v. Wilson, La., 360 So.2d 166 (1978).
MARCUS, J., concurs in part and dissents in part and assigns reasons.
MARCUS, Justice (concurring in part and dissenting in part).
I concur in the affirmance of defendant's conviction. I dissent from the reversal of his sentence and remand for resentencing for reasons set forth in State v. Wilson, 360 So.2d 166 (La.1978).