State v. Snyder, No. 98-KA-1078.

CourtSupreme Court of Louisiana
Writing for the CourtKIMBALL, Justice.
Citation750 So.2d 832
PartiesSTATE of Louisiana v. Allen SNYDER.
Decision Date14 April 1999
Docket NumberNo. 98-KA-1078.

750 So.2d 832

STATE of Louisiana
v.
Allen SNYDER

No. 98-KA-1078.

Supreme Court of Louisiana.

April 14, 1999.


750 So.2d 835
Marion B. Farmer, Covington, Counsel for Applicant

Richard P. Ieyoub, Attorney General, Paul D. Connick, Jr., District Attorney, James Alan Williams, Alfred Adolphe Olinde, Jr., Counsel for Respondent.

KIMBALL, Justice.1

On August 29, 1996, a jury convicted defendant, Allen Snyder, of the first degree murder of Howard Wilson. One day later, after the penalty phase hearing, the

750 So.2d 836
jury unanimously determined that defendant should receive the death penalty. Defendant was subsequently sentenced to death by the trial judge in accordance with the jury's determination. Pursuant to La. Const. Art. 5, § 5(D), defendant appeals his conviction and sentence, arguing five assignments of error.2 Because we find error in the trial court's failure to investigate defendant's request for a continuance based upon a claim of incompetence caused by his alleged inability to assist his counsel due to a change in his medication that left him mentally unstable at the time of trial, we remand this case to the trial court for a hearing to determine whether a retrospective determination of defendant's competence is still possible. If such a determination is, in fact, possible, the trial court shall hold a hearing to determine whether defendant was competent at the time of trial. If the trial court finds that defendant was competent, no new trial is required as we find none of defendant's other assignments of error have merit and therefore conditionally affirm his conviction and sentence. If the trial court finds that a retrospective determination of defendant's competence cannot be had, or, if after hearing evidence, determines that defendant was not competent at the time of trial, defendant shall be entitled to a new trial

FACTS

Defendant, Allen Snyder, and his wife, Mary Snyder, were having marital difficulties in the summer of 1995. Towards the end of their relationship, neither partner remained entirely faithful to the other. After several incidents of physical abuse at the hands of her husband, Mary Snyder took their children and went to live with her mother. Despite this separation, defendant contacted Mary one evening in mid-August and the two discussed the possibility of getting back together. Mary agreed to meet defendant the following day to discuss a reconciliation. Defendant was anxious to meet with Mary and wanted to see her that evening, but she put him off, telling him she "didn't want to see him" that night. Rec. vol. 6, p. 1267.

Instead, Mary went out on a late night date with Howard Wilson, a married man she claimed she had recently met. Defendant repeatedly tried to page her during the evening, but Mary refused to respond. At the end of their date, at approximately 1:30 a.m. on August 16, 1995, Howard Wilson pulled his vehicle up to the home of Mary's mother to drop Mary off. Defendant walked up to the car, opened the driver's side door of the vehicle, and attacked both Howard Wilson and Mary Snyder with some sort of knife containing a double-edged blade. He inflicted nine wounds upon Howard Wilson and nineteen wounds upon Mary Snyder.

Gwen Williams witnessed the assault. She testified that she observed defendant stooped down beside a trailer that was across the street from the home of Mary's mother. She then saw defendant run from the trailer to Wilson's car, open the car door, jump into the car and attack Howard Wilson and Mary Snyder. Williams screamed at defendant which caused him to run away. Williams then helped Mary to her mother's house and the police were called. Howard Wilson died at East Jefferson Hospital. Mary Snyder survived the attack and testified at trial.

Approximately twelve hours later, defendant called the police claiming he was suicidal. The police went to his house to investigate, initially unaware of the fact that he was a murder suspect, and found defendant barricaded in his house and curled into a fetal position on the floor. Police officers then took defendant to the Criminal Investigations Bureau and, after advising him of his rights, took a statement from defendant. In his statement, defendant claimed he went to Mary's mother's house "to see where she was and who she was with." Transcribed Audio

750 So.2d 837
Tape Statement, p. 3. He stated he brought a knife to "scare her, make `em talk to me." Id. He told police that he approached the car not knowing whether Mary was inside the car or not. He opened the car door with the knife in hand and, according to his statement, told Howard Wilson they needed to talk. A scuffle then ensued. Defendant told police he was "out of control" at that time. Id. at 5. After the attack, defendant ran off, throwing the knife down somewhere along the way

The state subsequently charged Allen Snyder with one count of first degree murder. After the trial, which began on August 27, 1996, a jury found defendant guilty as charged. After finding the presence of one aggravating circumstance,3 the same jury unanimously determined defendant should receive the death penalty. A sentence of death was subsequently imposed by the trial court.

LAW AND DISCUSSION

Assignment of Error No. 1

In his first assignment of error, defendant argues that the evidence presented at trial did not support a conviction for first degree murder, but rather one for manslaughter. This claim is based upon the contention that defendant came upon the victim and Mary Snyder when they were engaged in a sexual act in the victim's car which was parked outside the home of Mary's mother.4 Defendant maintains that when he saw his wife involved in sexual relations with another man, he was provoked to the point of losing his selfcontrol and cool reflection.5

Manslaughter is a homicide which would be either first or second degree murder, but the offense is committed in sudden passion or heat of blood immediately caused by provocation sufficient to deprive an average person of his self-control and cool reflection. La. R.S. 14:31(A)(1).6 It is the presence of "sudden passion" and "heat of blood" that distinguishes manslaughter from murder. This court has repeatedly stated, however, that "sudden passion" and "heat of blood" are not elements of the offense of manslaughter. Rather, they are mitigatory factors in the nature of a defense which exhibit a degree of culpability less than that present when the homicide is committed in the

750 So.2d 838
absence of these factors. State v. Lombard, 486 So.2d 106 (La.1986); State v. Tompkins, 403 So.2d 644 (La.1981). Because they are mitigatory factors, a defendant who establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that he acted in "sudden passion" or "heat of blood" is entitled to a verdict of manslaughter. Lombard, 486 So.2d at 111.

Defendant argues that "some evidence" was introduced that established that defendant committed the crime in sudden passion or heat of blood. In reviewing this contention, we must determine whether a rational trier of fact, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, could have found that the mitigatory factors were not established by a preponderance of the evidence. Lombard, 486 So.2d at 111. See also Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). The defense argues the jury was aware of the marital difficulties between defendant and Mary Snyder, of Mary's extramarital affair and instances of domestic abuse as a result of those affairs. Furthermore, the jury heard evidence that defendant wanted a reconciliation with Mary and that she was open to such a possibility. Finally, the jury was aware that defendant had paged Mary continuously before the murder in an attempt to contact her. The defense maintains that defendant's discovery of his wife on a late date with the victim, after she had made reconciliation plans with defendant, sufficed to deprive him of his selfcontrol and cool reflection.

Although "some evidence" presented at trial supported a conclusion that the victim and defendant's wife were on a date, there was no evidence presented to support a determination that the two were involved in any type of sexual activity when defendant came upon them. Additionally, defendant's conflicting accounts of the incident make it difficult to determine his true motivation for the act. Defendant told police one version of the events and defense doctors yet another. The conflicting accounts given by defendant after the murder do not constitute affirmative, substantive evidence of his guilt, State v. Savoy, 418 So.2d 547 (La.1982), but they undoubtedly undercut the reasonableness of the principal defense theory of manslaughter.

The State theorized that defendant was a remorseless killer who repeatedly stabbed his wife and the victim then fled the scene, disposed of the murder weapon and created a flimsy suicide theory when he decided to turn himself in to the police. The prosecution presented evidence which established beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of first degree murder. Defendant's own confession and the testimony of two witnesses demonstrated that defendant waited and watched the victim and his wife and then approached them, while armed with a knife, on his own accord. According to defendant, he suggested that the three of them "talk." No talking ever occurred, however. Instead, as both Mary Snyder and Gwen Williams testified, defendant brutally stabbed his wife and Howard Wilson and then fled from the scene. Consequently, the verdict reflects the evidence admitted at trial. Jurors may rationally have concluded either that (1) defendant lied about the circumstances of the offense to excuse what the evidence otherwise overwhelmingly demonstrated, a specific intent homicide during a controversial course of action in which he also specifically intended to kill or to inflict great bodily harm on at least one other...

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207 practice notes
  • People v. Ary, No. A113020.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 20, 2009
    ...2001) 56 S.W.3d 406, 409-410; State v. Bostwick (1999) 1999 MT 237 [296 Mont. 149, 988 P.2d 765, 772-773]; State v. Snyder (La. 1999) 750 So.2d 832, 855-856; State v. McRae (2000) 139 N.C.App. 387 [533 S.E.2d 557, 560-561]; and many other decisions cited in these cases. All of this authorit......
  • State v. Odenbaugh, NO. 10-KA-0268
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • December 6, 2011
    ...aid his attorney in his defense." State v. Anderson, 06-2987 (La. 9/9/08), 996 So.2d 973, 992; State v. Snyder, 98-1078 (La. 4/14/99), 750 So.2d 832, 850. In evaluating the legal capacity of a criminal defendant, this Court, noting Bennett, supra, explained that the trial court's decision r......
  • United States v. Thompson, No. 12–31203.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 18, 2013
    ...The trial court found that Snyder had not established purposeful discrimination and denied his Batson challenge. See State v. Snyder, 750 So.2d 832, 841 (La.1999). The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, finding that the trial court had committed clear error in rejecting Snyder's Batson ......
  • Morris v. State, No. PD-0240-07.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • November 18, 2009
    ...and reasonably understands the rules, the specific charges, the penalties and the consequences of the proceedings."); State v. Snyder, 750 So.2d 832, 852 (La. 1999) ("The facts to consider in determining a defendant's ability to assist in his defense include: whether he is able to recall an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
207 cases
  • People v. Ary, No. A113020.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 20, 2009
    ...2001) 56 S.W.3d 406, 409-410; State v. Bostwick (1999) 1999 MT 237 [296 Mont. 149, 988 P.2d 765, 772-773]; State v. Snyder (La. 1999) 750 So.2d 832, 855-856; State v. McRae (2000) 139 N.C.App. 387 [533 S.E.2d 557, 560-561]; and many other decisions cited in these cases. All of this authorit......
  • State v. Odenbaugh, NO. 10-KA-0268
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • December 6, 2011
    ...aid his attorney in his defense." State v. Anderson, 06-2987 (La. 9/9/08), 996 So.2d 973, 992; State v. Snyder, 98-1078 (La. 4/14/99), 750 So.2d 832, 850. In evaluating the legal capacity of a criminal defendant, this Court, noting Bennett, supra, explained that the trial court's decision r......
  • United States v. Thompson, No. 12–31203.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 18, 2013
    ...The trial court found that Snyder had not established purposeful discrimination and denied his Batson challenge. See State v. Snyder, 750 So.2d 832, 841 (La.1999). The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, finding that the trial court had committed clear error in rejecting Snyder's Batson ......
  • Morris v. State, No. PD-0240-07.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • November 18, 2009
    ...and reasonably understands the rules, the specific charges, the penalties and the consequences of the proceedings."); State v. Snyder, 750 So.2d 832, 852 (La. 1999) ("The facts to consider in determining a defendant's ability to assist in his defense include: whether he is able to recall an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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