Louisiana vs. Bourg
Opinion Date: December 11, 2019
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
In 2014, defendant David Bourg fatally shot Michael Pitre in the head while they were sitting in defendant's truck parked outside Pitre's mother's home in Oberlin, Louisiana. Defendant and the victim had been drinking, and defendant claimed at trial that his weapon discharged accidentally while he was defending himself against the victim. A jury found defendant guilty of manslaughter in response to the charge of second degree murder. The district court granted defendant’s motion for new trial pursuant to La.C.Cr.P. art. 851(B)(1). In doing so, the district court emphasized its evaluation of defendant’s testimony in conjunction with the forensic evidence. On direct review, the court of appeal found that the State had failed to file a motion for imposition of a sentence under the enhancement provision of La.C.Cr.P. art. 893.3, as required by La.C.Cr.P. art. 893.1. Therefore, the court of appeal vacated the sentence. The court of appeal also declined to revisit its earlier determination that the district court erred in granting the motion for new trial. Applying the law-of-the-case doctrine, the court of appeal found no clear error in its prior ruling and affirmed the conviction. The Louisiana Supreme Court did not find as the appellate court did, that the district court failed to weigh the evidence as a "thirteenth juror." "There is no confusion between factual and legal sufficiency that can fairly be discerned from this record." Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted defendant’s application to reverse the court of appeal’s affirmance of the conviction, reinstated the district court’s ruling that granted defendant a new trial pursuant to La.C.Cr.P. art. 851(B)(1), and remanded to the district court for further proceedings.
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