On November 20, 2008, undercover narcotics officer Jessica Laborde was working in Church Point, making controlled narcotics purchases. She worked with a confidential informant for identification purposes only.
Laborde was fitted with an audio device monitored by Lieutenant Kevin Trahan, Chief of Narcotics for the Acadia Parish Sheriff‘s Office, and Sergeant Jackie Boddye.
Around 6:10 p.m., Lieutenant Trahan heard Officer Laborde make contact with a male subject and purchase narcotics. The transaction was monitored but was neither recorded nor transcribed. Officer Laborde met the subject in the parking lot of the Oasis Club.
She advised Lieutenant Trahan that she had purchased three pieces of crack cocaine from “Big Jonathan.” Officer Laborde and Lieutenant Trahan then met at a secure location where she turned over the drugs to Lieutenant Trahan.
Lieutenant Trahan requested a photo lineup from the Louisiana State Police and received black and white photocopies. He submitted a photo lineup to Officer Laborde in his usual way, showing her six pictures and asking her if she can point out the person from whom she bought the narcotics.
Officer Laborde identified the photograph of Defendant on March 20, 2009, some four months after the purchase. To keep the undercover agents from being identified by the drug dealers, Lieutenant Trahan normally waits four to six months after a drug buy to arrest a suspect. During that time, he uses the undercover agents at different areas without drug dealers knowing who they are.
Officer Laborde testified that she worked in the Church Point area purchasing narcotics in undercover buys. She and her confidential informant met Lieutenant Trahan at a secure location in clear weather around dusk on Nov. 20, 2008. They traveled to the Oasis Club, with Officer Laborde driving, to purchase the drugs.
She saw someone at the Oasis when she arrived and told him, “I want $60 worth of hard,” meaning crack cocaine. The man gave her three rocks of cocaine, and she gave him $60. The hand-to-hand exchange took less than a minute.
Officer Laborde left the area, put the drugs in an evidence envelope, and gave them to Detective Trahan at the secure location. Officer Laborde was trained as an undercover agent “to identify [suspects] so [she] remember[s] facial features, the face, the shape of the face, the hair, the eyes, nose, the body size, the skin complexion.” She identified Defendant as the suspect who sold her the drugs that evening.
Officer Laborde did not know Defendant prior to the transaction. She was “very sure that it‘s him” when she chose his photograph from the lineup, and she was also certain of his identity at trial.
Under cross-examination, Officer Laborde admitted that the confidential informant was not mentioned in the report and that she had previously omitted the detail of reviewing the report prior to viewing the lineup when she spoke to defense counsel. The informant was provided to Officer Laborde by Lieutenant Trahan.
Although Officer Laborde was trained to notice details, she did not recall what the suspect wore, how much money she was given to buy the drugs, or how many transactions she made that day.
She also admitted that she had made three or four mistakes in identification before because “[t]he evidence and the description given by the victim was wrong.” She did not recall making an identification mistake in a narcotics case.
Officer Laborde confirmed that she and the confidential informant “would be burnt and [they] wouldn‘t be able to make anymore [sic] buys” if an arrest were made immediately after an undercover drug purchase. She confirmed the average time for making a narcotics purchase was “[a] minute or less.”
Citizen’s motion to disclose the informant’s identity and to suppress the lineup results was denied y Everett.
Citizern was convicted of distribution and setencced to life as a mulitple offender.
“In this case, the facts show that the confidential informant was a bystander who did no more than point out Defendant to Officer Laborde. He did not take part in the transaction. The public‘s interest in protecting the identity of the informant outweighs
Defendant‘s right to prepare his defense.”
“Further, we find that Defendant‘s ‘mere speculation’ that the informant would help his case is not sufficient to show the specific need required for disclosure of a confidential informant‘s identity,” the court ruled.
The appellate judges also found the lineup was not suggestive “as correctly ruled by the trial judge.”
Citizen argued in his appeal that he should not have been sentenced as a multiple felon with at least three convictions because the latest conviction was invalid.
The appellate bench ruled otherwise and Citizen’s life imprisonment stands.