The Third Circuit Court of Appeal has vacated and set aside her sentence, ruling on an appeal by the state that Judge Alonzo Harris erred in deviating from the state sentencing guideline for the charge.
According to La. Revised Statute 14:28.1 the penalty for solicitation for murder "shall be imprisonment at hard labor for not less than five nor more than 20 years."
Referring to Fournerat, the appeal judges said the trial court "erred in suspending part of the sentences and placing her on probation, which is not permitted where the offense is a crime of violence."
Harris sentenced Fournerat in August 2010 to 10 years on each of two charges, running concurrently, with six years suspended; of the four remaining, one was to be served in the parish jail, with credit for time served, and completed before the house arrest began. Her house arrest began in December 2010.
Fournerat was arrested in late October 2009 after she solicited an undercover officer to kill Logan Fournerat and Lori Beth Johnson. The solicitation was the penultimate act in a chain of acts by her against the pair.
Her intended victims agreed to her sentence, provided certain, still undisclosed conditions were met.
At sentencing, Harris said, "The suspension mandate is not applicable and the court will deviate." He noted Fournerat is a first- time felon "who is truly remorseful for her actions and the possibility of it happening again is minimal."
The state did not voice an opinion one way or the other regarding what the sentence should be prior to the judge's decision. That was the state's agreement with the defense when Fournerat changed her plea.
However, prosecutors were clearly surprised by the suspended sentence and its provisions and gave Harris notice at the time that the state would appeal.
The 3rd Circuit noted, "Neither the District Attorney or the Department of Corrections recommended the defendant serve any portion of her sentence on home incarceration, for which she is likewise ineligible."
Fournerat's lawyers asserted the court may deviate downwards from the stipulated sentence on grounds "that a punishment is unconstitutionally excessive upon showing of clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is a victim of the Legislature's failure to assign sentences that are meaningfully tailored to the culpability of the offender."
Harris noted Fournerat's "exemplary" service as an elementary teacher, the absence of a prior criminal record and the voluntary requests by both victims for the release when affirming his sentence.