Louisiana v. RicardAnnotate this Case
Defendant Robert Ricard, Jr. was indicted on two counts of the aggravated rape of his niece, K.M., then aged 12. Defendant regularly babysat K.M. and her siblings in exchange for lodging in the home of his sister’s family. At trial, defendant’s younger sister (who was not the mother of K.M.), age 25, testified that defendant had raped her several times when she was 10 years old but that she did not reveal the abuse to her older sister, K.M.’s mother, until she heard the allegations that defendant raped K.M. The jury acquitted defendant of one count of aggravated rape, and found him guilty of the lesser offense of molestation of a juvenile, in response to the second count of aggravated rape. The charged offenses carried a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole eligibility. The jury was instructed that 10 of 12 jurors must agree to reach a verdict. Upon the jury’s return to the courtroom, however, the judge misspoke and asked whether nine jurors concurred in the responsive verdict, but the jury was not polled. Despite being instructed that sentencing is not the function of the jury but rather is the duty and responsibility of the judge, the jury was also informed of the sentencing range for each lesser responsive crime. Unfortunately, the court misinformed the jury that the sentencing range for molestation of a juvenile is five to 20 years imprisonment, when in fact the correct sentence for that crime is much greater because of the victim's age. Defendant did not object to the jury instructions and did not bring the error to the district court’s attention until sentencing when the State objected to the leniency of the 20-year sentence that the court initially imposed. The State subsequently filed a habitual offender bill of information alleging that defendant was a third-felony habitual offender. After negotiations, however, defendant accepted the State’s offer to waive the mandatory minimum sentence of 66 years. The court of appeal affirmed the conviction, habitual offender adjudication, and sentence. Defendant’s timely application for post-conviction relief was denied by the district court. Finding no reversible error, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed denial of relief on collateral review.