A Calhoun man convicted of armed robbery and illegal possession of a stolen firearm must serve 40 years in prison at hard labor without benefits, a state appeal court recently ruled.

Arijoray Lavon Copeland, of Calhoun, appealed the sentence imposed on him by Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wendell Manning in 2017 to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport.

Copeland was found guilty of the charges after a jury trial. His conviction stemmed from a September 2016 complaint of armed robbery at Motel 6 on Constitution Drive in West Monroe. Though Copeland fled the motel, a jogger at Restoration Park led authorities to Copeland’s automobile.

At trial, the victim, Kushana Walton, said she was working at the motel when a man holding a gun jumped over the counter, pointed the gun at her, and demanded she open the cash drawer. After placing the gun against her head, the robber took $357 and fled, she said.

A significant aspect of Copeland’s appeal concerned whether the evidence at trial sufficiently connected him to the robbery at the motel.

The robbery was captured on video surveillance. Video surveillance footage as well as a clerk’s description showed the suspect wore a dark hoodie, a camo-type mask, black pants, black and white gloves, and gray and white tennis shoes.

In his appeal, Copeland argued that a jury could have found him guilty of armed robbery beyond a reasonable doubt. He claimed there was no evidence that showed he was at Motel 6 or near the motel on the date of the armed robbery. Copeland pointed out that Walton, the motel clerk, was unable to identify him as the robber.

“In this case, a review of the record reveals that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to support a jury finding Copeland guilty of armed robbery beyond a reasonable doubt,” stated the Second Circuit opinion. “The jury, as fact finder, weighed the credibility of the state’s witnesses and the verdict suggests that they found them credible.”

Second Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Shonda Stone wrote the Sept. 25 opinion on behalf of a three judge panel also including Second Circuit judges Jeanette Garrett and Jeff Cox.

The Second Circuit noted that the white Ford Expedition was associated with the robbery because the exact amount of money stolen from the motel was found inside the Expedition.

“Additionally, clothing which matched that worn by the robber, a cell phone that tracked Copeland’s movement from his home to the area of Motel 6, and a gun matching the one used in the robbery were also found,” stated the Second Circuit opinion. “The jury was able to watch the video of the robbery and compare physical features of the robber to those of Copeland, who was present in the courtroom.”

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