The Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport recently reversed a 40-year sentence imposed by Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wendell Manning on a Bastrop man convicted of kidnapping, aggravated burglary and armed robbery.
Though the Second Circuit reversed Manning’s 40-year sentence on Jerry Lynn Peck, 69, of Bastrop, for kidnapping, the appeal court affirmed the 30-year and 99-year sentences that Manning imposed on Peck for aggravated burglary and armed robbery.
The appeal court reversed Peck’s conviction for second-degree kidnapping (as well as the 40-year sentence) because the jury’s verdict was not unanimous.
In his appeal to the Second Circuit, Peck argued that state law did not allow non-unanimous verdicts in felony cases. The jury’s verdict on the kidnapping charge was 11-1. The Second Circuit upheld Peck’s appeal, and remanded the case to Manning’s court for further proceedings.
The Second Circuit did not find Pecks’ other sentences to be constitutionally excessive.
“The defendant received the maximum sentences for the crimes he committed and now complains that he suffers from substantial health challenges,” stated the Second Circuit’s ruling. “However, his instant crimes and his alarming criminal history establish that he is one of the worst offenders and that there is an undue risk that he will commit another crime. This record clearly demonstrates that the defendant is in need of correctional treatment and that a lesser sentence would deprecate the seriousness of his crimes.”
Second Circuit Chief Judge Felicia Williams wrote the May 20 opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel also including Judges Jay McCallum and Jeff Thompson.
Peck’s conviction stemmed from a March 13, 2017 incident where a woman returned to her home in Bastrop and heard a knock at the door. The man at the door — Peck — was holding an envelope in his hand and entered her home without her consent when she opened the door.
“Once the defendant gained entry, he struck the victim in the face with a closed fist, knocking her to the floor,” stated the Second Circuit’s ruling. “He then placed his foot on her chest. The defendant pulled the victim from the floor by her arm and forced her to sit in a chair. According to the victim, the defendant ‘appeared to be angry’ and repeatedly asked her about a check she had supposedly mailed to his father. When the victim replied that she did not know him or his father, the defendant pulled out a gun, pointed it at her and demanded money from her.”
The victim ultimately told Peck to look for jewelry in her bedroom and escaped while he looked.
On March 15, 2017, Peck was apprehended in West Monroe and claimed he had pointed a BB gun at the victim, not a “real gun.”
“Additionally, the defendant stated that he was ‘dying of cancer’ and had been prescribed multiple medications,” stated the Second Circuit ruling. “He also stated that on the day of the incident, he had tried methamphetamine for the first time. According to the defendant, the drug had ‘set his brain on fire’ from the moment it entered his bloodstream.”
In his appeal, Peck claimed the sentences for aggravated burglary and armed robbery were harsh and excessive in light of his several health problems. Peck said he was confined to a wheelchair.
Prior to sentencing Peck, Manning noted that Peck had a “staggering” criminal record as a seventh-felony offender and had been sentenced to hard labor 10 other times.
“In light of the danger the defendant created by his offenses and his astounding criminal history, the sentences imposed are not so grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crimes that they shock the sense of justice, nor do these sentences appear to be the needless infliction of pain and suffering,” stated the Second Circuit ruling. “Thus, we find no abuse of the trial court’s discretion. Consequently, the defendant’s sentences are not constitutionally excessive.”