Client's Wrongful Conviction and Sentence Vacated and New Trial Ordered in City of Natchitoches v. Travis Heinze
I am attaching the short, unanimous opinion from the Third Circuit Court of Appeal that I recently received in the case of City of Natchitoches v. Travis Heinze. In a 3-0 appellate opinion, I achieved a reversal of a client's wrongful conviction and sentence. A new trial has been ordered.
This case involves only a misdemeanor, but it has been very interesting to work on my end. In this case, I was hired at the appellate stage to represent a guy who was forced to represent himself all the way to, and including, trial WITHOUT counsel. This guy was a homeless, honorably discharged military veteran. He was arrested for Resisting an Officer under La. R.S. 14:108, which statutorily carries possible jail time and, therefore, triggers the right to counsel at each stage of the proceedings. The arrest location was in a library. He was arrested for not providing his name when three officers demanded it from him. These officers were called to the scene because of a "concerned" librarian who called a non-emergency police line. The crux of the case revolved around whether the seizure of Mr. Heinze's person was lawful. If not, Mr. Heinze had no legal duty to provide his name even if demanded. Officers claimed they had reasonable, articulable suspicion. My evaluation of the facts indicates that they de facto arrested him. Regardless of the seizure type, no evidence of any criminal activity being afoot was ever observed or uncovered. Here is a YouTube video that garnered over 274,000 views that briefly discusses the case: Cops and Judge Fail at Freedom--Travis Heinze Sentenced to 30 Days.
The judge thought the seizure was lawful, but Mr. Heinze contended otherwise. After his conviction and jail time of thirty days and $411 fine, concerned citizens got online and raised money through GoFundMe. They then reached out and hired me to handle his case at the post-trial stage. Even though I prevailed on the denial-of-counsel issue with the court of appeal, the Third Circuit ruled against us on the sufficiency-of-the-evidence issue. They pretermitted on the other two Assignments of Error. I had four total Assignments of Error. I am contesting the Third Circuit ruling on the sufficiency-of-the-evidence issue before the Louisiana Supreme Court (LASC). I filed a 735-page supervisory writ application (includes appendices) with the LASC on 02/09/2023 and will be awaiting an opinion.
Regardless of whether I win on the sufficiency-of-the-evidence issue and get an acquittal on that ground, the denial of counsel was unconscionable in this case. There will be a retrial due to the conviction being vacated unless the City decides to drop the case. At this time, Travis Heinze is legally innocent since his wrongful conviction has been vacated. Even after all of these years, not every court is following the dictates of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), which requires that indigent defendants be appointed counsel. Liberty must be vigorously defended at all times, or it will become a meaningless word.
I am attaching a copy of the Third Circuit Court of Appeal ruling below. For any reader who wants to dig deeper into this case, my client has logged numerous YouTube videos discussing it since the beginning: Video Playlist in City of Natchitoches v. Travis Heinze.
DISCLAIMER: Each legal case is unique and must be evaluated based on its own facts and circumstances. The result described in this case in no way implies that the same or similar result as occurred in this case might arise in your case or someone else's case. Additionally, any case result depends on an infinite number of variables. As a result, it is impossible to predict any legal case outcome even if the facts are known in advance since no one can divine the future.