Life sentence upheld for DeRidder man convicted of raping elderly woman
Published 5:32 am Saturday, November 12, 2022
The conviction and life sentence for a DeRidder man convicted of breaking into a 70-year-old woman’s home and raping her in 2019 has been upheld by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ezra Coutee, 46, was unanimously found guilty of first-degree rape and home invasion on Feb. 3 of this year after breaking into the woman’s DeRidder home on April 20, 2019, threatening her and then raping her.
Immediately following the conviction, Coutee filed a motion for a new trial which was subsequently denied.
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On Feb. 10, he was sentenced by Judge C. Kerry Anderson to life in prison at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence for the first-degree rape conviction, and six years at hard labor for the unauthorized entry offense with sentences to run concurrently.
This fall, Coutee filed an appeal to the 3rd Circuit Court claiming the state failed to sufficiently prove his guilt, challenging evidence, and arguing his life sentence was unconstitutional. The appellate court disagreed with all arguments.
In an opinion written by Judge Van H. Kyzar, the court found the evidence “more than sufficient” to prove all elements of each of the offenses beyond a reasonable doubt.
“While there was much evidence to support the testimony of (the victim), it is clear under our law that the testimony of a sexual assault victim alone can be sufficient to support a guilty verdict,” the opinion read.
Furthermore, the court opined the life sentence handed down for the first-degree rape conviction is state-mandated, and therefore affirmed. The court also noted Coutee did not object to the sentence orally in court and did not file a timely motion for reconsideration or a downward departure from the sentence.
“Defendant’s allegation of error as to this sentence is without merit,” the court ruled.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Richard Morton with the Beauregard Parish District Attorney’s Office.
This week, District Attorney James Lestage said he was again grateful to the jurors who convicted Coutee earlier this year, and appreciated the erd Circuit Court for its “fair legal review of this case.” He also thanked the deputies with the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office for their work investigating what he described as a “horrific case.”
“This office will always do our best to hold violent offenders, particularly those who prey upon the most vulnerable among us such as children and senior citizens, fully accountable under the law and to seek maximum sentences where appropriate. This case is certainly one where the maximum sentence is the right measure of justice,” Lestage said.