An appellate court on Wednesday denied a Lafayette rapper’s effort to overturn a 16-year sentence for provoking violence that led to an innocent bystander’s 2012 shooting death, and the man now faces an even longer sentence after prosecutors charged him under the state’s habitual offender law.
Three judges on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed 48-year-old Eric “Vicious” Johnson’s Feb. 25, 2015, conviction on a count of inciting to riot with death for provoking a fight that led to Ray Ryan’s killing at a Marigny Circle apartment complex in Duson.
The appellate court decided prosecutors proved the facts of the case beyond a reasonable doubt, upholding the jury’s decision to convict the man based on testimony from two eyewitnesses, including emotional testimony from the victim’s daughter.
Johnson — who has never been accused of wielding a weapon the night of the May 18, 2012, incident — had gone to Ryan’s apartment building with a crew in tow to fight Ryan’s neighbor. The neighbor was part of a group of Crowley men who had knocked Johnson unconscious the night before. Someone began firing during the melee, and a bullet struck Ryan in the back and killed him at the scene.
Johnson argued the state failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove his guilt, noting the state only called two of 20 eyewitnesses to the incident. Johnson said one of the witnesses, Ryan’s daughter, “displayed extreme bias and prejudice toward him.”
The shooter has never been officially identified or charged.
A Lafayette man suspected of firing the gun, Lee Hill, was questioned and released in 2012, but the grand jury that indicted Johnson declined to indict Hill, according to testimony during Johnson’s trial.
The 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in January additionally charged Johnson under the habitual offender law based on his five felony convictions over the past two decades, according to the bill of information.
In addition to his conviction in Ryan’s death, Johnson received two 1996 convictions in Calcasieu Parish, for illegal discharge of a firearm and cocaine possession; a 1998 federal conviction in Louisiana’s Western District on a count of distributing cocaine base; and a 2010 conviction in St. Mary Parish on a count of aggravated flight of an officer.
A hearing is scheduled March 16.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.