724 S.W.2d 494 (Mo. 1987), 68230, State v. Grubbs

Docket Nº68230.
Citation724 S.W.2d 494
Party NameSTATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Ricky Lee GRUBBS, Defendant-Appellant.
Case DateFebruary 17, 1987
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri

Page 494

724 S.W.2d 494 (Mo. 1987)

STATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent,

v.

Ricky Lee GRUBBS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 68230.

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc.

February 17, 1987

Rehearing Denied March 17, 1987.

Page 495

Janet M. Thompson, Columbia, for defendant-appellant.

William L. Webster, Atty. Gen., John M. Morris, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for plaintiff-respondent.

HIGGINS, Chief Justice.

Ricky Lee Grubbs was convicted by a jury of capital murder, section 565.001, RSMo 1978 (repealed effective 10-1-84), and sentenced to death, section 565.032, RSMo Cum.Supp.1984. Judgment was rendered accordingly.

Appellant charges the trial court erred: in failing to strike for cause venireman Robert Hooper; in failing to declare a mistrial sua sponte for a statement made in the prosecutor's closing argument; in overruling defendant's motion for directed verdict because there was no evidence of premeditation or deliberation; in failing to declare a mistrial sua sponte when the State on cross-examination elicited information from two defense witnesses in violation of the mandatory statutory prohibition against the disclosure of juvenile records; and in overruling defendant's objection to the State's cross-examination of defendant's aunt and sister utilizing information contained in the report of a psychiatric examination taken pursuant to chapter 552, RSMo. He charges further: that the trial court should not have permitted the State's disclosure of a substantial history of serious assaultive criminal convictions by defendant because there was insufficient evidence of such; that the trial court should not have permitted the jury instructions to set forth certain aggravating circumstances to the crime which defendant believed were unsupported by the evidence; that the sheriff should not have been allowed to testify that a statement was taken from defendant's brother, Randy Grubbs, because the testimony constituted inadmissible hearsay; and, that the imposition of the death penalty by the jury was excessive and disproportionate to punishment imposed in similar cases. Affirmed.

The evidence showed that the victim, Jerry Russell Thornton, lived in a trailer in the town of Miner in Scott County, Missouri. On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 15, 1984, Ricky Lee Grubbs and his brother, Randy Grubbs, went to Thornton's trailer. Ricky Grubbs was acquainted with Thornton, having been at his trailer once before; Randy Grubbs had previously worked for Thornton. Both brothers wore gloves while in the trailer. When they left the trailer Thornton was dead. When the body was discovered, its hands and feet were found bound with neckties. The victim had suffered massive injuries to his upper torso, including thirteen broken ribs and a cracked sternum; a laceration of the liver and damage to the small intestine; abrasions and lacerations on the face; a broken nose and a brain hemorrhage. An expert witness testified that the victim was alive when the trauma was inflicted to his abdomen.

Page 496

Defendant testified that he and his brother had been drinking when they went to the trailer. Although they entered the trailer with Thornton's permission, Thornton, who had been drinking heavily, told defendant he did not like him and wanted him to leave. Defendant stated that when the victim came toward him he became scared and struck the victim repeatedly. After Thornton had fallen to the floor, defendant and Randy Grubbs "hog-tied" Thornton with neckties. Defendant stated that he cut Thornton's throat but did not know where he obtained the knife. The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy testified that Thornton died after his lungs filled with fluid from shock.

Approximately thirty dollars and some food stamps were taken from the victim's trailer. The next day defendant and his brother returned to the trailer in order to set it afire and destroy the evidence. Late that evening, the fire department was summoned to put out the fire and Thornton's body was discovered.

I.

Appellant argues that the court should have sustained his motion to strike venireman Robert Hooper and the failure to do so violated his constitutional right to an impartial jury. At voir dire, Hooper was asked by defense counsel, Kevin Curran, whether he believed that the appropriate punishment for capital murder was death; he responded affirmatively. Counsel moved to strike Hooper for cause and the motion was denied. The venireman was later removed by peremptory strike.

The relevant examination of venireman Hooper follows:

MR. CURRAN: Does anyone feel that a premeditated killing, someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of capital murder, premeditated, intentional killing, that the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment?

* * *

* * *

MR. CURRAN: Okay, thank you. Were there any other hands on that row? Is there anyone who feel that they would just--they're just sure of automatically imposing it, they would more likely than not impose the death penalty? You're Mr. Hooper, correct?

VENIREPERSON HOOPER: Right.

MR. CURRAN: What's your position? Maybe this is a better way of doing it. What's your position?

VENIREPERSON HOOPER: Capital murder punishment starts with death and it should be given reasons to me to consider the lesser sentence.

Later in the examination Mr. Hooper expressed his intention to follow the directions of the court.

MR. CURRAN: Okay, well, you've heard if you get to the point where you convict Mr. Grubbs of capital murder, you're going to have the two punishments in front of you; right?

VENIREPERSON HOOPER: Right.

MR. CURRAN: With regard to those punishments, what are you going to do?

VENIREPERSON HOOPER: I would consider them both.

MR. CURRAN: All right. Are you saying to me, though, that you're more likely to give the death penalty?

VENIREPERSON HOOPER: Right.

MR. CURRAN: Unless something's shown to you to not give it, would that be right? Somebody would have to prove to you a reason not to give it?

VENIREPERSON HOOPER: Right

MR. CURRAN: Would that be right?

VENIREPERSON HOOPER: Right.

MR. CURRAN: Now, if the Court's instruction's contrary to your feeling the way it should be, what are you going to do?

VENIREPERSON HOOPER: I have to go the way the Court tells me to do it.

The State contends that the court did not err in denying the motion to strike because Hooper stated that he was able to follow the instructions of the court relating to punishment. The State asserts that defense counsel put the question in a confusing and misleading manner when he asked the panel for personal feelings whether life was an "appropriate" punishment for capital

Page 497

murder or whether they would personally consider one punishment over the other.

In State v. Smith, 649 S.W.2d 417 (Mo. banc 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 908, 104 S.Ct. 262, 78 L.Ed.2d 246 (1983), the venireman was presented with a similar situation. In that case venireman Kraft was asked whether he thought "the death penalty ought to be automatic in a case of capital murder; so that if someone is convicted of the crime of capital murder the only punishment available ought to be capital punishment or death in the gas chamber." Id. at 424. He was further asked "[w]ould it be your statement, then, Mr. Kraft, that if you deliberated on the jury and if you found Jerry Smith guilty of Capital...

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35 practice notes
  • 736 S.W.2d 392 (Mo. 1987), 67941, State v. Schneider
    • United States
    • Missouri United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 15 Septiembre 1987
    ...we note the following as representative of those quite similar: State v. Lingar, 726 S.W.2d 728 (Mo. banc 1987); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494 (Mo. banc 1987); State v. Laws, 661 S.W.2d 526 (Mo. banc 1983); and State v. Newlon, 627 S.W.2d 606 (Mo. banc 1982). The record reflects defendant......
  • 814 S.W.2d 593 (Mo. 1991), 71694, State v. Davis
    • United States
    • Missouri United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 23 Julio 1991
    ...State v. Pollard, 735 S.W.2d 345 (Mo. banc 1987), cert. denied 484 U.S. 1020, 108 S.Ct. 733, 98 L.Ed.2d 682 (1988); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494 (Mo. banc 1987), cert. denied 482 U.S. 931, 107 S.Ct. 3220, 96 L.Ed.2d 707 (1987); State v. Bannister, 680 S.W.2d 141 (Mo. banc 1984), cert. de......
  • 772 S.W.2d 674 (Mo.App. W.D. 1989), WD 40357, State v. Leisure
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 18 Abril 1989
    ...court's instruction concerning the state's burden of proof. State v. Griffin, 756 S.W.2d 475, 481 (Mo.1988) (en banc); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494, 497 (Mo.1987) (en banc). The trial judge may properly refuse to remove a juror who has indicated that he will yield his personal opinion to......
  • 851 S.W.2d 56 (Mo.App. E.D. 1993), 60731, State v. Crews
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 6 Abril 1993
    ...required for a conviction may all be inferred from and established by the circumstances surrounding the homicide." State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494, 498 (Mo. banc 1987), cert. denied, 482 U.S. 931, 107 S.Ct. 3220, 96 L.Ed.2d 707 (1987); See also, Feltrop, 803 S.W.2d at 11-12[23, 24]. De......
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34 cases
  • 736 S.W.2d 392 (Mo. 1987), 67941, State v. Schneider
    • United States
    • Missouri United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 15 Septiembre 1987
    ...we note the following as representative of those quite similar: State v. Lingar, 726 S.W.2d 728 (Mo. banc 1987); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494 (Mo. banc 1987); State v. Laws, 661 S.W.2d 526 (Mo. banc 1983); and State v. Newlon, 627 S.W.2d 606 (Mo. banc 1982). The record reflects defendant......
  • 814 S.W.2d 593 (Mo. 1991), 71694, State v. Davis
    • United States
    • Missouri United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 23 Julio 1991
    ...State v. Pollard, 735 S.W.2d 345 (Mo. banc 1987), cert. denied 484 U.S. 1020, 108 S.Ct. 733, 98 L.Ed.2d 682 (1988); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494 (Mo. banc 1987), cert. denied 482 U.S. 931, 107 S.Ct. 3220, 96 L.Ed.2d 707 (1987); State v. Bannister, 680 S.W.2d 141 (Mo. banc 1984), cert. de......
  • 772 S.W.2d 674 (Mo.App. W.D. 1989), WD 40357, State v. Leisure
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 18 Abril 1989
    ...court's instruction concerning the state's burden of proof. State v. Griffin, 756 S.W.2d 475, 481 (Mo.1988) (en banc); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494, 497 (Mo.1987) (en banc). The trial judge may properly refuse to remove a juror who has indicated that he will yield his personal opinion to......
  • 851 S.W.2d 56 (Mo.App. E.D. 1993), 60731, State v. Crews
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 6 Abril 1993
    ...required for a conviction may all be inferred from and established by the circumstances surrounding the homicide." State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494, 498 (Mo. banc 1987), cert. denied, 482 U.S. 931, 107 S.Ct. 3220, 96 L.Ed.2d 707 (1987); See also, Feltrop, 803 S.W.2d at 11-12[23, 24]. De......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Representing death-sentence appellants.
    • United States
    • Journal of Appellate Practice and Process Vol. 5 Nbr. 2, September 2003
    • 22 Septiembre 2003
    ...(Blackmar, J., concurring and dissenting); State v. Wilkins, 736 S.W.2d 409, 417 (Mo. 1987) (Blackmar, J., dissenting); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494, 501 (Mo. 1987) (Blackmar, J., concurring); State v. Lashley, 667 S.W.2d 712, 717 (Mo. 1984) (Blackmar, J., concurring and dissenting); Sta......