Doyle v. State, 27146

CourtSupreme Court of Nevada
Citation921 P.2d 901,112 Nev. 879
Docket NumberNo. 27146,27146
PartiesAnthony DOYLE, Appellant, v. The STATE of Nevada, Respondent.
Decision Date22 July 1996

David M. Schieck, Las Vegas, Scott L. Bindrup, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

Frankie Sue Del Papa, Attorney General, Carson City, Stewart L. Bell, District Attorney, Chris Owens, Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, Las Vegas, for Respondent.


SPRINGER, Associate Justice.

On June 1, 1994, Anthony Doyle, in association with two co-defendants, was charged with one count each of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnaping, and sexual assault. Doyle pleaded not guilty to all charges. The State filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Doyle was bound over for trial on all counts, and, commencing January 3, 1995, the matter proceeded to jury trial. The jury found Doyle guilty of one count each of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree kidnaping, and sexual assault. The jury found several aggravating circumstances and imposed a sentence of death. In addition, the district court sentenced Doyle to consecutive life terms for first-degree kidnaping and sexual assault, respectively, and a concurrent six-year term of imprisonment for conspiracy to commit murder.

Doyle appealed, arguing that (1) the State violated his right to equal protection of the laws by using its peremptory challenges to eliminate black venirepersons from the jury pool; (2) there was insufficient evidence adduced at trial to support his convictions for first-degree kidnaping, conspiracy to commit murder and sexual assault; (3) the district court erred in failing to define "deliberate" as a separate, distinct element of first-degree murder; and (4) the district court erred in its instruction to the jury regarding "implied malice."


On January 16, 1994, the nude body of twenty-year-old Ebony Mason was discovered some twenty-five feet off the roadway in an unimproved desert area of Clark County, Nevada. The woman's body was found lying face down with hands extended overhead to a point on the ground where it appeared some digging had occurred. A four-inch twig protruded from the victim's rectum. Three distinct types of footwear impressions were observed in the area, none of which matched the tread design of a pair of women's athletic shoes located on the nearby dirt road. Also observed in the area was a hole containing a broken condom, a condom tip, an open but empty condom package, and two small packages of taco sauce.

In the opinion of the medical examiner, Mason died from asphyxia due to strangulation or blunt trauma to the head. The autopsy revealed nine broken ribs, multiple areas of external bruising, contusions, lacerations, abrasions, and a ligature mark on the anterior surface of the neck. Approximately 200 milliliters of fluid blood was found in Mason's chest cavity. Mason's back and chest bore a number of patterned contusions consistent with footwear impressions found at the crime scene. Finally, the autopsy revealed severe laceration of the head and subarachnoid hemorrhage (a thin layer of blood surrounding the brain) indicating blunt force trauma to Michael Smith, who had been arrested in an unrelated matter, provided the police with the names of those he believed were responsible for the murder. Smith recounted statements made by Doyle regarding a killing to which Doyle claimed to have been a party. According to Smith, he and Doyle had overheard a girl tell some other people about her friend having been killed. At that time, Doyle commented to Smith that "we had to take someone out." Doyle further stated that he, Darrin Anderson, Shawn Atkins, and "Bubba" Atkins were at Anderson's house with a girl and that each had sex with the girl. While they were taking the girl home, she told the men that she was going to report them for rape and jumped from the truck in which they were riding. They were eventually able to coax the girl back into the truck and decided to kill her rather than face possible rape charges. The girl was apparently so inebriated or under the influence of drugs that she was oblivious to the direction the men were travelling. When they arrived at a remote area, the girl was pulled from the truck and choked. Unsuccessful in their attempt to choke her to death, the men then beat the girl. Finally, Doyle told Smith, two of the men held the girl down while the other repeatedly dropped a brick on her face until she died.

the skull. Laboratory analysis revealed traces of the drug PCP in Mason's system.

With information obtained from Smith, the police contacted Darrin Anderson, the owner of a small, yellow pickup truck. According to Anderson, on the night of January 15, 1994, he was present with Doyle at the home of Shawn and "Bubba" Atkins. After arriving, the four left the Atkins residence to attend a nearby party. Anderson returned alone to the Atkins residence a short time later, and the other three returned thereafter in the company of Ebony Mason, who appeared inebriated or under the influence of drugs. Later, Mason asked for a ride home, and Anderson suggested that Doyle use Anderson's truck. At approximately 10:30 p.m., Doyle left with Mason and the Atkins brothers in Anderson's truck. Anderson awoke the next morning to find Doyle and the Atkins brothers asleep at the Atkins residence. When police later searched Anderson's truck, they found a pair of blood-stained white socks between the seats.

Further information led investigators to contact Mark Wattley, another of Doyle's friends. Wattley was present during a conversation where Doyle made statements describing how Shawn Atkins was unable to subdue Mason and how "Bubba" Atkins intervened "and hit her with a head punch and dropped her." Thereafter, Doyle told Wattley that he (Doyle) began kicking Mason in the head. Eventually, one of the men grabbed a brick or rock and hit the girl in the head. At one point in the conversation, Doyle demonstrated how he (Doyle) jumped in the air and caused both of his feet to come down on Mason during the beating.

The police investigation eventually led to the execution of a search warrant at Doyle's residence. During the search, the police impounded a pair of Adidas athletic shoes with soles that apparently matched treadwear impressions found at the crime scene and on Mason's body. Doyle was then placed under arrest. After being advised of his Miranda rights, Doyle provided a statement to police explaining that he had been present when Mason was killed but that he did not participate in the killing. Later analysis of the impounded shoes confirmed that the treadwear impressions were consistent with the footwear impressions retrieved from the scene of the crime and observed upon Mason's body.

At trial, Doyle testified that on the night of January 15, 1994, "Bubba" Atkins brought Mason to the Atkins residence. Some time after her arrival, Mason asked for a ride downtown or home. Anderson then instructed Doyle to take Anderson's truck and take Mason home. Doyle testified that Mason wanted to engage in sex with him and the Atkins brothers, so all four drove to Doyle's apartment where each of the men had sex with Mason. Thereafter, the four left Doyle's apartment in Anderson's truck. Mason was riding in the back of the truck, and at some point, the truck stopped at a red light, and Mason jumped out of the truck. The Atkins brothers were eventually able to get Mason back in the truck, and the four Doyle further testified that, once stopped, Shawn Atkins hit Mason in the face and a fight ensued. When it appeared that Shawn Atkins was unable to subdue Mason, "Bubba" Atkins came to his aid. Doyle denied any participation in the beating or killing, stating that he had watched from the back of the truck as Shawn and "Bubba" Atkins beat and kicked the girl. Later, while he and Shawn Atkins attempted to push start the truck, Doyle testified that he saw "Bubba" Atkins standing over Mason with a brick raised overhead. "Bubba" Atkins later discarded the brick in a garbage can. According to Doyle, "Bubba" Atkins was wearing the athletic shoes impounded by the police from Doyle's apartment.

proceeded to a deserted area outside Las Vegas.


The Batson challenge.

Doyle, citing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), claims that the State improperly used its peremptory challenges to remove black venirepersons from the jury pool in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws. The State contends that the reasons given for excluding the jurors were race neutral and did not constitute purposeful discrimination.

Batson and its progeny set forth a three-step process for evaluating race-based objections to peremptory challenges: First, the opponent of a peremptory challenge must make a prima facie showing of racial discrimination; second, the burden of production then shifts to the proponent of the strike to come forward with a race-neutral explanation; third, if a race-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must decide whether the opponent of the strike has proved that the proffered race-neutral explanation is merely a pretext for purposeful racial discrimination. Purkett v. Elem, --- U.S. ----, ----, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 1770-71, 131 L.Ed.2d 834 (1995); see also Batson, 476 U.S. at 91-99, 106 S.Ct. at 1720-1725.

1. Prima facie showing.

To establish a prima facie case, the defendant first must show that he is a member of a cognizable racial group and that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges to remove from the venire members of the defendant's race. Batson, 476 U.S. at 96, 106 S.Ct. at 1722-23. The trial court must then determine if an examination of all the relevant circumstances raises an inference that the prosecutor excluded venirepersons from the petit jury on account of their race. Id. For example, "a 'pattern' of strikes against black jurors ...

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