Evans v. State, 26679

Citation112 Nev. 1172, 926 P.2d 265
Case DateOctober 22, 1996
CourtSupreme Court of Nevada

Page 265

926 P.2d 265
112 Nev. 1172
Vernell Ray EVANS, Jr., Appellant,
The STATE of Nevada, Respondent.
No. 26679.
Supreme Court of Nevada.
Oct. 22, 1996.
Rehearing Denied Dec. 13, 1996.

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[112 Nev. 1173] Patricia Erickson, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

Frankie Sue Del Papa, Attorney General, Carson City; Stewart Bell, District Attorney and James Tufteland, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, Las Vegas, for Respondent.

112 Nev. 1179] OPINION

STEFFEN, Chief Justice:

A jury convicted Vernell Ray Evans (Evans) of burglary and four counts of first-degree murder. After a penalty hearing, the jury found that the mitigating circumstances did not outweigh the aggravating circumstances and imposed four death sentences. The district judge entered a consecutive ten-year term for the burglary conviction. Evans raises numerous issues on appeal.


At approximately 1:00 a.m. on May 1, 1992, officers Thomas Carpenter and Phil Miller of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), responded to a four-year-old child's report that someone had been shot in the bathroom of a Wardelle Street apartment. The residents of that apartment (Apartment D), included Samantha Scotti (Samantha), her eighteen-month-old son Francois, and Alicia Ventura (Alicia) along with her four-year-old daughter Adriana and eight-month-old daughter Ashley.

Upon arrival, the two officers heard music playing inside the apartment and noticed that the front door was open. When the officers announced their presence and no one responded, they looked inside the apartment. The officers saw a leg extending from beneath bedcovers in the room down a hallway and a small child sitting on the floor, crying. After observing two lifeless bodies in the front room they decided to search the apartment for survivors.

The two officers discovered four victims in the apartment--all prey to fatal gunshot wounds. Jermaine Woods (Jermaine) lay on his stomach on the floor amidst a large pool of blood around his head. He had been shot once in the back of the head. They found the second victim, Steven Walker (Steven), slumped over on the couch with a pool of blood beside his head and down the side of his body. 1 He had been shot once in the head, just above his left [112 Nev. 1180] eyebrow. Samantha was found in the bathtub. She had been shot approximately eight times, with entry wounds to her head, neck, face, left shoulder, right breast, left forearm and hand, right hand and upper arm. The gunshot wound to her left hand caused severe damage to all four fingers and the gunshot wound to her right hand tore up the palm. Her death was caused by either the shot to the face or the one to the left shoulder, which punctured her left lung. There were also indications of a possible blunt force injury to Samantha's head. They found the fourth victim, Lisa Boyer (Lisa), in bed with a bloody pillow on her chest. She succumbed to three gunshot wounds: one to the right upper chest area, and two to her left arm, with the bullets entering her left breast.

The police officers also observed an open window above the bed where Lisa lay and a screen on the ground below the window. There was, however, no evidence of a forced entry. Every door in the apartment was open. A plant had been pulled out of its pot, and the cover to the reservoir of the toilet was out of place. A purse on the bathroom

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counter contained a receipt from Lucky's market with the time and date stamped at 11:42 p.m., April 30, 1992. Investigators relied on this receipt to narrow the times of death.

Laboratory tests revealed that the projectile recovered from Jermaine's head was consistent with bullets fired from a .38 special or a .357 magnum, as was the projectile recovered from Steven's head. The deformed projectile removed from Steven's body prevented a positive match with the gun that was used to kill Jermaine.

One projectile found in Samantha's body was consistent with a 9-millimeter weapon; whereas, two projectiles came from the same .38 special or .357 magnum used to kill Jermaine. A third projectile was also consistent with a .38 special or .357 magnum, but was too deformed to allow for a positive match to the gun used to kill Jermaine or Steven. All three projectiles fired into Lisa were consistent with the 9-millimeter used to shoot Samantha.

Identification Specialist James Sheets lifted latent fingerprints from the inside surface of one of the sliding doors to the hallway closet, from the hallway wall near the thermostat, and near a picture in the hallway. The palm print lifted from the closet door matched Evans' left palm. The other prints were matched to Everett Flowers (Evie). It is noteworthy that both Evans and Evie previously lived in that apartment. Evans lived there when Alicia moved in during March or April 1992, but moved out approximately two weeks later. Evie, Lisa's boyfriend, moved out of the apartment on the day before Easter, 1992.

[112 Nev. 1181] Four-year-old Adriana witnessed the murders and testified at trial. 2 She testified that the apartment door was unlocked and two men came into the apartment carrying guns. Adriana referred to the armed intruders as "Scary Eyes" and "Little Ray." They said "hi" to Jermaine and Steven, and then shot them. Adriana followed the men into the bathroom where they shot Samantha. The two men then went into the bedroom and shot Lisa. Adriana could not remember how many times the women were shot or which one of the men fired the shots. Adriana did not see how the men left the apartment, but sometime thereafter, Alicia, Adriana's mother, attempted to call Samantha. Adriana answered the telephone and told her mother that Samantha was dead. After the conversation, Adriana went to the apartment next door and told the neighbor that everyone had been killed.

Adriana testified that she did not know "Scary Eyes," 3 but she had seen "Little Ray" before at Samantha's. Adriana was unable to identify Evans as "Little Ray" either in court or in a lineup at the jail. Apparently, Adriana was too frightened to make a reliable identification. However, Alicia testified that Adriana usually referred to Evans as either "Little Ray" or "Uncle Ray."

Alicia, of course, had left the apartment before the murders. Although she was able to give an account of events at the apartment during the afternoon and evening hours of April 30, 1992, it is unnecessary to recount the details as they have little bearing on the evidence elicited against Evans. Suffice it to say that four men (two at a time) showed up at the apartment. Steven, who was already at the apartment, was a member of a gang that rivaled a gang to which two of the men belonged. Additionally, one of the men called Samantha a "snitch bitch" and wanted to fight her. Eventually the four men left.

Lisa also arrived at the apartment while the four men were there. She was trying to get away from her boyfriend, Evie, who had recently put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.

Between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Alicia received a telephone call. Although the caller

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did not identify himself, Alicia recognized Evans' voice. Evans said something to the effect that: "I don't know why you're living with that snitch bitch [Samantha] still. She's gonna get it some day." Alicia told Samantha about [112 Nev. 1182] the call, but she was unfazed because it wasn't the first time she had been threatened. Nevertheless, Samantha and Steven left the apartment at approximately 9:00 p.m. to pick up Jermaine and secure guns for protection.

Alicia and her infant daughter left for a friend's apartment at 10:30 p.m. so that she could do her laundry. Lisa, Adriana, Francois and two men from next door remained in the Wardelle Street apartment. When Alicia arrived at the friend's apartment at approximately 11:00 p.m., another man was also there. 4 Evie called while Alicia was at Pitchford's apartment and asked whether Lisa was over at Samantha's apartment. Alicia said she was not and immediately called Lisa at Samantha's to warn her not to answer Samantha's phone. 5

At approximately 12:00 a.m., Alicia returned a call that Samantha had made during one of her trips to the laundry room. Samantha sounded normal and asked Alicia to bring 210 rocks of cocaine back to the apartment. 6 Alicia retrieved the rock cocaine and called home at approximately 12:30 a.m. Adriana sounded nervous when she answered the telephone and said, "Uncle Ray, Little Ray came in with the guns, shot everybody, everybody's dead." Alicia didn't believe Adriana and told her that Samantha was probably sleeping. Adriana said, "No. Uncle Ray, Little Ray came in with the guns, the bad man, and shot everybody." Alicia told Adriana to take Francois and go to the apartment next door. When Alicia called back a few minutes later, no one answered, prompting Alicia to return to her apartment.

When Alicia talked to Adriana after her interview with the police, Adriana said "Uncle Ray and the bad man and Scary Eyes--Bogeyman Eyes and--came in with the real guns, with the brown clothes, and shot everybody." 7

[112 Nev. 1183] Jeffery Grice (Grice), his wife, son, and a family friend, Aaron Sledge (Sledge), lived in Apartment C, next door to the crime scene. 8 According to Grice, around 7:00 p.m. on April 30, 1992, Grice took Samantha and an African-American male to Lucky's market.

Later, at approximately 11:00 p.m. or 11:30 p.m., Grice was in his bathroom and heard what sounded like at least four gunshots. Sledge twice tried to call next door to see what was happening, but no one answered. They then heard loud music coming from Apartment D. Fifteen minutes later, Adriana was "pounding" on Grice's door. When Grice let Adriana into his apartment, she said "They're all dead. They're all dead. They came and they shot them all dead.... Uncle Ray-Ray came in, and they shot them all dead. They were wearing brown. They were dressed down in brown.......

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