Sheakley v. State, 020520 AKCA, A-12698

Docket Nº:A-12698, A-12721
Opinion Judge:HARBISON Judge.
Party Name:RUSSELL JAMES SHEAKLEY, Appellant, v. STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee. CONRAD MARK CLAYE JR., Appellant, v. STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.
Attorney:Bradly A. Carlson, Attorney at Law, under contract with the Public Defender Agency, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant Sheakley. Marilyn J. Kamm, Attorney at Law, Anchorage, under contract with the Office of Public Advocacy, for Appellant Claye. Elizabeth T. Burke, Ass...
Judge Panel:Before: Allard, Chief Judge, Harbison, Judge, and Mannheimer, Senior Judge.
Case Date:February 05, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Alaska
 
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RUSSELL JAMES SHEAKLEY, Appellant,

v.

STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

CONRAD MARK CLAYE JR., Appellant,

v.

STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

Nos. A-12698, A-12721

Court of Appeals of Alaska

February 5, 2020

UNPUBLISHED See Alaska Appellate Rule 214(d)

Appeals in File Nos. A-12698 & A-12721 from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Trial Court Nos. 3AN-15-09417 CR, 3AN-15-09416 CR Michael D. Corey, Judge.

Bradly A. Carlson, Attorney at Law, under contract with the Public Defender Agency, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant Sheakley.

Marilyn J. Kamm, Attorney at Law, Anchorage, under contract with the Office of Public Advocacy, for Appellant Claye. Elizabeth T. Burke, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Allard, Chief Judge, Harbison, Judge, and Mannheimer, Senior Judge.[*]

MEMORANDUM OPINION

HARBISON Judge.

Russell James Sheakley and Conrad Mark Claye Jr. were convicted of second-degree robbery for attacking Kevin Wieskamp and taking beer and groceries from him.1 Sheakley was also convicted of fourth-degree assault for beating up a different victim, Leonty Fratis, shortly before the attack on Wieskamp.2

Sheakley and Claye were tried together, and they jointly raise two claims based on the conduct of that trial.

First, Sheakley and Claye argue that the trial court violated their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection when the court allowed the prosecutor to exercise a peremptory challenge of a juror over their Batson objections. For the reasons we explain in this opinion, we reject this claim and affirm the denial of Sheakley and Claye's Batson challenge.

Next, Sheakley and Claye argue that the trial court violated the hearsay rule, and also violated their Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against them, when the trial court admitted certain out-of-court statements made by Fratis, who did not testify at the trial. For the reasons we explain in this opinion, we conclude that Fratis's out-of-court statements were not "testimonial" hearsay, and therefore the admission of these statements did not violate the Confrontation Clause. On the other hand, we agree with Sheakley and Claye that Fratis's statements were inadmissible hearsay. However, we conclude that the admission of these statements did not appreciably affect the jury's verdicts, and we therefore conclude that the admission of these statements was harmless error.

In addition to their two shared claims, Sheakley and Claye each raise individual claims of error. Sheakley argues that the evidence presented at his trial was legally insufficient to support his conviction for fourth-degree assault on Fratis, while Claye argues that his sentence is excessive. For the reasons explained in this opinion, we find no merit to either of these contentions.

Factual and procedural background

On October 18, 2015, Sheakley and Claye were reportedly involved in two separate altercations. The first altercation was reported via a 911 call. The caller, Michael Teichler, reported that several men were beating up someone. Teichler described two of the men involved in the attack: one man was wearing a black jacket, brown pants, and an "Indiana Jones"-style cowboy hat, while the second man was wearing a blue sweatshirt and carried a cane. According to Teichler, both of these men were Alaska Native. The victim of this attack was later identified as Leonty Fratis.

After Teichler made the 911 call, Teichler left the area - only to see the same two men involved in a second altercation a few blocks away. According to Teichler, the two men he had previously seen were now beating up an older man who had been walking down the street carrying beer and groceries.

The victim of this second altercation was Kevin Wieskamp. According to Wieskamp, he was approached by two men who told him to drop his beer and groceries. When Wieskamp complied, one of the men, later identified as Claye, threw him to the ground and kicked him in the head and ribs. Then, as the two men left, they grabbed the groceries and beer. Wieskamp called 911.

Officer Steven Czajkowski was dispatched to the scene of the first altercation. When Czajkowski arrived, he encountered Leonty Fratis, who had a torn shirt and blood on his face. Fratis stated that someone in a cowboy hat had assaulted him, and he told Czajkowski which direction the suspect had gone, although he also told Czajkowski that he did not want to press charges. When Czajkowski went in the direction indicated by Fratis, he encountered another person in the roadway who looked like he also had been assaulted. This person was identified as Kevin Wieskamp. Wieskamp told Czajkowski that he had been assaulted, and he also mentioned a cowboy hat. He then pointed Czajkowski in the direction the men had gone.

A short while later, Czajkowski saw two men, who were later determined to be Sheakley and Claye. Czajkowski detained the two men to see whether Wieskamp could identify them as the men who had robbed him. Wieskamp identified both men. He stated that Claye was the man who had beaten him up. According to Wieskamp, Sheakley, who was wearing a cowboy hat, had also threatened him and helped Claye carry away the groceries and beer. Wieskamp later testified that he suffered significant injuries from the attack, including broken ribs.

Officer Czajkowski noticed that Claye had a bloody hand, but both Claye and Sheakley denied that they had been fighting with anyone. At one point, Sheakley led another officer, Officer Curtis Simmons, to a location where he said the beer would be, but the beer was not there.

Sheakley and Claye were charged with second-degree robbery for the attack on Wieskamp. Both men were also charged with fourth-degree assault for the earlier attack on Fratis, but the State dismissed the assault charge against Claye prior to trial.

As we have mentioned, Sheakley and Claye were tried together. Fratis did not testify at the trial. Instead, most of the evidence about the assault on Fratis came from the testimony of Michael Teichler, the man who witnessed the assault and called 911. In his 911 call, Teichler described an altercation between a large man wearing a cowboy hat and a much smaller Native man. Teichler explained to the jury that the much bigger man punched the smaller man, throwing him to the ground a couple of times. Teichler stated that each time the smaller man was knocked down, he got up in an attempt to walk away. Teichler also stated that, once the assault was over, the victim was standing in front of the Carrs grocery store.

The State additionally elicited testimony from Officer Czajkowski about the assault on Fratis. Czajkowski told the jury that he responded to Teichler's 911 call, and that when he arrived he found Fratis in front of the Carrs...

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