State v. Armentrout, III

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtHolstein
Parties(Mo.banc 1999) . Supreme Court of Missouri State of Missouri, Respondent, v. Charles W. Armentrout, III, Appellant. Case Number: SC80717 Handdown Date:
Decision Date21 December 1999

8 S.W.3d 99 (Mo.banc 1999)
This slip opinion is subject to revision and may not reflect the final opinion adopted by the Court.
Supreme Court of Missouri
State of Missouri, Respondent,
v.
Charles W. Armentrout, III, Appellant.
Case Number: SC80717
Handdown Date: 12/21/99

Appeal From: Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Hon. David C. Mason

Counsel for Appellant: John William Simon

Counsel for Respondent: Breck K. Burgess

Opinion Summary:

Charles W. Armentrout, III, beat his 81-year old grandmother to death with a ball bat in connection with stealing from her checking account and her personal property. A jury convicted him of first degree murder, first degree robbery, and armed criminal action. The court sentenced him to death and three life sentences.

AFFIRMED.

Court en banc holds:

(1) Armentrout's right to represent himself was preserved.

(A) It is not clear that Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), required state funding for all depositions and experts Armentrout requested, or that it requires any funding for a defendant representing himself. Even if funding was required, Armentrout was not forced to relinquish his right to self-representation to obtain that funding. He repeatedly stated he wanted standby counsel; he made that choice on his own.

(B) Although public defenders initially objected to funding litigation expenses, any conflict was resolved when they agreed to provide such funding. Once resolved, no evidence shows they failed to give Armentrout their undivided loyalty and act diligently.

(C) Armentrout was not present at two conferences between the court and the public defender deputy director. At the first conference, the ex parte contact appears to have been improper, but the court ruled in Armentrout's favor. He did not lose control over his case so as to violate his right to self-representation. As to the second conference, the first part related to matters Armentrout delegated to his counsel, and Armentrout does not contend he lost control over issues in the latter brief discussion.

(2) Armentrout was not denied counsel in preparing a post-trial motion. He requested counsel but indicated that he was writing a motion and was concerned about having time. The court remedied his problem by giving him extra time.

(3) The court made an independent determination that certain security measures were appropriate. Armentrout's challenges to the security measures have no merit.

(4) Armentrout voluntarily withdrew his motion to suppress his videotaped confession, indicating on the record that the withdrawal was not due to the time of day, and he did not object to the tape's admission at trial.

(5) Armentrout failed to identify facts he sought in bill of particulars or demonstrate prejudice from the denial of his motion for a bill of particulars. (6) The court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to allow Armentrout to ask prospective jurors whether the cost of housing him would cause them to prefer the death penalty. The economic cost is irrelevant to any issue submitted to the jury.

(7) Evidence conflicts as to whether fingernail-scraping evidence was preserved and/or whether Armentrout was given test results. Regardless, no evidence shows it was destroyed in bad faith to deprive him of exculpatory evidence.

(8) (A) Armentrout did not show earlier discovery of a handwriting expert's testimony would have caused him to act differently and affected the trial's outcome.

(B) A banker's testimony that the victim said she was afraid that Armentrout would kill her was not required to be disclosed because it was not written down or recorded.

(9) The banker's testimony was properly admitted under the doctrine of curative admissibility, to counter testimony Armentrout elicited.

(10) The prosecutor's comment in closing about mitigating factors was not objected to, was mischaracterized by Armentrout, and was cured by instruction to the jury.

(11) The sentence passes review under section 565.035.3.

Opinion Author: Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., Judge

Opinion Vote: AFFIRMED. Price, C.J., Covington, White, Wolff and Benton, JJ., and Crow, Sp.J., concur.

Holstein, J., not participating.

Opinion:

Opinion modified by Court's own motion on January 25, 2000. This substitution does not constitute a new opinion.

Appellant Charles W. Armentrout, III was convicted by a jury in the St. Louis City Circuit Court of murder in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, and two counts of armed criminal action. The trial court sentenced Appellant to death for murder in the first degree and to three consecutive life sentences for the other offenses. Because the death penalty was imposed, this Court has exclusive jurisdiction of the appeal. Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 3. The judgment is affirmed.

FACTS

The facts, which this Court reviews in the light most favorable to the verdict, State v. Barton, 998 S.W.2d 19, 21 (Mo. banc 1999), are as follows:

Appellant was released from prison in August of 1994, having served time for several armed robberies. The members of Appellant's family, with one exception, would not take him into their homes. The exception was Appellant's eighty-one year old grandmother, Inez Notter, who became Appellant's victim. After Appellant moved in with Mrs. Notter, he spent his time with friends getting high on drugs and "scamming" to get money for more drugs. Mrs. Notter was frequently the target of these scams. In most instances, Appellant requested money for a fictitious friend who supposedly needed help, and Mrs. Notter would write Appellant a check for that purpose.

In December of 1994, Appellant began forging Mrs. Notter's name on her checks to obtain cash. Employees at the bank where Mrs. Notter had her checking account soon became suspicious about these checks, and one of the bank managers notified Mrs. Notter about the problem. After reviewing the account herself, Mrs. Notter became very upset that a large sum of money was missing.

On February 20, 1995, Appellant attempted to cash another forged check on his grandmother's account, and bank employees called the police. After the police arrived, they detained Appellant and determined that he had stolen the check from Mrs. Notter's checkbook. Mrs. Notter, however, told the police she did not want to prosecute. The next day, Mrs. Notter went to the bank, and the bank manager tried to persuade her to sign a forgery affidavit, which indicated that she would prosecute Appellant in exchange for the bank reimbursing her missing funds. Although Mrs. Notter continued to be very upset about the missing funds, she still refused to prosecute and explained to the bank manager that she was afraid of Appellant and that she thought he would kill her if she did not continue to allow him to take money from her account.

On March 18, 1995, at about 11:00 a.m., Appellant and a friend, Rick Lacy, went to Mrs. Notter's house needing money for drugs. Acting together, they beat Mrs. Notter to death with a souvenir baseball bat. She died from massive depressed skull fractures caused by being struck some 12 times with the bat. She also suffered a fracture of the lower jaw, and eight fractured ribs on the left side of her body, which appeared to have been caused by someone stomping on her. She had "defensive type wounds" on her left hand and left upper arm. In addition, both bones in her lower right leg were fractured, although this occurred after her death, apparently in connection with the disposal of her body. To dispose of the body, Appellant tied Mrs. Notter's ankles together with a yellow cord, and wrapped her body in a blanket and comforter that he secured with a brown extension cord. He then stuffed her body into a trunk in her basement.

At about 6:00 p.m., Bridget Joseph, who was Appellant's girlfriend, and Roger Brannon picked up Appellant at Mrs. Notter's house. As he came out of the house, he was carrying two large bags of gifts for Ms. Joseph and told her that his grandmother had been doing spring cleaning and wanted her to have some things that were no longer needed. Appellant also had taken $100 from his grandmother's dresser, which he used to purchase cocaine.

After spending the night with Ms. Joseph at her grandfather's house, Appellant told her he was going back to Mrs. Notter's house to see if he could get more money. On his return to the house, he cleaned the walls and the ceiling of his grandmother's bedroom where the killing took place and also cleaned the souvenir baseball bat, and he then threw away any items that had blood on them.

The next day, March 20, 1995, Appellant made several unsuccessful attempts to cash forged checks on Mrs. Notter's account. At about 2:30 p.m., a bank employee called the police to report that Appellant and a friend, Shirley Mendez, had just made a final attempt to cash a forged check at the bank's drive-through window. The police arrested Ms. Mendez, but Appellant fled before he, too, could be arrested.

On the morning of March 21, 1995, law enforcement officers found Mrs. Notter's body in the trunk in her basement. In her bedroom, they found many bloodstains that were consistent with her DNA profile. In Appellant's bedroom, the officers found the souvenir baseball bat that had been used in the murder and noticed that blood and hair were embedded in cracks of the baseball bat. The DNA profile of the blood on the bat was consistent with Mrs. Notter's genetic profile.

At about 11:30 p.m., police officers who were searching for Appellant arrived at Rick Lacy's house. As one of the officers approached the front door, Rick Lacy came out of the house and told the officer that Appellant was inside. The officer then looked through the front window and saw Appellant get out a chair, run to the back of the house and jump out a window. Several officers chased Appellant and caught him in the backyard where they arrested him and informed him of his Miranda rights.

Appellant was...

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40 practice notes
  • Hunt v. State, CR-02-0813.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 26, 2005
    ...error can serve as the basis for granting a new trial on direct appeal only if the error was outcome determinative, State v. Armentrout, 8 S.W.3d 99, 110 (Mo. banc 1999), Strickland clearly and explicitly holds that an outcome-determinative test cannot be applied in a post-conviction settin......
  • State v. Land
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee
    • December 11, 2000
    ...evidence in order to explain or counteract a negative inference raised by the issue defendant injects." See State v. Armentrout, 8 S.W.3d 99, 111 (Mo.1999) (citing State v. Weaver, 912 S.W.2d 499, 510 (Mo. banc 1995), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 856, 117 S.Ct. 153, 136 L.Ed.2d 98 (1996)); see al......
  • State v. Lynch, No. 1999-327-C.A.
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • August 12, 2004
    ...ground for admitting hearsay evidence that otherwise would be inadmissible under an exception to the hearsay rule. State v. Armentrout, 8 S.W.3d 99, 111 (Mo.1999) (en banc). In Armentrout, the defendant, who was charged with a murder — the motive for which was robbery — elicited hearsay tes......
  • State v. Smith, No. W2013-01190-CCA-R3-CD
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee
    • August 13, 2014
    ...inference raised by the issue defendant injects.'" State v. Land, 34 S.W.3d 516, 527 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2000) (citing State v. Armentrout, 8 S.W.3d 99, 111 (Mo. 1999)). The Defendant cast doubt on the victim's motive in seeking police protection. The Defendant's history with the victim and h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
40 cases
  • Hunt v. State, CR-02-0813.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 26, 2005
    ...error can serve as the basis for granting a new trial on direct appeal only if the error was outcome determinative, State v. Armentrout, 8 S.W.3d 99, 110 (Mo. banc 1999), Strickland clearly and explicitly holds that an outcome-determinative test cannot be applied in a post-conviction settin......
  • State v. Land
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee
    • December 11, 2000
    ...evidence in order to explain or counteract a negative inference raised by the issue defendant injects." See State v. Armentrout, 8 S.W.3d 99, 111 (Mo.1999) (citing State v. Weaver, 912 S.W.2d 499, 510 (Mo. banc 1995), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 856, 117 S.Ct. 153, 136 L.Ed.2d 98 (1996)); see al......
  • State v. Lynch, No. 1999-327-C.A.
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • August 12, 2004
    ...ground for admitting hearsay evidence that otherwise would be inadmissible under an exception to the hearsay rule. State v. Armentrout, 8 S.W.3d 99, 111 (Mo.1999) (en banc). In Armentrout, the defendant, who was charged with a murder — the motive for which was robbery — elicited hearsay tes......
  • State v. Smith, No. W2013-01190-CCA-R3-CD
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee
    • August 13, 2014
    ...inference raised by the issue defendant injects.'" State v. Land, 34 S.W.3d 516, 527 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2000) (citing State v. Armentrout, 8 S.W.3d 99, 111 (Mo. 1999)). The Defendant cast doubt on the victim's motive in seeking police protection. The Defendant's history with the victim and h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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