State v. Clark

Decision Date09 February 2016
Docket NumberWD 77974
Citation486 S.W.3d 479
Parties State of Missouri, Respondent, v. Antoine L. Clark, Appellant.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Daniel N. McPherson, Jefferson City, MO, for respondent.

Patrick W. Peters and Clayton E. Gillette, Kansas City, MO, for appellant.

Before Special Division: Cynthia L. Martin, Presiding Judge, Gary D. Witt, Judge and Zel M. Fischer, Special Judge

Gary D. Witt, Judge

Following a bench trial, appellant, Antoine Clark (Clark), was convicted of one count of voluntary manslaughter and one count of armed criminal action by the circuit court of Jackson County, Missouri. The court found Clark guilty of shooting and killing James Ward (“Ward”), his cousin, during an altercation between Ward and several family members. Clark raises three errors on appeal: (1) the court should have excluded all of the State's evidence as a sanction for the State's discovery violations; (2) there was insufficient evidence to overcome Clark's claim of self-defense; and (3) the court improperly relied on suppressed evidence in sentencing Clark. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

Factual Background1

The events surrounding the death of Ward took place on Memorial Day weekend 2013. On May 26, 2013, Stephen Ramsey, Sr. (“Ramsey”), Ward's great-uncle, was hosting a family barbeque. While at the barbeque, Ramsey received a call from his brother, David Ramsey, that Ward was at David Ramsey's house with an “A.K.” type gun looking for a different stolen gun. Ramsey went to his brother's house to confront Ward. He could see that Ward had two guns under his shirt plus the stolen gun. The two argued about the stolen gun. Ramsey attempted to take the guns from Ward by force, and Ward pulled two guns on Ramsey, threatening him.

Ramsey returned home and called family members regarding the incident with Ward. Ward followed Ramsey to his house, and the two resumed arguing outside the home. Ward again pulled two guns on Ramsey. Several family members, including Clark, arrived at the Ramsey home. Several witnesses testified that Ward appeared to be “on something” and behaving unusually.

Ward charged at Clark and began hitting him either with his fists or the guns. The two struggled; Clark shot Ward and he fell backwards. Clark then walked around Ward firing multiple shots into his body. In total, Clark shot Ward twelve times. Witnesses described Clark's demeanor as calm during the shooting.

Neighbors witnessed the shooting or heard the gun shots and came to the house to assist Ward until emergency personnel arrived. One of the neighbors, Kevin Dickens (“Dickens”), kicked away one of the two guns near Ward, and kicked or threw the other gun to the side. All three guns were missing by the time police arrived.

Clark and his mother left the scene before police arrived. He was later arrested at his girlfriend's home in Kansas.

Pursuant to an agreement with the State, Clark waved his right to a jury trial in exchange for a reduction of his charge from murder in the second degree to voluntary manslaughter. The court held a bench trial. The defense did not deny that Clark had shot Ward but tried to establish that Clark had acted in self-defense. Clark did not testify. Ultimately, the trial court found Clark guilty of both voluntary manslaughter and armed criminal action, sentencing him as a prior and persistent offender to concurrent terms of twelve years imprisonment for manslaughter and three years for armed criminal action.

This appeal follows.

DiscussionI.

Clark raises three points on appeal. He alleges in his first point that the circuit court erred in failing to exclude all of the State's evidence as a sanction for the State's discovery violations. Clark's argument is two-fold. First, he contends that the trial court should have excluded all of the State's evidence as a sanction because he suffered fundamental unfairness in receiving late disclosure of certain evidence. Second, Clark argues that the court's chosen sanction—offering the defense a continuance to review discovery—was impermissible because it forced Clark to choose between conflicting constitutional rights including his right to a speedy trial. We begin with Clark's claim that all of the State's evidence should have been excluded.

A.
In review of discovery violations, we must answer two questions: first, whether the State's failure to disclose the evidence violated Rule 25.03, and second, if the State violated Rule 25.03, then what is the appropriate sanction the trial court should have imposed. State v. Campbell, 356 S.W.3d 774, 779 (Mo.App. E.D.2011). Review is for abuse of discretion. State v. Wolfe, 13 S.W.3d 248, 259 (Mo. banc 2000). “The trial court has discretion to impose sanctions for discovery violations under Rule 25.03.” State v. Taylor, 298 S.W.3d 482, 502 (Mo. banc 2009) (citation omitted). “A trial court's denial of a requested sanction is an abuse of discretion only where the admission of the evidence results in fundamental unfairness to the defendant.” Id. “Fundamental unfairness occurs when the state's failure to disclose results in defendant's ‘genuine surprise’ and the surprise prevents meaningful efforts to consider and prepare a strategy for addressing the evidence.” State v. Thompson, 985 S.W.2d 779, 785 (Mo. banc 1999) (citation omitted).

State v. Zetina–Torres, 400 S.W.3d 343, 353–54 (Mo.App. W.D.2013).

Rule 25.18 governs sanctions and provides:

If at any time during the course of the proceeding it is brought to the attention of the court that a party has failed to comply with an applicable discovery rule or an order issued pursuant thereto, the court may order such party to make disclosure of material and information not previously disclosed, grant a continuance, exclude such evidence, or enter such other order as it deems just under the circumstances. Willful violation by counsel of an applicable discovery rule or an order issued pursuant thereto may subject counsel to appropriate sanctions by the court.

Clark made a formal request for discovery on June 10, 2013. The State responded that it had an “open file” policy2 in the prosecutor's office under which Clark could examine discovery, but the State also made some initial disclosures. A pretrial order was entered on June 20, 2013, requiring both parties to produce “all material information contemplated by Supreme Court Rules 25.03 and 25.05 within 10 days.” The State made no objection to this requirement and produced documents to the defense on August 22, August 30, October 1, December 9, and December 27, 2013.

On appeal, Clark argues that the court erred in not sanctioning the State because the State failed to produce an “Accurant Report” compiled by the police, Ward's pending criminal charges and previous arrest record prior to trial, and the in-car police videos and pocket microphone recordings of the responding officers and certain Kansas police officers as required by Rule 25.03.

“The basic object of the discovery process in criminal proceedings is to permit [the] defendant a decent opportunity to prepare in advance of trial and avoid surprise, thus extending to him fundamental fairness which the adversary system aims to provide.” State v. Scott, 647 S.W.2d 601, 606 (Mo.App. W.D.1983). “Where the state has failed to respond promptly and fully to the defendant's disclosure request, the question is whether the failure has resulted in fundamental unfairness or prejudice to the defendant. Id.

State ex rel. Jackson Cty. Prosecuting Attorney v. Prokes, 363 S.W.3d 71, 76 (Mo.App. W.D.2011).

“Although Brady [v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) ] informs [the] Court's judgment and states a basis for a finding of denial of due process, the law subject to interpretation here is Rule 25.03, which governs disclosure requirements in criminal proceedings.” Merriweather v. State, 294 S.W.3d 52, 55 (Mo. banc 2009). Rule 25.03 was a criminal discovery rule promulgated in 1973, after Brady was decided. Rule 25.03, unlike Brady, imposes an affirmative requirement of diligence and good faith on the state to locate records not only in its own possession or control but also in the control of other governmental personnel.” Id.

We first consider whether the State failed to disclose evidence under Rule 25.03. Clark alleges that the State failed to disclose three pieces of evidence to the defense in violation of Rule 25.03. Clark first alleges that he should have received a copy of the Accurant Report run by the officers while they were attempting to locate Clark following the shooting. The Accurant Report is obtained from a subscription service through LexisNexis. A party enters the name of an individual and the search engine produces names and addresses of known associates. The document was discussed at the January 16, 2013, Suppression Hearing held immediately before trial. At that time, defense requested its production and an officer produced a copy of the report for review.3

The only discovery ordered in this case was pursuant to the pretrial order entered on June 20, 2013, which required the State to disclose all information contemplated by Rule 25.03. Clark does not identify how or why the Accurant Report was required to be produced under Rule 25.03. The trial court reviewed the report and found that it was an internal document created merely to assist with locating Clark and was not subject to mandatory production requirements. Clark offers no argument as to why that ruling was incorrect. Absent argument as to why this document was required to have been produced under Rule 25.03, there is no error for this court to review regarding whether appropriate sanctions should be imposed for failure to produce the report.4

Clark also alleges that the State violated Rule 25.03 by failing to produce a record of Ward's criminal history prior to...

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    ...discovery violations, the first question we must ask is did the State's failure to disclose violate Rule 25.03. State v. Clark, 486 S.W.3d 479, 484 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016). Determining whether the State violated a rule of discovery is within the sound discretion of the trial court. State v. Jo......
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