State v. Jones

Decision Date06 July 2022
Docket NumberA19-2096
Citation977 N.W.2d 177
Parties STATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Kevin Lemar JONES, Appellant.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

977 N.W.2d 177

STATE of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Kevin Lemar JONES, Appellant.

A19-2096

Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Filed: July 6, 2022


Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Brittany D. Lawonn, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

Alexander H. De Marco, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

OPINION

GILDEA, Chief Justice.

Following a bench trial, appellant Kevin Lemar Jones was convicted of first-degree felony murder and sentenced to life in prison. Jones filed a direct appeal that we stayed to allow him to pursue postconviction relief. In his petition for postconviction relief, Jones challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, argued that a central witness's identification of him was irrevocably tainted in violation of his due process rights, and raised claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Following an evidentiary hearing at which Jones and his trial counsel testified, the district court denied the petition. Jones appealed.

We lifted the stay and consolidated Jones's appeals. In this consolidated appeal, Jones continues to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, the propriety of the witness identification, and the effectiveness of trial counsel. Jones also argues that he was deprived of his right to a speedy trial. Because we conclude that sufficient evidence supports the conviction, and that Jones's constitutional and ineffective assistance of counsel challenges fail, we affirm.

FACTS

This case arises from the shooting death of Anthony Hill-Prowell. The State proved that Jones and his friend Antwion Crawford made arrangements to purchase marijuana from Hill-Prowell on the day of the shooting. Crawford knew Hill-Prowell and had previously purchased marijuana from him. Jones and Crawford met Hill-Prowell at the home of D.J., Hill-Prowell's girlfriend. D.J. testified that on the day of the shooting, two Black men came to her home to meet with Hill-Prowell. D.J. knew one of these men—Crawford—but she did not know the other man, who she described as taller than Crawford.1

Shortly before the shooting, D.J.’s next-door neighbor saw two Black men in their 20s or 30s walk between his and D.J.’s homes towards the back of the two homes.

977 N.W.2d 183

The neighbor then heard a woman scream, followed by approximately four gunshots, at which time his husband called 911. From his back porch, the neighbor saw the two men run out the back door of D.J.’s home. One was wearing an aqua-colored T-shirt, and the neighbor saw this man stick a gun in his waistband.

Law enforcement responded to the neighbor's 911 call. They discovered Hill-Prowell alive, lying on the kitchen floor with D.J. crouched over him crying. D.J.’s 5-year-old son was upstairs. When law enforcement asked Hill-Prowell who shot him, he repeatedly responded, "Antwion." Paramedics arrived shortly after law enforcement first responded. Hill-Prowell was taken by ambulance to a hospital where he died.

Law enforcement questioned D.J. at the scene. While D.J. was still inside her house, she reported that the shooter was the taller of the two men she saw at her house. She also said that the shooter was wearing a white shirt and black pants. She described the shorter man as wearing a gray sweat suit and a white shirt.

D.J. then gave a longer statement outside in a squad car. She said that she was upstairs when she heard the first gunshot, at which point she rushed downstairs and saw Hill-Prowell and two men fighting in her kitchen and living room. She reported, among other things, that she saw one gun and one shooter. She again described the shooter as the taller of the two men and said that he was wearing a white shirt and black pants. She also said that after both men left through the back door, the shorter man returned through the front door and demanded his car keys.

Later that evening, D.J. met with detectives at the police station. She identified Crawford as the "short one, lighter tone, caramel complexion, goatee fluffy, stocky, 5-feet to 5-7 inches, gray jogging suit, first came in wearing a hat." She described the shooter as the "[t]aller guy, dark complexion with a fade, sinister eyes like, don't f*** with me, light black – white shirt, black pants, 5-foot 9-inches, taller than ... Antwion.... 20 to 30 years old, possible goatee, deep voice." The detectives showed D.J. a still image from a neighbor's surveillance camera that showed both men but did not show their faces. The detectives showed D.J. this photo to confirm that there was not a third individual involved in the incident because the taller man was not wearing a white shirt and black pants like D.J. had earlier indicated. D.J. confirmed that the taller man in the aqua shirt was the one who shot Hill-Prowell, but she said that he must have changed his clothes. D.J. circled the shorter man dressed in gray and wrote "Antwan." She said that she did not circle the taller man with the aqua shirt because she did not know his name.

After meeting with the detectives, D.J. reached out to a friend of Crawford's and was able to access Crawford's Facebook page. She found a photo of Crawford and Jones on Facebook. She recognized Jones as the shooter and forwarded the photo to detectives at approximately 4 a.m. The detectives prepared a photo lineup containing a 2-year-old photo of Jones and showed it to D.J. shortly after receiving the Facebook photo. D.J. was unable to pick Jones out of the photo lineup.

During their investigation at the crime scene, law enforcement noticed an unoccupied red Ford Fusion that was locked but left running across the street from D.J.’s house. They ran a check on the vehicle and discovered that Crawford's fiancée owned the vehicle and that she had reported the vehicle stolen. A search of the car revealed a backpack containing various items belonging to Jones including his cell phone, Nebraska driver's license and other photo

977 N.W.2d 184

identification, prescription pill bottles with his name, and marijuana.

At D.J.’s home, law enforcement also found a backpack in the kitchen with marijuana and cash inside. Four spent 9mm shell casings were recovered, two from the kitchen and two from the living room. A ballistics expert later determined that the casings were fired from the same gun. A bloody baseball cap was found on the back porch, and a Ford car key was found in the house next to the stove. Forensic scientists discovered a fingerprint that matched Crawford on the handle of the front door.

Law enforcement also found that one of D.J.’s other neighbors had a surveillance system with cameras pointing at the street in front of D.J.’s house. The cameras captured the red Ford Fusion pulling up and showed two Black men leave the vehicle and cross the street towards D.J.’s house. One of the men was wearing a gray sweat suit and one was wearing an aqua-colored T-shirt and distinctive blue basketball shoes. Four gunshots can be heard in the surveillance video; the two men then run back toward their car while the one in the aqua shirt holds the right side of his pants. The men are not able to get in the car and, as the man in the gray sweat suit runs back towards D.J.’s house, the man in the aqua shirt says, "Hurry up! Go get the keys!"

Because of Jones's Nebraska driver's license, Minneapolis Police contacted the Omaha Police Department and informed them that two homicide suspects may be in the area. Omaha police apprehended Crawford and Jones in a white Jeep. When police searched the Jeep, they discovered two pairs of basketball shoes stuffed in trash bags that matched the shoes that the men on the surveillance footage are seen wearing. Omaha police then searched Jones's home and discovered a holster in the master bedroom and a 50-round box of 9mm ammunition containing only 37 rounds in a different bedroom closet. The manufacturer's stamping on the ammunition found in Jones's closet was identical to the stamp on the shell casings that police found at the crime scene.

In August 2017, the State charged Jones and Crawford in connection with Hill-Prowell's death.2 Jones's trial was initially scheduled for August 13, 2018, but the trial was rescheduled several times. Jones never made a demand for a speedy trial under Rule 11.09(b). See Minn. R. Crim. P. 11.09(b) ("A defendant must be tried as soon as possible after entry of a plea other than guilty. On demand of any party after entry of such plea, the trial must start within 60 days ....").

At a hearing held on July 26, 2018, Jones agreed to strike the initial trial date and reschedule to a later date because, as defense counsel explained and Jones personally confirmed, Jones did not wish to go to trial without all possible DNA evidence. Jones thought that DNA results could contain exonerating evidence that would help his defense. A possible mid-October trial was discussed if the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) could complete the testing by that time.

The mid-October trial date did not materialize, and the district court ultimately issued a scheduling order on November 30, 2018, setting trial for February 4, 2019. On January 28, 2019, Jones affirmatively waived his right to a speedy trial until April 15, 2019, and the court set that as the trial date. Before choosing that date, the court confirmed that Jones desired

977 N.W.2d 185

complete DNA results and noted that the BCA had failed to test under Hill-Prowell's fingernails for DNA. At a hearing held on May 13, 2019, however, the court noted that trial was scheduled for July 8, 2019. There was no explanation given for why the trial was rescheduled.

Jones's trial began on July 10, 2019. Jones executed a written waiver of his right to a jury trial under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 1(2)(a). Trial counsel questioned Jones about his decision to waive his jury trial right, confirming that this was Jones's decision, that Jones had always wanted a bench trial, and that they had discussed the...

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