State v. Mack

Decision Date25 May 2021
Docket NumberED 108483
Citation624 S.W.3d 436
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals
Parties STATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Corliss F. MACK, Jr., Appellant.

Gwenda Renee’ Robinson, Missouri Public Defender Office, 1010 market Street, Suite 1100, St. Louis, MO 63101, for appellant.

Garrick Aplin, Assistant Attorney General, P.O. Box 899, 221 West High Street, Jefferson City, MO 65102, for respondent.

Lisa P. Page, Judge

Corliss F. Mack, Jr. (Appellant) appeals from the trial court's judgment, following a jury trial, convicting him of two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action. He was sentenced to four, concurrent 20-year sentences. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

The State of Missouri (State) charged Appellant and his co-defendant, Qiana Fletcher (Co-Defendant), with two counts of the class A felony of first-degree murder (Counts I and III) and two counts of the unclassified felony of armed criminal action (Counts II and IV) for knowingly causing the death of Ira Johnson (Johnson) and Sylvester Caston (Caston) with a deadly weapon. They were also charged with first-degree robbery (Count V), first-degree kidnapping (Count VII), and additional counts of armed criminal action (Counts VI and VIII) for events occurring on May 19, 2018.

Prior to trial, Appellant and Co-Defendant each filed a motion to sever Appellant's case from Co-Defendant's case to hold separate trials. Appellant's motion was based on Co-Defendant's out-of-court statement to police, which then denied her presence in the alleged incidents. The court denied the motions, finding both Appellant and Co-Defendant would be arguing they were victims, not perpetrators, and these defenses were not inherently irreconcilable. Appellant also filed a motion in limine to prevent introduction of Co-Defendant's statement to police, which was agreed to by consent, unless it was offered as impeachment evidence. The court noted if the statement became an issue, they would discuss it outside of the presence of the jury.

A trial took place September 23-27, 2019. The State presented Keyshia Harris (Witness) as its first witness, followed by several detectives and law enforcement officers, the property manager for Shepherd Apartments, and a woman who lived in the area and testified she heard gunshots. For the defense, Appellant testified but Co-Defendant did not. This case considers the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal; thus, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, disregarding any contrary evidence and inferences. State v. Stewart , 560 S.W.3d 531, 533 (Mo. banc 2018). The evidence adduced at trial is as follows.

Witness and Appellant knew each other "almost over twenty years," and he was a cousin of her niece and nephews. Witness admitted she regularly sold heroin to Appellant. On May 19, 2018, at approximately 6 p.m., she had delivered "a fourth" of heroin to Appellant. Later, at 8:44 p.m., Appellant called Witness to trade her some marijuana for more heroin. Witness could not find any heroin but decided to meet and offer Appellant $80 for the marijuana. She drove to Appellant's apartment building where she usually met him in the parking lot, but this time Appellant met her in the street. He was with a woman whom Witness did not know but was later identified as Co-Defendant. Appellant walked up to Witness's car and sat in the front passenger seat. Shortly thereafter, Co-Defendant sat behind Appellant in the rear passenger seat. Witness recalled Appellant saying, "Sis[,] she want it," and Co-Defendant moved around to get something out of her pocket. Co-Defendant then pulled out a "little bitty small little ... black gun," "put the gun up to [Witness]," and said, "[B]----, give it up, because this is your last night anyway." Co-Defendant was wearing blue latex gloves. Witness believed Co-Defendant meant she would kill her, so Witness gave her the $80. Appellant did not say a word.

Co-Defendant told Witness to make a U-turn, and continue driving until she drove up to two men in the street where Co-Defendant ordered Witness to stop. The two men, later identified as Johnson and Caston, walked up to Witness's car. Caston punched Witness in the face, threw her into the back seat, then sat down next to her. Johnson sat in the driver's seat. They also wore blue latex gloves, but Appellant did not. They told Witness to take them to her house. Appellant, still in the front passenger seat, spoke to Witness for the first time since the two men joined them and said, "[T]ell them where you stay because they are going to kill us." She told them Grand and Natural Bridge, but that was not where she lived. Johnson drove the car to the East Side in Illinois. They stopped near a wooded area where Caston ordered Co-Defendant to strip-search Witness while Appellant and Johnson searched her car. Co-Defendant told Witness that "[she] like[d] everything about [Witness] [ ] because [she'd] had this gun on [Witness], and [she] once not [sic] beg for [her] life."

They returned to the car and drove back to St. Louis. Witness said she was mad at Appellant and was "going off on him" for doing this to her. Johnson "just kept on talking" and said Appellant had nothing to do with this, but Witness did not believe him. She believed "[Appellant] was part of it" because he was "the one that called [her]" and she did not know the others. They arrived in St. Louis approximately an hour after they left. Witness thought "everything was over" and she was going to be released. Johnson stopped the car in the street and Appellant, Co-Defendant, and Caston got out and walked a little way down the street together. Witness and Johnson remained in the car, and Johnson told her she needed to get out of "whatever [she] [was] doing" because it was "not for [her]." Appellant returned to the car, sat in the front passenger seat and shot Johnson in the head. Witness testified Appellant used the same gun that Co-Defendant held throughout the night. She said, "[Johnson] never had a gun" and that she only saw one gun the whole time.

Witness further testified that Appellant got out of the car and ran down the street in the same direction he previously went with Co-Defendant and Caston. Witness was hiding for cover and scared when she heard approximately five gunshots from the same direction. Witness hid in a backyard for a short time, then came out to find her car was gone. She was crying and was walking to a gas station with some kids when Appellant drove her car up beside her with Co-Defendant in the passenger seat. He told her, "Sis, sis, get in, I did that for you." Witness replied, "ah, no you didn't," and ran to the gas station to call the police.

The police responded at approximately 10:15 or 10:30 p.m. They found Johnson's dead body in the street with a gunshot wound to his right ear, $80 cash in his pocket, and loose change in another pocket. They found Caston lying dead on a sidewalk around the corner with five gunshot wounds, including one to the left side of his chest that caused his death. Both victims were still wearing blue latex gloves. Police found a cluster of seven cartridge casings approximately 30 to 40 feet down the street from Johnson. They were all .380 caliber and were later determined to have been fired from the same firearm.

Witness testified that she found her car the next morning after Appellant and his cousin told her where it was. Johnson's blood was visible on the driver's seat. Police found a cartridge casing in the map pocket of the front passenger door, which was a .380 caliber and was determined to have been fired from the same firearm as the casings that were found at the murder scene in the street. They found lip gloss on the front passenger seat and an inhaler on the rear passenger seat, which contained DNA consistent with Co-Defendant's. Police also found a blue latex glove on the front passenger floorboard, which contained a mixture of DNA, including DNA consistent with Johnson.

Surveillance cameras around Appellant's apartment building continuously recorded footage, which was reviewed and used to create still photographs that were admitted into evidence. One photograph showed three men, whom Witness identified as Appellant with Johnson and Caston, in the lobby of the building at 8:09 p.m. Johnson and Caston were recorded exiting through the lobby at 9:03 p.m. Appellant and Co-Defendant were recorded exiting through the lobby at 9:06 p.m. Johnson and Caston were recorded walking north past the building at 9:21 p.m., and Witness's vehicle was recorded driving in that direction four minutes later at 9:25 p.m. Witness's vehicle was again recorded driving in that direction, toward the location where it was ultimately found, at 10:36 p.m., at the same time Witness was speaking with the police. Appellant and Co-Defendant were recorded approaching the building three minutes later at 10:39 p.m. and re-entered the building at 10:40 p.m.

A box with blue latex gloves identical to the ones worn by Johnson and Caston was found in the apartment where Appellant lived, even though he did not wear any blue latex gloves during the incident. Caston's "live-in girlfriend" told the detectives that Caston kept a .380 caliber handgun in his nightstand and that she noticed it was gone at some point after she last saw Johnson and Caston leave the house on the night of the incident around 7 p.m.

Appellant testified that Caston was friends with his uncle. He would come over to their apartment and sometimes sold heroin to him. Appellant occasionally saw Caston with a gun, and previously told Appellant he had executed someone in retaliation for having been shot by the person. Appellant said Caston had the reputation as "somebody that you [don't] want to mess with," and robbing drug dealers. Appellant said Caston and Johnson came to his apartment and "got high" on the day in question. Appellant said Co-Defendant, with whom he had a sexual relationship, was also...

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4 cases
  • State v. Day
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • September 6, 2022
    ... ... As Graven recognizes in an analogous context, "sudden passion" is not properly considered to be an element of second-degree assault. Sudden passion is a "special negative defense" to the higher-level offense of assault in the first degree. See also , e.g. , State v. Mack , 624 S.W.3d 436, 455 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021) (discussing similar "sudden passion" defense to conventional second-degree murder). As recognized by the Missouri Approved Instructions, "[a]ssault in the first degree is mitigated to assault in the second degree when the defendant acted under the ... ...
  • State v. Day
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • September 6, 2022
    ...an absence of sudden passion, beyond a reasonable doubt, as an element necessary to sustain a conviction for first-degree assault. Mack, 624 S.W.3d at 455; State v. 928 S.W.2d 429, 431 (Mo. App. W.D. 1996) (observing that sudden passion "is an element of the crime and when properly introduc......
  • State v. Stewart
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • February 22, 2022
    ... ... 2021). All evidence and inferences are reviewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, and all contrary evidence and inferences are ignored. Street , 633 S.W.3d at 470 ; Holmes , 626 S.W.3d at 341-42. We will not reweigh evidence on appeal or make credibility determinations. State v. Mack , 624 S.W.3d 436, 455 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021). That said, the venue or location in which Stewart committed the crime of child molestation in the second degree is not an element of that crime, was not required to be proved by the State at trial, and, therefore, is not reviewable for sufficiency of the ... ...
  • State v. Stewart
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • February 22, 2022
    ... ... reviewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, and all ... contrary evidence and inferences are ignored ... Street, 633 S.W.3d at 470; Holmes, 626 ... S.W.3d at 341-42. We will not reweigh evidence on appeal or ... make credibility determinations. State v. Mack, 624 ... S.W.3d 436, 455 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021) ... That ... said, the venue or location in which Stewart committed the ... crime of child molestation in the second degree is not an ... element of that crime, was not required to be proved by the ... State ... ...

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