State v. Oliveira

Decision Date05 August 2005
Docket Number No. 2000-470-M.P., No. 2000-521-C.A.
Citation882 A.2d 1097
PartiesSTATE v. Gahlil OLIVEIRA. State v. Victor St. Hill et al.
CourtRhode Island Supreme Court

Lauren Sandler Zurier, Providence, for Plaintiff.

Catherine A. Gibran, Providence, for Defendants. Present: WILLIAMS, C.J., FLAHERTY, and SUTTELL, JJ.

OPINION

SUTTELL, Justice.

The defendants, Gahlil Oliveira,1 Victor St. Hill, and Amita St. Hill, appeal from a judgment of conviction on two charges. A jury found Gahlil Oliveira and Victor St. Hill guilty of the first-degree felony murder of Grady Bolden. The jury also found all three defendants guilty of conspiracy to violate the Rhode Island Controlled Substances Act by unlawfully possessing, selling, or delivering a controlled substance. The trial justice sentenced Gahlil Oliveira and Victor St. Hill to the mandatory life term for their first-degree murder convictions, and a sentence of thirty years (ten to serve, the remainder suspended with probation) for their conspiracy convictions. The trial justice imposed a fifteen-year suspended sentence on Amita St. Hill for her conspiracy conviction.

For the reasons stated herein, we reverse the judgment of the Superior Court with respect to the felony-murder convictions, and affirm the judgment with respect to the conspiracy convictions.

Facts and Procedural History

The facts of the case pertinent to this appeal are as follows. Shortly before 4 p.m. on March 9, 1995, the Providence police discovered the body of Grady Bolden slumped over the steering wheel of a blue Pontiac Grand Am bearing Connecticut license plates at the corner of Waverly and Sorrento Streets in Providence's West End. The Grand Am had crashed into a parked car, but Bolden had been killed in a hail of gunfire. The right rear window, front passenger window, and driver's side window were shattered, and bullet fragments were found in both the front and rear of the Grand Am. The immediate cause of Bolden's death was a gunshot wound to the right rear side of his head. The police found a loaded Mac 11 semiautomatic machine gun on the rear floor of the car, along with a substantial quantity of ammunition. The police also recovered two Kmart plastic shopping bags on the rear seat of the car containing ammunition for the Mac 11 and a price tag for a backpack. The glove compartment of the car contained a car rental agreement in the name of Horace Green. The police recovered bullet fragments from the adjacent house and yard, and found a .38-caliber revolver on the sidewalk about ten feet away from the Grand Am.

The police contacted Horace Green in Connecticut, and Green voluntarily gave a statement implicating Victor St. Hill (hereinafter Victor) and Amita St. Hill (hereinafter Amita) in a drug conspiracy turned deadly. Green also identified Gahlil Oliveira, from a police photo array, as a participant in the March 9 attempted drug transaction and resulting shootout. In due course, Oliveira and Victor were charged by indictment with one count of first-degree felony murder in violation of G.L.1956 § 11-23-1 (count 1). This count alleged that the two defendants, together with a third unidentified and unindicted individual, murdered Grady Bolden "during the course of the perpetration, or attempted perpetration of felony manufacture, sale, delivery or other distribution of a controlled substance." Count 2 of the indictment charged Oliveira and Victor with one count of conspiring to commit murder in violation of G.L.1956 § 11-1-6 and § 11-23-1. In addition, Oliveira, Victor and Amita (along with unindicted coconspirators Grady Bolden and Horace Green) were charged with one count of conspiring to unlawfully possess, manufacture, sell, or deliver a controlled substance in violation of G.L.1956 § 21-28-4.08 and § 11-1-6 (count 3).

The first trial on this indictment began in December 1998, and resulted in an acquittal in favor of defendants Victor St. Hill and Gahlil Oliveira on count 2—conspiracy to commit murder—and a hung jury concerning all defendants on the felony murder and drug conspiracy charges.

In October 1999, counts 1 and 3 were tried a second time. Green provided testimony about the events resulting in Grady Bolden's murder in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Green's testimony established a drug conspiracy in which Green played the intermediary between Grady Bolden, who lived in Texas and supplied the cocaine, and the three Providence defendants. According to the state's theory of the case, Victor St. Hill acquired cocaine from Bolden for redistribution in Providence, Gahlil Oliveira provided armed support for Victor's endeavors, and Amita St. Hill provided a meeting place for the other coconspirators and conveyed messages and money related to the purchase of cocaine.

During the trial, Green testified that he was an acquaintance of Grady Bolden, Victor St. Hill, and Amita St. Hill, and that in response to an inquiry from Victor seeking to purchase drugs, he arranged a conference call between himself, Grady Bolden, and Victor. Shortly thereafter, Bolden traveled from Texas to Connecticut and asked Green to bring him to Providence. Green drove Bolden, who brought along a backpack, to Amita's Providence apartment. Shortly after Amita placed a telephone call, Victor arrived and met privately with Bolden in Amita's kitchen. Bolden and Green then returned to Connecticut, where Green said he saw an indeterminate amount of money in Bolden's backpack.

Sometime after this first meeting, Green alleged, Victor called, saying he needed more drugs. Green again arranged a conference call between himself, Victor, and Bolden. Green maintained that, as he did during the first conference call, he placed the telephone down and did not listen to the conversation. When Green picked up the telephone again, Victor was no longer on the line, and Bolden told Green that he would send "three [kilos] of cocaine" by Federal Express to Green for delivery to Victor. According to Green, a package containing white powder wrapped in plastic later arrived.

Green, accompanied by his sister and nephew, transported the package to Amita's apartment in Providence. Shortly after Green arrived at Amita's apartment, Victor also arrived. Victor instructed Green to follow him to another location. After arriving at the other location, Green and Victor entered a second-floor apartment. Green testified that Victor went into a back room, but soon came running out accompanied by two armed and masked men. Green testified that although the gunmen were masked, he could see their skin color, and that "one was light skin and the other one was dark." According to Green, the masked men pointed their guns at his head, and Victor screamed "This is my town. I own this town." The lighter-skinned gunman said "Let me do him," then the other gunman took the Federal Express package and left. Shortly thereafter, Green traveled back to Connecticut and called Bolden to inform him about what had transpired.

Green testified that he also telephoned Victor St. Hill that night, then made a series of telephone calls to Bolden and Victor. As a result of these telephone calls, Victor agreed to give Bolden $10,000 and Bolden instructed Green to travel to Providence to pick up the money. Green complied and, upon returning to Connecticut, called Bolden, who instructed Green to hang onto the money. Green then arranged another conference call between himself, Bolden, and Victor. Green again testified that he placed the telephone down and did not listen to their conversation. Upon picking up the telephone, Victor no longer was on the line, and Bolden informed Green that he would obtain some guns and travel to Providence to "rip [Victor] off."

On March 9, 1995, Bolden called Green and instructed Green to pick him up at Bradley International Airport. Green rented a Pontiac Grand Am, picked Bolden up at the airport and, at Bolden's request, the two men went to a nearby Kmart, where Bolden purchased a backpack, a package of baby wipes, and ammunition. Green denied having any idea why Bolden purchased these items, and insisted that he and Bolden had no plan concerning what they were to do that day. Green and Bolden drove to Amita's apartment, and upon arrival, Bolden gave Green a handgun and told him to go upstairs to Amita's apartment and wait for Victor to arrive. Bolden waited in the car. Green testified that after he entered the apartment, Victor arrived within a short period. Victor then left Amita's apartment, and returned a short time later accompanied by another man, whom Green identified at trial as Oliveira. Green testified that both men were armed, and Victor carried a tennis-shoe bag. Green testified that Victor asked him whether he recognized Oliveira, and Green replied that he did not. Victor then started to explain, "You don't remember him? He was the one—[.]"

Victor then directed Oliveira downstairs. Victor gave the tennis-shoe bag to Amita, who took the bag and went downstairs with it. Green testified that Victor then began acting hysterical, so Green sprayed mace in his face and ran out of the apartment. Green said that he saw Amita standing on the curb holding the tennis-shoe bag and Bolden sitting in the rented Grand Am in the middle of the street. Green also saw a blue Lincoln, with Oliveira in the driver's seat, parked on the side of Amita's apartment. Green grabbed the tennis-shoe bag from Amita and attempted to enter the Grand Am on the passenger side, but the car door was locked. Green testified that he saw the Lincoln pull up behind the Grand Am and a person in the back seat, whom Green could not identify, tried to stick a gun out the window. Green started to run, and the gun he was carrying fell out of his pants. Green said he heard a gunshot and saw the Grand Am crash into another vehicle. Green reported hearing many gunshots, and alleged that Oliveira was shooting at him. Green testified that he ran through the backyards of...

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  • Argumentative questions
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    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Is It Admissible? Part I. Testimonial Evidence
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    ...annoy or humiliate a witness should not be tolerated. See also Adams v. Unites States , 883 A.2d 76 (D.C., 2005) and State v. Oliveira , 882 A.2d 1097 (R.I., 2005). U.S. v. Beverly, 369 F.3d 516 (6th Cir. Ohio 2004); Kaczmarek v. State , 91 P.3d 16 (Nev. 2004); City of Champaign v. Sides, 2......
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    ...annoy or humiliate a witness should not be tolerated. See also Adams v. Unites States , 883 A.2d 76 (D.C., 2005) and State v. Oliveira , 882 A.2d 1097 (R.I., 2005). U.S. v. Beverly, 369 F.3d 516 (6th Cir. Ohio 2004); Kaczmarek v. State , 91 P.3d 16 (Nev. 2004); City of Champaign v. Sides, 2......
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