State v. Stephens, 13151

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtFLANIGAN; GREENE
Citation672 S.W.2d 714
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. James Darrell STEPHENS, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 13151,13151
Decision Date22 June 1984

Page 714

672 S.W.2d 714
STATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent,
James Darrell STEPHENS, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 13151.
Missouri Court of Appeals,
Southern District,
Division One.
June 22, 1984.

Page 715

Stephen R. Soutee, Marionville, for defendant-appellant.

John Ashcroft, Atty. Gen., Deborah Neff and John M. Morris, Asst. Attys. Gen., Jefferson City, for plaintiff-respondent.

FLANIGAN, Presiding Judge.

A jury found defendant James Stephens guilty of capital murder, § 565.001, 1 and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without probation or parole for at least 50 years. Defendant appeals.

Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in (1) improperly restricting his right to cross-examine state's witness Hollis Freeman, (2) failing to declare a mistrial on the basis of an improper communication between the prosecutor and a juror, and (3) admitting into evidence, over defendant's objection, state's Exhibits 1 and 2, two photographs of the victim. Defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction.

Officer George Moulat, one of the two members of the police force of Reeds Spring, was murdered, while sitting behind the steering wheel of his patrol car in Reeds Spring, between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on October 16, 1980. His pistol was in its holster with the strap fastened.

The principal witness for the state was Hollis Freeman. Freeman testified that on Thursday, October 16, after drinking beer all day, he, Randy Gamble, and "Tail" Johnson, went to Betty's Bar at Reeds Spring. There they spent the evening drinking, playing pool, and smoking marijuana. Also at the tavern was defendant Stephens with whom Freeman had been acquainted for a couple of years. A trio consisting of Freeman, defendant, and Johnson left the tavern late in the evening, using a Pinto vehicle. The trio headed toward Crane, with defendant driving, Freeman sitting on the passenger's side of the front seat, and Johnson in the back seat. As the Pinto drove through the business area of Reeds Spring they saw the parked police car and defendant said, "I ought to just shoot that man." Freeman was "pretty well intoxicated." The next thing Freeman remembered was being in Galena, a nearby town, and seeing the defendant coming out of a mobile home carrying a shotgun.

Defendant then drove the trio to Reeds Spring where, at the request of defendant, Freeman took over the driving and the defendant got in on the passenger's side. Defendant told Freeman to pull alongside the parked police car and Freeman did so. While the vehicles were three feet apart

Page 716

defendant pointed the shotgun at the police officer and fired the gun. The officer's head jerked. Defendant said, "I shot that punk, let's go." The three men went into a rural area where defendant "took the gun apart" and defendant and Freeman covered it with leaves. Johnson, who was drunk, had no memory of the significant events.

The next morning, Friday, Freeman, acting alone, moved the gun to another remote hiding place and "covered it with leaves and stuff and laid it by a log." The following Monday, after talking with his father, Freeman reported the matter to the authorities and led a sheriff and an FBI agent to the place where the gun was hidden. Freeman gave the officers a statement and the instant charge was filed against defendant.

Testifying in his own behalf, defendant admitted leaving Reeds Spring in the Pinto with Freeman and Johnson. He denied shooting the officer and testified that the only thing he remembered was "waking up on the way to Crane" and Freeman was driving. Through cross-examination of some of the state's witnesses, including the coroner, the sheriff, and a pathologist, the latter having performed an autopsy on the exhumed body of the victim on December 1, 1980, the defense attempted to show that the murder occurred at a time when the defendant was at a middle-of-the-night party at Crane in the presence of other defense witnesses. The defense attempted, without much success, to pinpoint the time of death.

Defendant's first point is that the trial court erred in sustaining the state's objections to the following questions directed to state's witness Freeman on cross-examination by defense counsel: "How many lawns have you mowed as of this date?" "Now, Hollie, you have not--you did not have any income between July of 1980 and up to the first two weeks in October, 1980?" "Was [the Candlelight Inn] closed for a while during the time you were operating it (1977)?" "Have you ever been charged with burglary and stealing, Hollie?"

Defendant argues that the trial court, in sustaining objections to the foregoing questions, denied him his right to cross-examine Freeman, "prevented legitimate exploration of subjects introduced on direct examination, and denied legitimate opportunities for impeachment of the witness."

"The extent of cross-examination on collateral matters for the purpose of impeachment is largely within the trial court's discretion.... Absent a clear showing of an abuse of...

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6 cases
  • State v. Mallett, 68030
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 16, 1987
    ...v. Carr, 708 S.W.2d 313 (Mo.App.1986) (life sentence); State v. Sargent, 702 S.W.2d 877 (Mo.App.1985) (life sentence); State v. Stephens, 672 S.W.2d 714 (Mo.App.1984) (life sentence). Defendant's beating of Trooper Froemsdorf with his own handcuffs and his subsequent decision to fire two sl......
  • White v. State, 78459
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • February 25, 1997 improper. Allegations of crimes which have not resulted in criminal convictions are not proper impeachment. See State v. Stephens, 672 S.W.2d 714 (Mo. [App.]1984); State v. Coats, 668 S.W.2d 119 (Mo.App.1984). Also, this line of cross examination would also not be proper because it is no......
  • State v. Joiner, s. 55778
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • November 12, 1991 of no avail to benefit his position. In support, the state cites State v. Smith, 741 S.W.2d 778 (Mo.App.1987); State v. Stephens, 672 S.W.2d 714 (Mo.App.1984); and State v. Craven, 657 S.W.2d 357 (Mo.App.1983). Nothing in these cases indicate pending charges are not admissible to prove b......
  • State v. Padberg, 50776
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • November 12, 1986
    ...731, 737 (Mo.App.1983). The trial court has broad discretion to determine admissibility of demonstrative evidence. State v. Stephens, 672 S.W.2d 714, 718 (Mo.App.1984). See also, State v. Curry, 714 S.W.2d 798 The photographs challenged in this appeal are sensitive and graphic. But to find ......
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