State v. Tokar

Citation918 S.W.2d 753
Decision Date26 March 1996
Docket NumberNo. 76225,76225
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Jeffrey Lane TOKAR, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Warren County; Honorable Edward D. Hodge, Judge.

Randall J. Schlegel, Kansas City, for appellant.

Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, Attorney General, David B. Cosgrove, Assistant Attorney General, Jefferson City, for respondent.

PRICE, Judge.

A jury convicted Jeffrey Tokar of first degree murder and recommended that he be put to death. The trial court agreed and entered a sentence of death. Subsequently, the motion court overruled Tokar's Rule 29.15 motion. Appeals from both judgments were consolidated. This Court has jurisdiction. Mo. Const. art. V, § 3. The conviction, sentence, and denial of post-conviction relief are affirmed.

I.

Around noon on March 11, 1992, Jeffrey Tokar picked up his girlfriend, Sandra Stickley. Stickley smoked crack cocaine and Stickley and Tokar shared some beer. Then they went driving in a rural area north of Centralia to find a place where nobody was home. Tokar and Stickley located the empty Douglass residence. After parking in the driveway, Tokar took his socks off, placed them on his hands to avoid leaving fingerprints, and went inside the garage. He later returned with a shotgun and shells he had found in the home, motioning for Stickley to come in.

Eight-year-old Jarad Douglass, four-year-old Lynzie Douglass, and their father, Johnny Douglass, returned to their home during the late afternoon. They had been checking on cattle down the road from the family's home. Upon arriving at their house, they noticed a yellow station wagon in their driveway. Jarad had mentioned earlier that he saw a yellow station wagon driving towards their home. Johnny told his children to stay in the truck as he went into the garage to investigate. However, Lynzie decided to follow her father anyway, calling her brother a "chicken" as she left the truck. At some point, Jarad also left the truck and went to look into the garage.

As the Douglass family was returning home, Tokar and Stickley were ransacking the Douglass home and stuffing items into empty pillowcases. Stickley warned Tokar that she heard someone pull into the driveway. Tokar loaded the shotgun and went toward the garage where he met Johnny Douglass. Stickley testified that she heard one of the kids say "Mister, please don't hurt my daddy." She also heard Johnny himself plead: "Mister, please don't hurt me. I'll do anything you say." She further explained that Tokar told Johnny not to look at him. She heard one shot and then a second shot.

Both Tokar and Stickley ran to the car and threw the shotgun in the backseat. As they sped away, Tokar wiped down the gun with his shirt, and took a shell out of the gun. Tokar stopped to throw the gun and shell into a nearby farm pond. Meanwhile, Jarad ran to a neighbor's house. That neighbor called 911 and took the two children to their grandparents' house.

When the police arrived on the scene, they found Johnny in a pool of blood on the garage floor. He had been shot once in the face and once in the back of his head. One of the detectives determined, based on the blood spatter evidence at the scene, that the victim was low to the ground, or bent over, when the second shot was fired. There was also a bloody shoe imprint, which later proved to be consistent with, though not definitive of, Tokar's tennis shoes upon arrest. The police found electronic equipment piled on a table and pillowcases stuffed with silverware, clothing and cosmetics. They also recovered a box of .410 shotgun shells, but Johnny Douglass' shotgun was not found in the house. About five days later, the shotgun was found at the bottom of a nearby farm pond and the shell was found floating on the pond. Stickley had informed the police that Tokar had thrown the shotgun into a pond near the road after the shooting.

Later that evening Tokar told Stickley, "Sandy, I did kill this man ... I shot half the side of his face off and then when he started to get back up I blowed the back of his head off." He also told Stickley, "I should have killed the kids so no one could testify and say that we were there."

Tokar and Stickley were arrested on March 13, 1992. At first, Stickley denied knowing about the burglary and murder, but later confessed to being with Tokar during the incident. Positive post-arrest lineup identifications of Tokar were performed by three individuals, and Tokar was charged with first degree murder.

On March 1, 1993, one week before trial, Tokar made a motion for a continuance at a pretrial hearing. The primary reason stated in support of the motion was a desire by Tokar's attorneys to obtain a further medical examination. Tokar had already been examined by Dr. Cowan, a neuro-psychologist, and Dr. Daniel, a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry. The following colloquy took place (excerpted from entire continuance proceeding):

[Defense counsel]: Judge, there is a belief by Dr. Cowan that there is some psychological disorder with Mr. Tokar. He has suggested, based on his test results, that Mr. Tokar go under psychiatric consultation. Mr. Tokar is HIV Positive, and depending on who you talk to, he either has active AIDS or he's on the verge of having AIDS. Accompanying that medical condition is some form of dementia. By the psychological testing that we have had conducted, we have reason to believe that perhaps his apparent irrational behavior could be attributed to the HIV virus. We have some concern as to whether or not, given some of his recent statements to us, he is going to be cooperative with defense counsel; and even if he is or makes an effort to be cooperative, whether or not he will be able to effectively assist counsel during trial. Included in our request here today would be for the Court to grant us time to have a complete medical diagnosis and physical performed on Mr. Tokar to determine the extent that the HIV virus has impaired his ability either to reason appropriately or to assist his counsel....

* * * * * *

[Defense counsel]: The last white blood cell count that we obtained on Mr. Tokar revealed a white blood cell count of approximately 350 to 400. In a non-HIV infected individual that count is anywhere from 5,000 to 11,000. Once the count is under 300, I believe, medically it's classified, and I'm not speaking as an expert here, but it is classified as full blown AIDS. Whether he has that condition at this time, again, is a matter of opinion of medical experts. What I think is in question is his ability at this point to reason and to assist counsel. In furtherance of that, we are requesting just a brief period of time until May the 1st to determine the extent that this virus may have impaired his ability and competence to stand trial.

* * * * * *

[The court, addressing Prosecutor]: ... They think that he may not be able to cooperate in his defense, as I understand it.

[Defense counsel]: That is correct, Judge.

[Prosecuting attorney]: But there's no such motion before the Court, there's no testimony to that effect. This is just argument, and there's no proof of that. This is just an assertion without any basis.

* * * * * *

[Defense counsel]: Chapter 552.020 does not--we're not relying on an assertion nor do we intend to present it. At least on what we know at this point, he was impaired at the time of the offense. Our intention here is, at the present time, Chapter 552 allows the Court at any time it has reason to believe defendant is not fit to proceed to trial, the Court can take the appropriate actions to insure that perhaps at some other date he will be. That's what we're asking for at this time. We're not relying on the affirmative defense of mental disease or defect which I think you were hinting at at the time.... It is, also, I believe, relevant, highly relevant to the penalty phase of the case. Aside from the issue as to whether or not he can effectively assist counsel during the trial and his competency to stand trial.

[Prosecuting attorney]: There has been no motion to have him examined. There's been no assertion of any facts which would put the Court on notice and require the Court to have him examined. I submit that this is just a bootleg way to get a continuance by making these assertions. There's no proof in the record of any evidence to warrant the Court in ordering an exam. Apparently, what they want to do is they don't want a court ordered exam to determine whether he's not able to cooperate. They want to have their own doctor state that.

[Defense counsel]: We're looking more for a medical diagnosis rather than a psychological clinical diagnosis in that regard. I assure you that this is not a bootleg attempt to get a continuance. If that was true, we wouldn't have informed the Court that we would be ready to proceed on May the 1st. That does not alleviate our trial schedule. That does not present any kind of better shape regarding the availability of these attorneys to try this case. It is still a hardship but we are doing everything we can. I think that is evidenced by what we have done since we last appeared before this Court, and it is demonstrative of our good faith in trying to prepare for trial. Our concern, and it has been from the beginning, is that we can proceed to trial and give it the best shot we can, and we are constitutionally required to give to Mr. Tokar and to see that he gets a fair trial. I don't believe a fifty-two day delay is going to prejudice the State at all. It could make a major difference to Mr. Tokar if we get this medical report performed and completed and put before the Court before the trial date.

* * * * * *

[Prosecuting attorney]: But there's no medical evidence that just because a person [has a white blood cell count of] 350 to 400 that that interferes with his mental capacity. They haven't asserted in any way--

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