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State v. Howell

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

September 22, 2014

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
OSCAR L. HOWELL, Defendant-Appellant

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CHRISTIAN COUNTY. Honorable Mark E. Orr, Circuit Judge.

For Appellant: Ellen H. Flottman.

For Respondent: Chris Koster, Karen Kramer.

Don E. Burrell, J. - Concurs. Mary W. Sheffield, P.J. - Concurs.

OPINION

Nancy Steffen Rahmeyer, J.

Oscar L. Howell (" Appellant" ) was convicted following a jury trial of one count of domestic assault in the third degree, see section 565.074, and one count of unlawful use of a weapon, see section 571.030.[1] Appellant now appeals those convictions, contending that the trial court erred in overruling his objection to a portion of the State's closing argument. Finding no merit in the claim, we affirm.

As Appellant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, we briefly summarize the facts adduced at trial in the light most favorable to the verdict. Around 5:00 a.m., on July 8, 2011, R.M. (" Victim" ) woke to the sound of Appellant " [b]anging" on Victim's door and " yelling." [2] When

Page 218

Victim answered the door, Appellant stated that he had an upcoming probation violation hearing, that he thought he was going to jail, and that he wanted to see his children. Victim instructed Appellant to leave; Appellant, however, forced his way into the house, knocking Victim down.

Appellant continued to act violently while in the house. Appellant broke a baby gate, which he then threw at Victim; he pushed and kicked Victim in her midsection; and he threatened to harm Victim, as well as himself, with a kitchen knife. Additionally, after tying a tow rope around his neck, Appellant attempted to get Victim to drag him to death with her truck.

At some point during this sequence of events, Appellant ripped Victim's landline phone off the wall. He also " shattered" Victim's cellphone, but she was able to reassemble it and call a friend, who in turn alerted the police. By the time the police arrived, Appellant had fled the scene but was later apprehended. In his subsequent interview with the police, Appellant stated that he " blames [Victim] for his anger" and that " [Victim] controlled him and that she told him to hide [from police]."

During closing argument, defense counsel attempted to discredit Victim's version of events. Defense counsel drew several inferences from the evidence, from which he argued that " [Victim] couldn't even keep her story straight" and that " she wants [Appellant] locked up forever." In concluding his argument, defense counsel asked the jury, " Do you believe anything that comes out of [Victim's] mouth? I don't think so. And you're going to have to ask yourself that." The State then presented its rebuttal, at the beginning of which the following exchange occurred:

[THE STATE]: This is Oscar Howell on the day that he was arrested for this assault. He does what he does pretty well. He blames other people. And that's ...

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