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State v. Ford

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

February 10, 2015

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL J. FORD, Appellant

Page 408

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. 1122-CR05948. Honorable Michael K. Mullen.

Robert L. Lundt, St. Louis, MO, for appellant.

Chris Koster, Karen L. Kramer, Jefferson City, MO, for respondent.

Gary M. Gaerter, Jr., Jugde. Kurt S. Odenwald, P. J., concurs. Robert G. Dowd, Jr., J., concurs.

OPINION

Page 409

Gary M. Gaerter, Jr.

Introduction

Michael J. Ford (Ford) appeals from a sentence and judgment of conviction for first-degree murder and armed criminal action. He asserts there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction, and he challenges the admission of certain evidence. We affirm.

Background

The State of Missouri (State) charged Ford as a prior and persistent offender along with Antoine Barton (Antoine) and Dejuan Blocker (Dejuan)[1] with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the shooting death of Calvin Ross (Victim). The evidence at the 2013 jury trial showed the following, viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict.[2]

Ford was arrested on an unrelated weapons charge. During his interview for that offense, he indicated he had information about a murder, later revealed to be the murder of Victim. He made a videotaped statement to the police, in which he asserted the following. Ford was driving around with Antoine on July 6, 2011, when Antoine pointed out Victim as someone who had shot at him a while ago and Antoine said he had to " take him out." Ford understood that Antoine intended to kill Victim, but Ford stated that in his experience, Antoine did not always carry through on his threats. Ford had purchased a .38 caliber revolver the day before and Antoine asked for it. Ford had some shells for the gun, and they went to an alley to test fire the gun. It was operational. Ford then reloaded the gun at his house before giving it to Antoine.

Page 410

Meanwhile, Antoine had enlisted Dejuan to keep Victim in the neighborhood while Ford and Antoine drove Ford's brother and cousin to St. Louis County. While in the vehicle with Antoine, Ford overheard multiple telephone conversations between Antoine and Dejuan discussing Victim. Dejuan wanted to kill Victim, so as to " get his stripes" and prove himself, and Antoine was considering it. Ford counseled Antoine not to let Dejuan do it, saying that if Dejuan was caught, it would fall on Antoine. Moreover, Ford did not want Dejuan to " do it" with his gun.

Ford and Antoine arrived back in the neighborhood, and Antoine and Dejuan went into an alley with Victim while Ford waited by the car. Ford did not hear any gunshots, but when Antoine came back, he said " it's 4-7," from which Ford understood Antoine had " got on [Victim]" and " whacked" [3] him. Antoine showed Ford a .357 revolver that he had taken from Victim. A person named Tato, who Ford described as " OG," [4] then arrived and took Antoine to dispose of Ford's .38 revolver.

The State played Ford's statement to the jury. Officer Charles Betts, a homicide detective with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (police department), testified that he had interviewed Ford and that the evidence corroborated Ford's statement. He further testified that Victim was shot at approximately 10:45 p.m. on July 6, 2011. Likewise, Detective Joseph Lankford also testified that he had subpoenaed Antoine's telephone records, which showed multiple calls between Antoine and the house at which Dejuan and Victim had spent the day. Detective Lankford testified their theory was that Antoine shot Victim, while Dejuan was the set-up man, and Ford provided the weapon.

The State then called Emily Blackburn, a crime analyst for the police department, as a lay witness. The State argued it did not need to call her as an expert witness, because " all [she does] is take latitudes and longitudes from Sprint cell phone records and plot them on a map. ... She can't say that the phone was at [a specific] location." Defense counsel stated she did not object to Blackburn being called as a lay witness. Blackburn testified she had received the data from Sprint subpoenaed by Detective Lankford. The data showed which cellular towers were used at what time for each call made by Antoine on the day of Victim's murder, and she entered the information into a mapping program. She testified that cellular telephones generally use the closest tower, but the connection can be affected by tall buildings, geography, and topography, among other things. The State offered the map of cell tower connections, to which defense counsel objected only subject to ...


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