Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. Honorable Steven R. Ohmer.
For Plaintiff/Respondent: Andrew C. Hooper, Jefferson City, MO.
For Defendant/Appellant: Hannah Zhao, Clayton, MO.
Sherri B. Sullivan, P.J. Mary K. Hoff, J., and Philip M. Hess, J., concur.
Sherri B. Sullivan, P.J.
Yolonda Washington (Appellant) appeals from the judgment entered by the trial court upon the jury verdicts finding her guilty of second-degree assault and armed criminal action. We affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
On February 26, 2011, Appellant purchased a Dodge Intrepid from Eric Royston (Royston), the owner of Rebel Motors, a shop in the business of buying, repairing, and selling wrecked vehicles. Appellant made her first two payments on the car and then ceased making payments. Royston attempted to contact Appellant but was unsuccessful.
On October 28, 2011, Royston encountered Appellant driving the Intrepid when she pulled into a gas station as Royston was about to leave. Royston approached Appellant. Royston told Appellant he needed to take the Intrepid because she had stopped making payments. Appellant prepared to drive off in the Intrepid while Royston stood in its open doorway. Appellant proceeded to drive the car, dragging Royston with it. Royston held onto the car because he was afraid if he let go, his feet would go under the car, causing the car to run over his legs.
Appellant turned right onto the street and Royston rolled off the side of the car into the street. Appellant then made a U-turn and drove straight back toward Royston, striking him. Royston was propelled onto the car, his shoulder going through the windshield, and then was thrown into the street. Appellant kept driving, but was blocked by another motorist to prevent her from leaving the scene. Royston was taken to the emergency room. He suffered a broken nose, a broken orbital bone, an arm broken in two places, a dislocated and shattered shoulder, permanent indentations on his shins, and various scrapes and bruises.
Appellant was charged with second-degree assault and armed criminal action. After a jury trial, the jury found Appellant guilty of both charges, and she was sentenced to three years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and one year in the Medium Security Institution. This appeal follows. Other evidence adduced at trial will be discussed as necessary in addressing the points raised on appeal.
Points on Appeal
In her first point, Appellant contends the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State to elicit testimony from Royston that he loaned Appellant a vehicle before the car Appellant sought to purchase was available because this evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial.
In her second point, Appellant maintains the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State to introduce in rebuttal a statement she gave the police for the purpose of demonstrating she did not mention she turned her car around to retrieve her purse because the statement was prejudicial and lacked foundation.
In her third point, Appellant claims the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State to reference shooting a gun and beating a child in closing argument because these references were highly prejudicial and intended to inflame the jury.
Standard of Review
The standard of review for the admission of evidence is abuse of discretion. State v. Turner, 420 S.W.3d 666, 669 (Mo.App. E.D. 2014). This standard gives the trial court broad leeway in choosing to admit evidence; therefore, an exercise of this discretion will not be disturbed unless it is clearly against the logic of the circumstances. Id. We will not reverse for an evidentiary error unless prejudice is demonstrated. Id. Trial court error is prejudicial when there is a reasonable probability the error affected the outcome of the trial. Id.
Point I -- Evidence of Royston Loaning Vehicle to Appellant
At trial, during direct examination by the State, Royston testified to the following while describing his relationship with Appellant:
Q. (By the State) Okay. So you spoke with [Appellant] about a car. Was there a particular car that she wanted to buy?
A. Yes. It was a Dodge Intrepid.
Q. Okay. Was she able to take custody of that car right away?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Your Honor, may we ...