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State v. Little

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

September 1, 2015

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
RUFUS LITTLE, Appellant

Editorial Note:

Not Final until expiration of the rehearing period. See MO R RCP Rule 84.16 regarding unpublished opinions.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. 1122-CR07352-01. Honorable Mark H. Neill.

Amy E. Lowe, St. Louis, MO, for appellant.

Chris Koster, Richard A. Starnes, Jefferson City, MO, for respondent.

Gary M. Gaertner, Jr., Judge. Philip M. Hess, P.J., concurs. Angela T. Quigless, J., concurs.

OPINION

Page 663

Gary M. Gaertner, Jr., Judge.

Introduction

Rufus Little (Defendant) appeals from the sentence and judgment entered following a jury trial convicting him of assault in the second degree and child abuse. On appeal he asserts the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, failing to quash the entire venire panel, and finding him to be a prior and persistent offender. We affirm.

Background

The State charged Defendant as a prior and persistent offender with the class A felony of assault in the first degree (Count

Page 664

I) and the class C felony of abuse of a child (Count II), stemming from an incident when Defendant caused serious physical injury to his three-month-old son (K.L.) by shaking him. Before trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statements made before and after his arrest, asserting his statements were not voluntary in that the interrogation was coercive and he was not advised of his Miranda rights.[1] The trial court heard arguments on the motion to suppress where the following evidence was adduced.

Sergeant Jason Albers (Sergeant Albers) and Officer William Stevenson (Officer Stevenson) of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department testified that on December 11, 2011, they came to Defendant's home after medics had called to report possible child abuse. Officer Stevenson secured the scene and Sergeant Albers told Defendant about the report of abuse and asked Defendant " some questions about what happened." Sergeant Albers did not Mirandize Defendant before asking the questions. He did not handcuff Defendant because he " had no reason to," noting that he " didn't really know what was going on, other than ... just [wanting] to contain the scene, if there was a scene." He did not tell Defendant he could not leave but he told Defendant that some detectives would want to speak with him. While they waited for the detectives, Defendant made phone calls and moved about his home.

Also at the suppression hearing, Detective Daniel Fox (Detective Fox) testified to the following. He was a homicide detective for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and on December 11, 2011, he received a request for a homicide detective following an injury to a child. He and Detective Joseph Lankford went to the hospital to assess K.L.'s condition, and the doctor attending K.L. told the detectives that K.L. had serious bleeding in his brain and was not expected to survive. The doctor also told the detectives he suspected K.L. had fractured ribs[2] and that K.L.'s injuries might be the result of abuse. No one suggested shaken baby syndrome specifically.

The detectives then went to Defendant's home where Defendant was with Sergeant Albers and Officer Stevenson. Detective Fox told Defendant that the police were investigating K.L.'s injury and asked Defendant to reenact briefly on camera what happened, in order to determine if there was a non-criminal explanation for K.L.'s injuries or if Defendant had been the only person present when the injury occurred. The video of the reenactment was 90 seconds long. Because Defendant revealed he was the only adult home and because his explanation did not account for K.L.'s injuries, Detective Fox requested that Sergeant Albers and Officer Stevenson place Defendant under arrest and bring him to the station for further questioning.

Once at the station, Detective Fox began the interrogation by reading Defendant his Miranda rights and asking him to explain in more detail what happened that night with K.L. Detective Fox testified that during his interrogation of Defendant, he did not threaten Defendant with the death penalty, did not make Defendant any promises, and did not knowingly lie to him. Defendant confessed to shaking K.L. and causing his injuries. After the suppression

Page 665

hearing, the trial court took the matter under advisement and before the start of trial denied Defendant's motion to ...


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