Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis 1322-CR01179
Honorable Jimmie M. Edwards
M. CLAYTON III, Presiding Judge.
Alexander ("Defendant") appeals the judgment
entered upon a jury verdict convicting him of one count of
first-degree murder, one count of first-degree assault, two
counts of armed criminal action, and two counts of unlawful
use of a weapon. We affirm.
Evidence Presented at Defendant's Jury Trial
in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence
presented at Defendant's jury trial revealed the
following facts. During the early evening hours of April 5,
2012, James Goldsby was driving a Nissan Maxima that belonged
to his girlfriend Erica Johnson, who was present in the car
along with her uncle and cousin. Goldsby and the other
passengers arrived at Johnson's aunt's house, which
was located in the City of St. Louis on Aldine Avenue near
Whittier Street. While the others went inside the house,
Goldsby remained in the parked car in front of Johnson's
some time passed and Johnson had not returned to the car,
Goldsby called her so that the two could leave. Two men
walked by the Maxima while Goldsby was on the phone. The men,
whom Goldsby recognized as "Little Ralph" and
"Boo Man, " looked inside the car as they slowly
walked by, then continued walking down the street and turned
the corner. However, after just a few seconds, they came back
around the corner and walked towards the Maxima, causing
Goldsby to grow suspicious. Goldsby began to drive away, but
because of how the car was parked, he had to drive towards
the men. Then, Little Ralph and Boo Man reached into their
jackets, pulled out guns, and began shooting. Goldsby was
still on the phone with Johnson at that point, and told
Johnson that Little Ralph and Boo Man were shooting at him.
Goldsby saw both men holding guns, and both men were
shooting. Further, Goldsby believed he heard six or seven
shots fired rapidly, and Johnson also stated that she could
hear the gunshots.
drove past the shooters and continued until he saw two police
officers, to whom he reported that Little Ralph and Boo Man
had fired guns at him. Then, as Goldsby was talking with the
officers, he heard more gunshots. Johnson also heard this
second round of gunshots from her aunt's house, and
recalled that there were "way more" shots fired
than the first set of shots but were also in rapid
the evening of April 5, 2012, around 5:30 p.m., Tracy Jones
picked up his fiancée, Sylvia Scott from work. Jones
told Scott that he wanted to stop at a neighborhood hangout
called "The Yard, " located in the City of St.
Louis behind an apartment building on Whittier Street between
Aldine Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. Jones parked
Scott's Chevrolet Prizm on Whittier Street, and walked
across the street to The Yard while Scott remained in the
car. Jones then left The Yard for a moment but returned
Ward, a friend of Jones, was at The Yard that evening, and
heard gunshots coming from the direction of Aldine Avenue and
Whittier Street. Ward saw two men firing handguns at a car in
front of Johnson's aunt's house. After Ward saw the
car speed off, he watched the two men begin to walk away as
they appeared to reload their guns.
also heard the first set of gunshots and told Ward he was
leaving to take Scott home. Ward watched Jones cross Whittier
Street towards the Prizm. Ward then witnessed the same two
men who had shot at the car on the corner of Aldine Avenue
and Whittier Street run toward the Prizm, go directly to the
driver-side door, and open fire on Jones. Ward saw both men
shooting, and heard at least ten shots fired in rapid
who had remained in the Prizm, ducked down in the car when
she heard the first round of gunshots. Scott had worked in
security and believed the shots were fired in rapid
succession from an automatic weapon. After the shooting
stopped, Scott looked around and could see Jones walking
towards the car. Jones then opened the door and asked Scott
if she was ready to go, to which she agreed. As Jones was
getting in the vehicle, shooting began again and he dove into
the car on top of Scott, who was shot in the leg. Once the
shooting stopped, Ward watched the two gunmen walk away. Ward
approached the Prizm and saw Jones slumped over on the
passenger side with his arms and head hanging out of the
passenger door and blood running from his head.
officers who had interviewed Goldsby put out a radio
broadcast identifying Little Ralph and Boo Man as suspects in
a shooting. Officer Michael Missel heard the broadcast, and
recognized the nicknames as belonging to Defendant and
Dontrell Sanders, respectively. Officer Missel knew Defendant
lived on Whittier Street near the scene of the shooting, and
that Sanders lived on East Garfield near Whittier Street.
Officer Missel went to Sanders' house, where he was told
by Sanders' father that Sanders, but not Defendant, was
in the house. Eventually, Sanders and his father came out of
the house to be interviewed by homicide detectives. Shortly
thereafter, Officer Missel saw Defendant leave the house and
walk towards Whittier Street; Officer Missel then detained
were given permission to search the portion of the house
where Sanders lived. There, they found gun boxes for two
Smith & Wesson pistols, a .40-caliber and
nine-millimeter, and for one Glock .22-caliber pistol.
Ammunition, including a box of .40-caliber ammunition and a
nine-millimeter clip, was also found.
later identified Defendant in photo arrays, physical lineups,
and at trial as one of the assailants. He also identified
Sanders in a lineup as the other shooter. Also at trial,
Johnson testified that she knew who Little Ralph and Boo Man
were, and she identified Defendant as Little Ralph.
did not testify or present any evidence.
Relevant Procedural Posture
on the events which occurred on April 5, 2012, Defendant was
charged with eight counts. Counts I, II, and V relate to
Defendant's firing a gun at the Prizm and killing Jones,
including charges of first-degree murder (Count I), armed
criminal action (Count II), and unlawful use of a weapon
(Count V). Counts III and IV relate to the shots aimed at the
Prizm and hitting Scott, including charges of first-degree
assault (Count III) and armed criminal action (Count IV).
Finally, Counts VI - VIII relate to Defendant's firing a
gun at Goldsby, including charges of first-degree assault
(Count VI), armed criminal action (Count VII), and unlawful
use of a weapon (Count VIII).
jury trial commenced and in the State's opening
statement, the prosecutor described how police found gun
boxes and ammunition while searching Sanders'
house. After noting that a box for a
nine-millimeter Smith & Wesson handgun was found in
Sanders' closet, the prosecutor told the jury that
Defendant had previously been found in possession of the gun
which belonged in that box, allegedly attempting to establish
an additional connection between Defendant and Sanders.
Following the State's opening statement, Defendant's
counsel ("Defense Counsel") objected to the
State's reference to the 2010 possession of the
nine-millimeter handgun, as they argued it constituted
improper prior bad act evidence. Although the trial court
sustained the objection, the judge overruled Defense
Counsel's request for a mistrial.
close of the State's evidence and at the close of all the
evidence, Defense Counsel filed a motion for a judgment of
acquittal, which was subsequently denied. The jury then found
Defendant guilty of Counts I, II, and V - VIII; Defendant was
acquitted as to Counts III and IV. Defendant filed a motion
for judgment of acquittal, or alternatively, motion for new
trial asserting, inter alia, the trial court erred
in denying Defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal
and the trial court erred in refusing to grant a mistrial
after the State's opening statement. The trial court
subsequently denied Defendant's post-trial motion.
trial court entered a judgment in accordance with the
jury's verdict, and sentenced Defendant as a prior
offender to life imprisonment without parole as to Count I,
life sentences each as to Counts II, V, and VII, and five
years of imprisonment each for Counts VI and VIII, with all
sentences to run concurrently except for Counts I and II,
which were to run consecutively. Defendant appeals.
Defendant's first point on appeal, he argues the trial
court erred in refusing to grant a mistrial after the
State's opening statement alluded to evidence that was
later ruled inadmissible. In his second point on appeal,
Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his
motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of all the
evidence because the evidence was insufficient to support
Defendant's convictions for first-degree murder and armed
criminal action, Counts I and II. Finally, in his third and
fourth points on appeal, Defendant argues the trial court
erred in entering convictions and sentences for four of his
counts as they allegedly violated the double jeopardy clause
of the U.S. Constitution.
Whether the Trial Court Erred in Refusing to Grant a Mistrial
Because of the State's Allegedly Improper Opening
first point on appeal, Defendant argues the trial court erred
in refusing to grant a mistrial after the State's opening
statement alluded to evidence that was later ruled
Standard of Review and General Law Relating to
initially note that the parties disagree as to whether
Defendant properly preserved this claim for appeal. However,
as we find that Defendant's claim fails under either
abuse of discretion or plain error review, we analyze the
issue as if it was preserved.
scope of opening statements is within the discretion of the
trial court, and we review an objection to opening statements
for abuse of discretion. State v. Thompson, 68
S.W.3d 393, 395 (Mo. banc 2002). An appellate court also
reviews the denial of a request for a mistrial for abuse of
discretion. State v. Kelly, 119 S.W.3d 587, 591 (Mo.
App. E.D. 2003). An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial
court's ruling "is clearly against the logic of the
circumstances then before the court and is so arbitrary and
unreasonable as to shock the sense of justice and indicate a
lack of careful consideration." State v.
Fassero, 256 S.W.3d 109, 115 (Mo. banc 2008) (quotations
in original). A mistrial is a drastic remedy, and should only
be granted in extraordinary circumstances. Kelly,
119 S.W.3d at 591.
purpose of an opening statement is to describe to the jury
the evidence that the party plans to introduce. State v.
McFadden, 391 S.W.3d 408, 430 (Mo. banc 2013).
Accordingly, opening statements are limited to factual
statements that can be proven. Thompson, 68 S.W.3d
at 394. It is not error for a prosecutor to refer to evidence
in an opening statement, even if that evidence is later
excluded, if the evidence mentioned is arguably admissible
and the prosecutor acts in good faith - with reasonable
grounds for believing he will be able to introduce such
evidence. McFadden, 391 S.W.3d at 430; State v.
Debler, 856 S.W.2d 641, 656 (Mo. banc 1993); State
v. Hodges, 586 S.W.2d 420, 426 (Mo. App. E.D. 1979). In