Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY Honorable Calvin R.
A. Stewart ("Defendant") appeals his convictions
after a jury trial of two counts of endangering the welfare
of a child and two related counts of armed criminal action.
See sections 568.045 and 571.015. Defendant's sole point claims the
trial court plainly erred in denying his request to have
venireperson no. 19 ("Juror 6") removed from the
panel for cause. Defendant did not present this claim to the
trial court in his motion for new trial, so he seeks
plain-error review under Rule 30.20, insisting that Juror
6's subsequent service on the jury "resulted in a
manifest injustice" because Juror 6 stated that
"'there's no way of knowing'" whether
"she would be fair and impartial in a case involving
child endangerment." Because the trial court's
ruling did not amount to evident, obvious, and clear error,
we affirm Movant's convictions.
Law and Applicable Principles of Review
is fundamental that a criminal defendant is entitled to a
jury composed of only those who are free from any bias or
prejudice." State v. McKee, 826 S.W.2d 26, 28
(Mo. App. W.D. 1992). Specifically, "[t]he trial court
must strike for cause prospective jurors when they exhibit
prejudicial bias because the victim is a child."
State v. Clark, 981 S.W.2d 143, 147 (Mo. banc 1998).
"If the voir dire is constitutionally sufficient, the
final decisions as to which members of the venire are not
impartial lies within the sound discretion of the trial
court." State v. Nicklasson, 967 S.W.2d 596,
611-12 (Mo. banc 1998).
determining whether plain error has, in fact, occurred-the
first step in a plain error analysis-we note that generally,
'[a] trial court's ruling on a challenge for cause
will be upheld on appeal unless it is clearly against the
evidence and is a clear abuse of discretion.'"
State v. Garrison, 276 S.W.3d 372, 376 (Mo. App.
S.D. 2009) (quoting Joy v. Morrison, 254 S.W.3d 885,
888 (Mo. banc 2008)). To reverse for plain error, a reviewing
court must ultimately find that manifest injustice or a
miscarriage of justice has resulted from the trial court
error. State v. Worthington, 8 S.W.3d 83, 87 (Mo.
banc 1999). "Plain errors are those which are
'evident, obvious, and clear.'" State v.
Scurlock, 998 S.W.2d 578, 586 (Mo. App. W.D. 1999)
(quoting State v. Bailey, 839 S.W.2d 657, 661 (Mo.
App. W.D. 1992)). If such error appears, then (and only then)
the court must determine "whether the claimed error
resulted in manifest injustice or a miscarriage of
Facts and Procedural Background
does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting
his convictions. Thus, we relate only facts relevant to the
trial court's denial of Defendant's challenge for
cause to Juror 6.
voir dire, the trial court informed the panel of
prospective jurors that Defendant had been charged with
"the offenses of endangering the welfare of two children
[("the children")] and two counts of armed criminal
action." It also told the panel that "[D]efendant
has ple[aded] not guilty to the charges." Each panel
member was asked to answer some preliminary questions about
themselves. Juror 6 stated her name, the number of years she
had lived in Greene County, her marital status, that she had
no children, and that she operated a dance academy. During
the prosecutor's portion of voir dire, the panel
was told the names of the children and that their ages were
five and seven at the time of trial.
response to questions from defense counsel, Juror 6 disclosed
that she knew another member of the panel, but she said that
the other person would not "have any more influence over
[her] than anybody else[.]" Juror 6 also disclosed that
she had "a good friend in the St. Louis area who's
an officer with the police department[, ]" but she said
she would not "have a hard time" telling that
friend that she had found someone not guilty.
counsel later asked, "Is there anybody here . . . for
any reason, that you don't think you can sit on this
jury?" Juror 6 was among a group of panelists who raised
their hands in response to that question. Defense counsel
then called on each of those panelists, and the following is
the exchange with Juror 6.
[Defense counsel]: . . . . Yes.
[Juror 6]: I'm [Juror 6]. I'm a CASA
volunteer[, and so I've worked with
similar cases, not --probably not this one, and it's been
a while since I've had a case. It was three years since
my last case, but that is something that I've -- I just
feel like you should be aware of.
[Defense counsel]: Okay. And do you think that that -- your
experience as being a CASA volunteer --that that would be
playing in the back of your head a little bit and possibly