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State v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

June 29, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
CARL LEE JACKSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF MCDONALD COUNTY Honorable Timothy W. Perigo, Circuit Judge, AFFIRMED


          Nancy Steffen Rahmeyer, J.

         A jury found Carl Lee Jackson ("Defendant") guilty of murder in the first degree, armed criminal action, and burglary in the first degree based on events that occurred in October 2014.[1] The jury assessed and declared punishment for these offenses -mandatory life in prison without eligibility for probation or parole for murder in the first degree, twenty years for armed criminal action, and fifteen years for burglary in the first degree. The trial court imposed that punishment, and ordered the sentences to run concurrently with each other. Defendant appeals challenging in two points the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's verdict finding him guilty of murder in the first degree, and a single comment in the prosecutor's closing argument. We reject Defendant's points, and affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Procedural History and Evidence Presented at Trial

         Defendant was charged by amended information with (1) murder in the first degree in that Defendant "after deliberation, knowingly caused the death of [Victim] by shooting him, " (2) armed criminal action in that Defendant committed the murder "by . . . the knowing use, assistance and aid of a deadly weapon, " (3) burglary in the first degree in that Defendant unlawfully entered Victim's home for the purpose of committing theft, and (4) robbery in the first degree in that Defendant "forcibly stole [a] British .303 rifle owned by [Victim]" based on events that occurred in October 2014.

         The jury was presented with the following evidence.[2] Robert Jackson, who was Defendant's nephew and one of Defendant's male accomplices, testified as follows. Defendant is "at least . . . about ten years" older than Robert.[3] Defendant and Robert "occasionally" sold "weed" together. Richard Knee, who also was known as Junior and was Defendant's second male accomplice, was Robert's "distant cousin." Defendant's female accomplice was Tomi Stanley. Robert "met [Tomi] through [Richard], " and Tomi "would buy weed from" Robert.

         In October 2014, based on what Tomi told the men, Robert expected to find a "whole lot of marijuana" at Victim's - Robert's "estimation" was "25 pounds or more." On October 22nd, Defendant, Richard and Robert drove in Defendant's truck to Tomi's house. Before leaving for Tomi's house, Robert and Defendant placed an "AR-15, " an "AR-22" and a "Ruger .22" under the backseat of Defendant's truck. While at Defendant's house, Defendant got three masks - one for himself, and one each for Robert and Richard - to use later at Victim's house. At Tomi's house, Tomi told the men "where . . . all the weed would be and how the house was set up." Tomi said the men should enter the back door, which "lead[s] into the victim's room." Tomi then drove the three men to Victim's house in Tomi's automobile. Each of the men had a "gun." During the drive, Tomi told the men they:

would encounter three males in the sitting room. Two were to be about my age, a little bit younger, that they would not fight back, that they would just do what we wanted them to, and the other one would carry a key around his neck leading to the safe where all the weed was.

         When the group arrived at Victim's house, Tomi "said she was going to wait in the car." Defendant instructed Robert and Richard to put on their masks, but declined to wear his own mask because "he said he could not breathe in it, so he took it off, and he had his hood up on his hoodie." Robert and Richard wore their masks. Defendant entered Victim's house first, then Robert followed by Richard. On entering the house, Robert "heard a man start cussing, a dog start barking, and then I heard a gunshot go off." The men told the people in the house "to get on the ground, " and then Robert "was told" to take "[a] younger man" "into the kitchen." From the kitchen, Robert could see an "elderly woman" "sitting in a chair in front of the TV."[4] Defendant told Robert to "tie [the man and woman] up." Robert did so. While Robert "was dealing with the people in the living room, " Robert "heard some yelling, and then . . . some more gunshots." Robert then heard "[l]et's go, " and the three men left Victim's house by the same door they came in. As Robert left the house, he observed Victim lying on the ground. "A couple of canisters" that smelled "like weed and a rifle" were taken from Victim's house.

         Tomi had left while the three men were inside Victim's house so the men "ran up" a dirt road and "laid down in the grass" in a clearing. After a time, Tomi returned, picked the three men up and returned to her house. The three men than "loaded up the truck" and left. Subsequently, Robert told Defendant that Robert "wanted" an "antique" "British .303 rifle" and "kind of took it." Robert "wasn't aware [the rifle had come from Victim's house], but . . . had a suspicion."

         Richard Knee, Jr. also testified, and added the following evidence. Richard met Defendant through Robert. "[A]t various times, " Richard and Robert "engaged in selling marijuana." Tomi is Richard's aunt, and Tomi and Richard were close. Richard learned about Victim through Tomi. Richard acknowledged that Defendant and Robert had rifles at Victim's house, but denied that Richard had a gun; however, Richard Tyrell ("Ty") Hackett, who was Victim's friend and present in Victim's home when Victim was shot, testified that all three men were "armed" - "[o]ne was a long gun" and Ty "believe[d] two were pistols." Victim's mother also testified that "all three of those men had guns."

         Richard testified that the three men knocked on Victim's front door, but actually entered Victim's house through a door "at the end of the trailer" that led into a bedroom. Robert wore a mask, Richard had a mask on the top of his head but did not pull the mask down over his face, and Defendant did not have a mask.[5] As Defendant entered Victim's house, Defendant "shot the dog."[6] The dog was not posing any threat to Defendant to Richard's knowledge.[7] Victim was never tied up. Richard was with Victim in the bedroom, and Victim "was supposed to be opening the safe." Victim got a pistol "off the top of the safe, " and pointed the pistol at Richard.[8]

         Richard "put [his] hands up and hollered for [Defendant], and told him that he had a gun." Defendant "come around the corner and [Defendant and Victim] started arguing." Each was telling the other to put the gun down, and Victim also "was telling us to leave his house." Victim "was moving the gun back and forth from" Richard to Defendant. Defendant told Victim he was going to count to three; then counted one, two and shot Victim three times. To Richard, "[i]t looked like" Victim was shot in the leg.[9]Defendant then "opened the safe" and handed Richard two jars - one jar was empty and one jar contained empty sandwich bags. Richard was not aware of any other property being taken out of Victim's house that night. Defendant "seem[ed] calm" when he counted, when he shot Victim, and when he looked through Victim's safe after shooting Victim. When the three men left Victim's house, Defendant and Robert still were "armed, " and when Richard last saw Victim, Victim "was still talking." A day or two later, Defendant told Richard that Victim died. Defendant also "threatened to kill [Richard] and [his] family multiple times."

          In the evening on October 22, 2014, McDonald County Sheriff Michael Hall responded to a reported "shooting in a home invasion." Sheriff Hall was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the scene. Sheriff Hall also is an "EMT, " and determined Victim was dead. Sheriff Hall observed a dead dog inside Victim's house, and a shell casing near the dog.[10] Sheriff Hall also observed through a "pretty large crack" an unknown number of marijuana plants in a locked room in Victim's house. Sheriff Hall took a picture of Victim that shows a wound in Victim's "upper left chest" - Sheriff Hall described the wound as "right above his left . . . nipple area." Sheriff Hall observed "[s]everal - I would assume at the time it was bullet entry wounds" on Victim, and blood on and around Victim.[11] Sheriff Hall also testified that "[t]here was some indications that [Victim] was also shot in the groin area." One shell casing was located "underneath" Victim.

         Joseph Houdyshell, "a narcotics detective with Ozarks Drug Enforcement team, " told the jury the following. In a search of Defendant's home in March 2015, a "lower for an AR-15 rifle" and a "British .303 rifle" were seized. Defendant and Robert were present in the home at the time of the search. The "lower" includes the "trigger mechanism and the butt stock" and does not include "the bolt, the chamber, and the barrel."[12] Defendant told Detective Houdyshell that the "lower" was Defendant's, and Defendant sold the "upper" to a person "in Grove."[13] Defendant told Detective Houdyshell the British .303 rifle "was Robert's."

         Brandon Barrett, a lieutenant with the McDonald County Sheriff's Department, "collect[ed] physical evidence" at Victim's house. According to Lt. Barrett, the dog at Victim's house "looked as though it had [died] as a result of a gunshot wound." In the "immediate vicinity" of the dog, law enforcement officers "collected two spent .223 [shell] casings" - one of which was found by a doorway. A third spent .223 shell casing was found in Victim's bedroom. Lt. Barrett received an upper for a .223 AR-15 from a person who lived with Defendant "within a couple of days" after Defendant "acknowledged" "he had . . . the lower to an AR-15." Lt. Barrett sent the three shell casings from Victim's home, the lower of the AR-15 seized in the search of Defendant's home and the upper of the AR-15 received from a person who lived with Defendant to the crime lab "[t]o see if they could get a match on the shell casings and the . . . weapon itself." The shell casings recovered from Victim's home that were sent to the crime lab "matched the - were fired from the AR-15 . . . of [Defendant]." Victim's "family" told law enforcement that a British .303 rifle was taken in the "incident, " and subsequently provided law enforcement with a serial number for the rifle that matched the serial number of the British .303 rifle seized in the search of Defendant's home.[14]

         Alexander A. Belt, who was employed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime laboratory division, testified as follows. Mr. Belt's "specialty is" "[f]irearm and tool marks." Mr. Belt concluded that the shell casings recovered from Victim's home were "fired from" the combined lower of an AR-15 seized from Defendant's home and upper of an AR-15 received by Lt. Barrett from a person who lived with Defendant.

         Defendant did not testify, and did not call any witnesses.

         Early in the prosecutor's closing argument, the following argument, objection and ruling occurred:

Both of our witnesses at the scene put [Defendant] as the first man in the door. [Defendant] was carrying a weapon, his weapon, this weapon, a .223 AR-15 assault rifle, and when he came through that door into the back of [Victim's] room, the first thing he did was shoot the dog. Now, was the dog a threat? Pretty much everybody who testified said no. It might bark, but he wasn't aggressive. I don't think that [Defendant] killed the dog because he was aggressive. [Defendant] killed the dog because he was ready to -
[Defense Counsel]: Objection, your Honor. It's speculation.
THE COURT: You can draw reasonable inference, so it's ...

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