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State v. Watson

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fifth Division

July 18, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
RICHARD WATSON, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable John J. Riley

          Philip M. Hess, Presiding Judge.

         Introduction

         Richard Watson ("Appellant") was convicted, following a jury trial, of one count of involuntary manslaughter, in violation of Section 565.024[1] and one count of armed criminal action, in violation of Section 571.015. Appellant was sentenced as a persistent offender to four years of incarceration for involuntary manslaughter, and three years of incarceration for armed criminal action with the sentences to be served concurrently. In his sole point relied on, Appellant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing a correctional supervisor to testify as a rebuttal witness, and that he was prejudiced by the trial court's abuse of discretion. We affirm.

         Factual Background

         Appellant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence at trial is as follows. State v. Twitty, 506 S.W.3d 345, 346 (Mo. banc 2017).

         Appellant lived with his thirteen-year-old son, D.W. in St. Louis. In February 2014, Appellant's home was burglarized. Following the burglary, Appellant testified he learned that two of his neighbors, brothers Ezell Caves and Demetrius Griffin, were likely the burglars. Appellant also testified that, following the burglary of his home, Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin threatened him and D.W. with violence. Mr. Caves denied burglarizing Appellant's home and threatening Appellant and D.W. with violence.

         On May 4, 2014, Appellant drove his truck to a liquor store with his girlfriend around 6:30 p.m. and purchased a bottle of vodka. Appellant was carrying a handgun. Upon returning home, Appellant drank some of the vodka and shared it with his friends who had gathered at his home. Appellant briefly returned to his truck with his girlfriend, and when the two exited the truck they saw Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin walking on a nearby sidewalk with a group of people. Appellant stopped to let the group walk by. Mr. Caves stopped in front of Appellant's truck and the two men argued about who would walk first on the sidewalk. Upon witnessing the argument between Mr. Caves and Appellant, Mr. Griffin said, "I told you not to be saying nothing to my brother, " and asked if Appellant wanted to fight. Appellant agreed to fight Mr. Griffin, and both men stepped into the street.

         Appellant testified that as Mr. Caves walked away with his back turned, Mr. Caves said "Don't make this a murder scene, "[2] and reached his hand into his backpack. Appellant testified that because he thought Mr. Caves was reaching for a gun, he pulled out his own gun and shot Mr. Caves two times. The first shot hit Mr. Caves' left foot and he fell to the ground. As Mr. Caves tried to get up, Appellant fired a second shot, hitting the bottom of his right leg. Appellant then testified that he saw Mr. Griffin reach into his waistband and run towards him. Appellant testified that because he believed Mr. Griffin was reaching for a gun, he shot Mr. Griffin multiple times, causing him to fall to the ground. After falling to the ground, Appellant shot Mr. Griffin several more times. Mr. Griffin died from his wounds. Mr. Caves denied ever trying to pull a gun from his backpack, and testified that Appellant shot him and Mr. Griffin for no reason. Officer Burgoon, St. Louis police officer, testified that no guns were found in Mr. Caves' backpack, and Mr. Caves testified that neither he nor Mr. Griffin had a gun on the night of the shooting.

         The State of Missouri ("State") charged Appellant with four counts arising from the May 4 shooting: Count I, for first-degree murder[3]; Count II, for armed criminal action; Count III, for first-degree assault; and Count IV, for armed criminal action.

         Two of Appellant's neighbors testified that they saw Appellant firing multiple gunshots while standing over Mr. Griffin. Roger Murphy, a St. Louis City police detective, testified that he conducted a videotaped interview[4] with Appellant. Detective Murphy testified that during the interview Appellant stated the shooting would have been justified had he not gone back over and shot Mr. Griffin again, and that he "should have left it alone."

         Appellant presented evidence regarding the character and reputation of Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin to bolster his argument for self-defense. Appellant testified that Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin threatened him with violence on multiple occasions. Appellant testified that Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin had a reputation for carrying guns. On cross-examination, Appellant admitted that he had been involved in prior acts of violence, including a fist fight and an assault with a gun.

         Marvin King, Appellant's neighbor, testified that Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin had a reputation in the community for trouble, and that he witnessed Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin make multiple threats of violence toward Appellant. William Harvey, Appellant's neighbor, testified that Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin had a reputation in the community for breaking into people's houses. D.W. testified that Mr. Caves and Mr. Griffin threatened him and Appellant with violence on multiple occasions.

         In rebuttal, over Appellant's objection, the State called Captain Sonya White, a shift supervisor at the Justice Center correctional facility. Captain White testified that, while Appellant was incarcerated and on lockdown in October 2014, she opened the door to Appellant's unit to serve dinner. After handing Appellant his Styrofoam dinner tray, Captain White testified that Appellant asked her when his unit would be coming off lockdown. Captain White testified that as she told Appellant she would ...


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