Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fifth Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable
John J. Riley
M. Hess, Presiding Judge.
Watson ("Appellant") was convicted, following a
jury trial, of one count of involuntary manslaughter, in
violation of Section 565.024 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.
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).
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.
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
testified that as Mr. Caves walked away with his back turned,
Mr. Caves said "Don't make this a murder scene,
" 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.
State of Missouri ("State") charged Appellant with
four counts arising from the May 4 shooting: Count I, for
first-degree murder; Count II, for armed criminal action;
Count III, for first-degree assault; and Count IV, for armed
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 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."
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.
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
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 ...