Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Pettis County, Missouri The
Honorable Robert L. Koffman, Judge
Before: James E. Welsh, Presiding Judge, Lisa White Hardwick,
Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge
D. Witt, Judge
Appellant Jamar Staten ("Staten") appeals from his
convictions following a jury trial before the Circuit Court
of Pettis County, for one count of assault in the first
degree, section 565.050, and one count of armed criminal
action, section 571.015. Staten argues that the trial court
abused its discretion in overruling his motion for a mistrial
following voir dire because the venire panel was
tainted by the comments of a veniremember that resulted in a
violation of Staten's rights to due process, a fair and
impartial jury, and to be tried only for the crimes charged.
was indicted on September 16, 2015 for one count of assault
in the first degree and one count of armed criminal action.
At trial, the evidence was that Staten and his brother Rodney
Jackson ("Jackson") went to a party attended by
Jackson's girlfriend Crystal Coke ("Coke") on
or about August 2, 2015. Coke refused to leave the party and
had an argument with Jackson. The hosts of the party, Alex
and Shandi Kosgei, requested that Jackson and Staten leave.
The two men left the party but returned shortly thereafter. A
confrontation ensued between Alex Kosgei
("Alex"), Coke, Staten, and Jackson that resulted in
the stabbing of Alex. Alex testified that Staten lunged
toward him and stabbed him in the stomach. Two additional
witnesses testified that they saw Staten lunge toward Alex,
which was followed by Alex dropping to the ground with a stab
to trial during voir dire, the prosecutor asked the
venire panel whether anyone had prior dealings with himself
or defense counsel. Veniremember #47 responded as follows:
[VENIREMEMBER #47]: I am a retired State Trooper for the
State of Missouri, and I've had dealings with the
Defendant's family down through the years.
[VENIREMEMBER #47]: And I've worked hand in hand with the
[PROSECUTOR]: Okay. Are those prior dealings, do you think,
would lead you to be incapable of being fair and impartial
[VENIREMEMBER #47]: Not necessarily, but I've got to be
honest with you and tell you I think it has influenced me
when asked by defense counsel whether anyone on the panel
knew Staten's family, Veniremember #47 responded that he
"[knew] them professionally, the family for the past 20
the public examination of the venire panel, the court
addressed private answers from persons on the panel out of
the hearing of the rest of the panel. Of relevance here,
Veniremember #25 had the following exchange with the trial
court and counsel:
THE COURT: Next, Number 25. That's [Veniremember #25].
You wish to respond further?
[VENIREMEMBER #25]: Yes. I believe -- I'm not -- I'm
not sure, but there was an officer behind me, I believe it
was [Veniremember #47].
THE COURT: Uh-huh.
[VENIREMEMBER #25]: And he stated if he had any experience
with the Defendant, and he so stated that, yes, he did, and
it had to do with some drug-related charges.
THE COURT: Uh-huh.
[VENIREMEMBER #25]: I believe that's what I heard. And
so, it just seems to me that automatically, the panel knows
the Defendant has priors, and specifically drug cases. It
seems to me, not having ever served on a jury before, that
that would ...