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State v. Clark

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

August 15, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
STEVEN D. CLARK, Defendant/Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cape Girardeau County Honorable Michael E. Gardner

          OPINION

          Philip M. Hess, Judge.

         Steven D. Clark was found guilty by a jury in the circuit court of Cape Girardeau County of unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance arising out of information received by police from a confidential informant that a weapon was inside a vehicle parked at a pawn shop. Clark, a prior felony offender, was sentenced to concurrent terms of seven years' imprisonment on each count. Clark appeals, asserting three points of error: (1) that the trial court plainly erred in denying his motion to declare the unlawful possession of a firearm statute amended by House Bill 2034 in 2008 unconstitutional; (2) that the trial court erred by overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal because the evidence was insufficient to prove either that he knew about the drugs or that he exercised control over them; and (3) that the trial court abused its discretion by overruling his motion to compel the disclosure of the confidential informant's identity. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On June 17, 2015, a detective with the drug task force received information from a confidential informant that a weapon was inside a Dodge Intrepid parked at a pawn shop. The detective, who was in an unmarked vehicle and wearing street clothes, went to the pawn shop and witnessed Clark get into the passenger side backseat of the Intrepid. The Intrepid left the pawn shop and the detective alerted officers of its location so it could be stopped by a marked police cruiser.

         A marked police cruiser followed the Intrepid and it sped up. The police officer activated the cruiser's lights and the Intrepid turned into an alley. The cruiser followed and when the officer entered the alley he saw the rear passenger door was open and then witnessed it pulled closed near a telephone pole about halfway down the alley. About 100 feet from where the door closed the Intrepid stopped and the officer ordered the three occupants out of the vehicle. Clark was the sole occupant in the back of the vehicle.

         Once the occupants were secured, the police searched the Intrepid. A bag of methamphetamine was in plain view on the floorboard below the passenger side backseat where Clark had been sitting. Two bags of methamphetamine were also in the center console of the Intrepid. The police also went to where the rear passenger door had closed and found a backpack next to the telephone pole. Inside the backpack was a firearm, cell phone, and a pipe commonly used in smoking methamphetamine with drug residue on it.

         Clark was interviewed by police. Clark denied that the firearm in the backpack was his but admitted that his DNA would be on it because he had possessed it previously. Clark admitted that the cell phone in the backpack was his.

         Clark was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance. Clark was tried by a jury and found guilty of both charges. Clark moved for a judgment of acquittal and for a new trial. Clark did not raise his constitutional argument in his post-trial motions which were both denied. This appeal follows.

         In this appeal, Clark has moved to transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court, arguing that because he challenges the constitutionality of a statute, a matter reserved for the exclusive jurisdiction of the Missouri Supreme Court, we should transfer this case. We took Clark's motion to transfer with the case and deny it for the reasons stated below.

         Standard of Review

         On direct appeal, we review for prejudice, not mere error, and will reverse only if the error was so prejudicial that it deprived the defendant of a fair trial. State v. Marrow, 968 S.W.2d 100, 106 (Mo. banc 1998). We review the facts in the light most favorable to the verdict. Id. Issues not properly preserved for appeal may be considered only if the court finds that manifest injustice or a miscarriage of justice has resulted therefrom. Id.

         I. Constitutionality of Section 571.070 Enacted by House Bill 2034

         In point I, Clark contends that the trial court plainly erred in denying his motion to declare the version of § 571.070[1] amended by House Bill 2034 unconstitutional because it was enacted in violation of Article III, Section 21 of the Missouri Constitution which prohibits a bill from being amended in its passage from its original purpose, and Article III, Section's 23 prohibition on a bill containing more than one subject. Clark concedes this claim was not ...


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