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State v. Snider

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

December 12, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
ROBERT A. SNIDER, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Robert H. Dierker, Jr.

          KURT S. ODENWALD, JUDGE.

         Introduction

         Robert A. Snider ("Snider") appeals from the judgment of the trial court, entered after a jury trial, convicting him on one count of first-degree robbery and one count of armed criminal action. Snider presents two points on appeal. Snider first posits that the trial court erroneously denied his motion to suppress evidence of Victim's pre-trial identification of him as the suspect, arguing that the pre-trial identification was the result of impermissibly suggestive police procedures. Snider next challenges the trial court's use of MAI-CR 3d 312.10, [1] "the hammer instruction, " claiming that it effectively coerced and directed the jury to find him guilty. We deny Snider's first point because the police did not use impermissibly suggestive procedures to obtain Victim's pre-trial identification of Snider. We deny Snider's second point because the trial court's use of the hammer instruction was within its sound discretion. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Factual and Procedural History

         The State charged Snider with one count of first-degree robbery and one count of armed criminal action. The following evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to verdict, was presented at trial. On the night of September 14, 2014, Victim, an employee of a St. Louis casino, was released early from her scheduled shift. Victim used the elevator to reach the fourth floor of the casino's well-lit parking garage. As she exited the elevator lobby, Victim noticed a man, who was standing alone near her. The man was peering over his shoulder and watching Victim. Victim started to walk past the man, but she felt the man reach out and grab her bag. The man pulled on Victim's bag, but Victim resisted. Turning to face each other, Victim and the man struggled over the bag for three to five seconds. Victim shouted loudly while staring directly at the man's face. When Victim raised her fist, the man pressed a gun to Victim's abdomen, instructing her repeatedly, "Don't do it." Observing and feeling the gun shoved against her body, Victim relinquished the bag, and the man fled. According to Victim, the man had pronounced cheeks and forehead, a wider-set nose, dark-brown eyes, a dark complexion, and thick dreadlocks.

         Police officers responded to the scene. The officers received a description of the suspect from Victim, reporting the suspect as an African-American male, 5'6" to 5'8" tall, having a dark complexion, wearing thick dreadlocks, and weighing around 220 lbs. Victim's description of the man matched the casino's surveillance videos. After reviewing the surveillance videos, the officers ascertained that the suspect entered a car in the parking garage, which was driven by a second person of interest. Two weeks later, the officers were able to locate the vehicle used to flee the scene and detain the driver, who matched the description of the second person of interest. Thereafter, officers received information that Snider was a suspect in the robbery.

         After learning of Snider's potential involvement with the case, Detective John Anderson ("Det. Anderson") examined Snider's photograph, recognizing that Snider matched the description of the suspect given by Victim. Det. Anderson placed Snider's photograph in a photographic line-up, compiled from the State's crime-matrix system. The crime-matrix system created a six-person photographic array-including one photograph of Snider and five filler photographs-based on people of similar ages, sizes, and hairstyles. The six photographs were each on a separate page and the photographs were shown sequentially in an order randomly selected by the crime-matrix system.

         Det. Anderson contacted Victim on September 28, 2014, and asked her to view the line-up. Det. Anderson and Detective Lyla Payne ("Det. Payne") met with Victim. Det. Payne was not involved with the investigation and was the blind administrator of the line-up. At the meeting, Det. Anderson informed Victim that Det. Payne would show her some pictures, but that the photographs may or may not contain the suspect. Det. Anderson then stepped away, and Det. Payne sequentially displayed the photographs to Victim. Victim immediately selected Snider's photograph when shown. Victim explained that Snider was the man who robbed her and that she was certain of the identification. The detectives advised Victim that she needed to be certain. Victim reviewed the photographs and again selected Snider's picture. On an acknowledgement form, Victim wrote her name, the date of the identification, and the time of the identification.[2] Victim testified that she would not have made an identification if the suspect had not been present in the lineup.

         Snider moved to suppress Victim's pre-trial identification and any related testimony. Snider emphasized that Victim's pre-trial identification was made contrary to established police procedures because the detectives did not: (1) advise Victim that the suspect may or may not be in the line-up; (2) inform Victim that the investigation would continue regardless of her ability to identify the suspect; and (3) instruct Victim before showing the photographs that she must be certain in her identification. The trial court denied both Snider's motion to suppress and his continued objections at trial, admitting the photographic line-up into evidence as well as any related testimony. The trial court found that the police procedures used were not impermissibly suggestive and that Victim had a sufficient independent basis for making the pre-trial identification.

         The case was submitted to the jury. The jury began deliberating at 10:28 a.m. Around 2:30 p.m., the trial court received a note from the jury. The note, in pertinent part, stated: "The jury is 10 guilty and 2 not guilty. Reasonable doubt has been expressed whether the photo lineup was handled properly and whether proper procedures were followed, and also of [Victim's] accuracy of identification. Where do we go from here?" After receiving the note, Snider moved for a mistrial, which was denied. The trial court then recalled the jury to the courtroom to read Instruction No. 13, the hammer instruction, which was patterned after MAI-CR 3d 312.10.[3] After the trial court read the instruction around 2:55 p.m., the jury resumed its deliberations. Snider renewed his request for a mistrial, specifically referencing the jury's note. The trial court again denied the request. At 4:08 p.m., the jury ended its deliberations, finding Snider guilty of both first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. Snider unsuccessfully moved for a new trial, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred in admitting Victim's identifications into evidence and by reading the hammer instruction to the jury. Finding Snider a prior and persistent offender, the trial court sentenced him to twenty-five years in prison on each of the counts, to run concurrently. This appeal follows.

         Points on Appeal

         Snider raises two points on appeal. In Point One, Snider asserts that the trial court erroneously denied his motion to suppress Victim's pre-trial identification because the pre-trial identification was the result of impermissibly suggestive police procedures, thereby violating his constitutional rights to due process and to a fair and impartial trial. In Point Two, Snider argues that the trial court erred in ...


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