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State v. Valley

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

February 13, 2018

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

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF IRON COUNTY Honorable Sidney Pearson, Judge

          DANIEL E. SCOTT, J.

         Robert Valley shotgunned his wife in the back, unsuccessfully claimed accident, and now appeals his resulting convictions.

         Background[1]

         Valley beat Wife too often to count during a 20-year marriage, most frequently and severely during their last 18 months together. One day, after the couple had argued for hours, Valley grabbed a 10-gauge shotgun. As Wife tried to escape, Valley called her "a no good bitch, " said she was going to die, and shot her in the back from seven feet away.

         The force knocked Wife out the back door, pellets breaking her ribs and perforating her internal organs. She struggled to a neighbor's house and collapsed on the floor, her intestines exposed.

         Valley reloaded his gun, then discarded it and fled. He was apprehended the next day. A jury rejected his claim of accident and found him guilty of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. He raises two evidentiary challenges on appeal.

         Point I

         At trial, Valley denied having told K.C., a few months before the shooting, that he was going to kill Wife. In rebuttal, the state called K.C., who related Valley's statement. Defense counsel moved to strike K.C.'s testimony as too remote in time to be relevant, which the court properly denied. "The passage of time alone will not render evidence inadmissible due to its remoteness." State v. Prince, No. SC96524, slip op. at 7 (Mo banc. Dec. 5, 2017).

         Perhaps recognizing this, Valley changes his theory of irrelevance on appeal. Point I now charges that K.C.'s testimony "was irrelevant to the state's theory of the case that [Valley] was a serial abuser who shot [Wife] as part of a pattern of domestic assault."

         "Because [Valley] altered the basis of his claim with respect to this argument, it is not preserved for review." Prince, slip op. at 7 n.2. See also State v. Sykes, 480 S.W.3d 461, 465 (Mo.App. 2016). Point I fails.

         Point II

         Valley also charges court error in refusing to admit Exhibit C, Wife's post-shooting letter professing love for Valley, during the trial's guilt phase. We have examined the record carefully; no such appealable ruling occurred.

         Pretrial: The court made a pretrial ruling in limine limiting guilt-phase use of the letter, which defense counsel argued was "completely relevant" for purposes of impeaching Wife. The court said the letter could be used for that purpose, but would "be excluded unless it becomes relevant during ...


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