Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable
Edward W. Sweeney, Jr.
S. ODENWALD, JUDGE
E. Wright ("Wright") appeals from the trial
court's judgment, following a jury trial, convicting him
on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed
criminal action. Wright raises four points on appeal. Wright
initially charges the trial court with error for excluding
evidence of an alternative perpetrator. In Point Two, Wright
claims that the trial court erred in finding that the State
did not violate his right to a speedy trial. In Points Three
and Four, Wright argues that the trial court erroneously
admitted his videotaped statements, made during a police
interview, because they were cumulative and lacked proper
Wright presented no evidence that the purported alternative
perpetrator committed an act directly connected to the
charged crimes, we deny Point One. We reject Point Two
because the pretrial delay did not prejudice Wright. Lastly,
because the trial court did not err in admitting Wright's
videotaped statements as rebuttal evidence, we deny Points
Three and Four. We affirm.
and Procedural History
officers arrested Wright on June 2, 2015, after finding Ricos
Boyd ("Boyd") and Shayla Carter
("Carter") shot to death in the alley behind
Wright's residence. On June 30, 2015, Wright was indicted
on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed
criminal action. The trial court placed the case on the
trial docket and continued the case to October 2015. In
September 2015, the trial court granted the State's
request for a continuance because the State was waiting for
the final police report. On October 25, 2015, Wright asserted
his right to a speedy trial.
November 2015, the trial court again granted the State a
continuance because of the incomplete police report. In
January 2016, the trial court approved the State's motion
for a continuance due to the still unfinished police report
and the assigned trial attorney's departure from the
circuit attorney's office. Substitute counsel appeared
for the State and, in February 2016, said counsel moved for
additional time to prepare for trial and to receive the final
police report. After a hearing and over Wright's
objection, the trial court ordered another continuance. The
trial court again reset the case in April 2016, after
conducting another hearing, wherein the State explained that
the prosecuting attorney was unavailable due to a scheduled
break after several jury trials. The court finally scheduled
Wright's trial for June 13, 2016.
moved to dismiss the indictment alleging that the State
violated his right to a speedy trial. Wright argued that he
had consistent medical issues in jail, had experienced
extreme anxiety due to his confinement, and was unable to see
his children. The motion court denied Wright's motion,
finding that, under all of the circumstances, the pretrial
delay did not prejudice Wright. The trial court stated that
there was no evidence that the State deliberately delayed the
proceedings. Wright's jury trial began on June 13, 2016.
trial, the State presented the following evidence. On June 2,
2015, Wright lived at 3623 North Newstead Avenue in St. Louis
with his wife ("Michelle") and their children. Zelma
Higgins ("Higgins")-Michelle's aunt-lived
nearby and frequently visited Michelle. Early that morning,
Higgins walked past Wright's residence and heard Michelle
arguing with a woman later identified as Carter. Higgins
stopped and saw Michelle and Carter in Wright's backyard.
Peering into the backyard, Higgins also spotted Boyd and
Wright. Higgins recognized Boyd as Michelle's sexual
partner. Carter was Boyd's close friend. Higgins also
observed and identified Boyd's vehicle and Wright's
vehicle parked in the alley. Higgins then wandered around the
area, before pausing at a position where she could again view
Wright's backyard. Michelle and Carter were still
argument persisted, Higgins witnessed Wright suddenly shoot
Boyd multiple times, striking him in the thigh, back, neck,
and buttocks. Boyd was unarmed. Higgins observed Wright move
to the front of Boyd's vehicle to confront Carter. Carter
was in the vehicle, holding up her hands, and pleading with
Wright not to shoot. Wright shot Carter repeatedly, striking
her in the side, back, and hand. Boyd and Carter died from
their gunshot wounds. Wright and Michelle drove away from the
scene. Higgins testified that, although she had taken crack
cocaine that morning, the shooting sobered her. Higgins
eventually flagged down some police officers.
Responding to the call, Detective Thomas Walsh ("Det.
Walsh") arrived at the crime scene. Det. Walsh reported
that the shooting occurred around 3:20 a.m. Twelve .40
caliber shell casings were recovered from Wright's
backyard and alley. Testing revealed that the same firearm
fired all twelve shell casings. Det. Walsh did not discover a
firearm at the scene. Based on the information provided by
Higgins, Det. Walsh identified Wright as a suspect. Later
that day, detectives arrested Wright.
Wright's Testimony and Videotaped Statements
testified in his own defense at trial. Wright explained that
he was asleep at his home when he heard gunshots. Wright
stated that he dressed, pulled his vehicle around to the
front of his home, placed his children and Michelle in his
vehicle, and left. Wright denied killing Boyd and Carter.
Wright also claimed that he did not own a firearm. Wright
acknowledged that he was aware, but not jealous, of
Boyd's sexual relationship with Michelle. Wright later
clarified that he was separated from Michelle, Michelle had
relocated to Higginsville, Missouri, and he specifically knew
of Michelle's new location.
cross-examination, Wright admitted that his trial testimony
contradicted statements he had made to detectives after the
shootings. Specifically, after the shooting, Wright informed
detectives that he did not have any knowledge or information
about the shootings. But as the interview continued, Wright
told the detectives that the shootings were in self-defense.
Wright eventually confessed to detectives that he heard
Michelle and Carter arguing, retrieved his .40 caliber
firearm, shot the victims repeatedly, drove away from the
scene, and discarded his firearm. Wright also purportedly
provided specific details about the shootings in the
Wright admitted making inconsistent statements, Wright
maintained during cross-examination that the detectives'
threats off camera to take away his children caused him make
inculpatory statements. Further, Wright contended that the
interviewing detectives provided him with the details of the
crime, prompted his answers, suggested off camera that he
claim self-defense, and coerced his incriminating statements.
rebuttal, the State announced that it would call Det.
Walsh-one of the interviewing detectives-and present a
videotape of Wright's interview with the
detectives. Wright stated that he would object because
the exhibit was cumulative and repetitive. The trial court
never explicitly ruled on Wright's objection. The parties
extensively discussed which components of the videotaped
statements they would show to the jury. Wright withdrew other
objections to portions of the videotape, and the parties
agreed to certain redactions. Det. Walsh then testified that
the exhibit was a fair and accurate representation of the
interview and that no questioning of Wright occurred outside
the recording. The State asked to admit the videotape. At
that time, Wright did not object. The trial court admitted
the exhibit, and the State presented it to the jury.
also sought to introduce evidence that a witness saw an
unknown person flee from the area of the shooting. The State
opposed the admission of such evidence, arguing that without
any direct evidence tying the alternative perpetrator to the
shootings, the evidence was likely to confuse the jury and
was inadmissible. Wright submitted the testimony of Stacey
Torrey ("Torrey") as an offer of proof.
testified that, on the morning of the shootings, he was
repairing a cable outage on the 4300 block of Lexington
Avenue in St. Louis. Torrey was positioned around the corner-
approximately a half block to one-and-a-half blocks--from the
site of the shootings. As Torrey was completing paperwork in
his truck, he noticed a man in a hoodie, with a rough beard,
wearing blue jeans, and running east on Lexington Avenue
towards him. Concerned for his own safety, Torrey drove
westward along Lexington Avenue. After circling back around
to Natural Bridge Avenue, Torrey approached the crime scene.
As he neared, Torrey spotted the arrival of several police
vehicles and stopped to report. Torrey informed police
officers that the man "you probably looking for just ran
down past me." Wright was not the man Torrey observed.
trial court excluded Torrey's testimony. The trial court
found that although Torrey observed an unidentified man
running a half block to one-and-a-half blocks from where the
shooting occurred, Torrey's testimony did not establish
that the man carried a firearm or ran directly from the site
of the shootings. In denying the proffer of evidence, the
trial court found that Wright did not offer any exhibits
specifically demonstrating Torrey's position relative to
the crime scene, and the timeline of Torrey's observances
remained "very, very sketchy." The trial court
noted that Torrey did not hear any gunshots or identify the
time he arrived at the crime scene.
deliberating, the jury found Wright guilty on two counts of
first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action.
Wright moved for a new trial. In his motion, Wright
challenged the trial court's ruling on his speedy-trial
claim, arguing that the pretrial delay prejudiced him because
Michelle relocated and her whereabouts were unknown at trial.
Wright also argued that the ...