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State v. Ramsdell

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

March 26, 2019


          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Cause No. 1622-CR02382-01 Honorable Thomas C. Clark, II



         William Ramsdell, Jr. ("Defendant") appeals the judgment entered upon his conviction on two counts of domestic assault in the first degree, three counts of armed criminal action, and one count of domestic assault in the second degree in violation of §§ 565.072, 571.015, and 565.073.[1] In his sole point on appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in excluding evidence that limited Defendant's ability to present a meaningful defense. Specifically, Defendant claims he was precluded from presenting relevant, admissible evidence of Victim's employment as a prostitute to demonstrate that there was another source of her injuries and to question her credibility. Defendant argues that the totality of the circumstances of all of the excluded evidence would have undermined Victim's testimony, and that such exclusion prejudiced him.

         We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On July 22, 2016, Defendant was charged with two counts of domestic assault in the first degree, one count of domestic assault in the second degree, one count of kidnapping in the first degree, and three counts of armed criminal action for incidents occurring on May 23, 2015, April 22, 2016, and May 25-26, 2016.

         The following facts were adduced at trial. Victim and Defendant were in an intimate relationship and had been cohabitating for two years preceding Defendant's arrest. On May 23, 2015, Defendant beat Victim with a pool stick and struck her in the face with his fist for lying about a phone call she had with another man. Victim went to the hospital where she was diagnosed with and treated for a black eye, broken nose, and bruises and cuts on her legs. Officer Shirrell of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department ("SLMPD") responded to the hospital's call to interview Victim regarding her injuries. He took photos of her swollen left eye, broken nose, and laceration on her leg where Defendant had struck her with the pool stick. At the hospital, Victim disclosed to Officer Shirrell that Defendant "put his hands on her." During her stay, Victim was notified that she was pregnant, and subsequently left against medical advice because she did not want to assist the authorities in sending the father of her child to jail. For this reason, she gave the police a false phone number and address. Victim testified at trial that she was on heroin before and after visiting the hospital.

         About a year later, on April 22, 2016, Victim was again injured by Defendant while they were smoking methamphetamine in their residence. Victim testified that she occasionally would "go out to the streets." When she would return, Defendant wanted to know "every single detail" of Victim's sexual activities with other men. When Victim was not forthcoming with that information on April 22, 2016, Defendant again struck her several times with a pool stick on her arms and legs. She again went to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a broken arm and put in a temporary splint.[2] Officer Brewer-Moore of the SLMPD responded to the hospital and interviewed Victim for "about an hour." He took pictures of Victim's broken arm, bruised hand, and swollen eye where Defendant had jabbed her with a pool stick. Upon discharge from the hospital, Victim returned to live with Defendant.

         A month later, on May 25, 2016, Defendant and Victim celebrated her birthday and "did drugs for a little bit of the day." Victim promised to tell Defendant about the other men she "had slept with" because Defendant wanted to know "every single detail." Defendant again hit her with a pool stick whenever the details were not "good enough." Defendant removed Victim's cast because it hurt his fist whenever he struck her. Eventually, Defendant stopped attacking Victim and left the room briefly to deal with a work matter. Victim took this opportunity to hide the pool stick. When Defendant returned, Victim testified he continued beating her, this time with a shower brush. He hit her over the head several times "busting [her] head open." When Defendant left again, she took the opportunity to call her sister, who then called her mom. Her mom called the police. Victim testified that the beatings occurred for "about a day and a half" from May 25, 2016, to May 26, 2016.

         Officer West of the SLMPD arrived at the apartment on May 26th and announced his presence at the back door after hearing "some noises." Victim testified that after the police knocked, Defendant told her to be quiet while "he pretended like he was sleeping." Officer West testified that he looked through the window after the apartment "got quiet" and observed Victim standing near Defendant. Officer West noted that Victim had "multiple bruises with blood still running down her face." He pushed the air conditioning unit in and ordered Defendant "not to move" while Victim unlocked the back door for him. Upon entering, Officer West cuffed Defendant and called emergency medical services ("EMS") to treat Victim's injuries. Officer West took pictures of Victim's face, which depicted a "deep laceration" on her scalp as well as dried blood. He also took photos of her bruised legs and prior broken arm that "showed an older injury." Victim testified Defendant had put her in the shower "because there was blood all over her" prior to Officer West responding to the scene. Victim notified Officer West that the shower brush and pool stick were in the residence, but these items were not found in the apartment. Victim was transported to the hospital where she told EMS and the admitting nurse that she was in a bar fight with her cousin. She again left the hospital against medical advice and returned to the residence that she shared with Defendant. At this time, Defendant was in custody for one count of domestic assault in the second degree and one count of armed criminal action.[3]

         Prior to trial, the trial court granted the State's motion in limine on August 15, 2017, which precluded Defendant from introducing evidence that Victim was a prostitute. The court also noted that Defendant could not ask about Victim's drug addiction except when questioning her about the dates at issue in the case.

         Trial took place on August 15, 2017, following the motion in limine hearing. During trial, the court granted Defendant an opportunity to make an offer of proof outside of the presence of the jury regarding Victim being a prostitute and her illegal drug usage. Officer Brewer-Moore was called to testify about his personal knowledge of Victim's regular drug use and her activities as a prostitute. The court sustained the motion in limine, and further denied Defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's evidence and at the close of all the evidence. The jury returned its verdict on August 17, 2017, and found Defendant guilty of the charged crimes, except the kidnapping charge.[4] Defendant subsequently filed a motion for new trial, which the court denied. On October 6, 2017, Defendant was sentenced as a prior and persistent offender to an aggregate term of 14 years' imprisonment for the domestic assault in the first degree and armed criminal action counts, along with a concurrent term of 7 years for the domestic assault in the second degree.

         This appeal follows.

         II.Standard of ...

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