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State v. Coleman

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fifth Division

April 30, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
LEROY COLEMAN, JR., Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 16SL-CR01477-01 Honorable David L. Vincent III

          OPINION

          Lisa P. Page, Chief Judge.

         Leroy Coleman, Jr. ("Coleman") appeals the trial court's judgment entered upon a jury verdict convicting him of one count of first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree assault, one count of unlawful use of a weapon, and five counts of armed criminal action. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 20, 2016, a black Mercedes was forcibly stolen at gunpoint from a gas station in Sauget, Illinois. Surveillance footage captured the incident. The four men involved were Coleman, Jerrod Corley, Tony Bailey, and John Stith. Stith attempted to drive the vehicle but could not shift the car into gear due to the unique shift mechanism on the vehicle.[1] Corley switched places with Stith and drove the vehicle from the scene.

         Corley drove the men to a bar in St. Louis County where they saw Cornelius Stallings, his girlfriend and two other individuals. Coleman believed Stallings was involved in the death of his cousin. Stallings and his companions left in his Jeep. He was driving, his girlfriend was sitting in the front passenger seat, and the other individuals were in the back. Coleman and his companions also left with Corley driving the Mercedes. Coleman saw Stallings' Jeep on Interstate 270. Corley drove the Mercedes next to the Jeep and the passengers in the Mercedes began shooting into the Jeep. Stallings' girlfriend was killed as a result of the shooting. The individuals in the back each suffered gunshot wounds.

         Coleman and Corley were tried together. A jury convicted Coleman of one count of first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree assault, one count of unlawful use of a weapon, and five attendant counts of armed criminal action. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for first-degree murder and consecutive terms of twenty and fifteen years for the various remaining counts.[2] The present appeal follows.

         DISCUSSION

         In his sole point on appeal, Coleman argues the trial court abused its discretion in admitting surveillance video of an unrelated carjacking in Illinois and the related testimony concerning his participation in the uncharged crime because it constituted improper evidence of his propensity to commit the crimes charged. Coleman contends the State's argument that the evidence was offered as part of a common scheme or plan or to present a complete and coherent picture of the events leading up to the charged crimes was simply pretextual.

         Standard of Review

         The State claims this issue was not properly preserved for our review. According to the State, the error alleged in Coleman's motion for new trial was the trial court's decision to deny his motion in limine. The State cites State v. Davis, 533 S.W.3d 781 (Mo. App. S.D. 2017) in support of its argument that the issue was not preserved. However, this case is distinguishable from the facts in Davis. In his claim on appeal, Davis alleged the trial court erred in overruling his objections to the admission of the evidence at trial. However, he failed to raise it in his motion for new trial, thus broadening the scope of his original allegation of error, for purposes of appeal. Id. at 788 (emphasis in original). The court concluded the issue was not properly preserved. Id.

         The State is correct that a ruling on a motion in limine is interlocutory and not subject to appellate review. To properly preserve the issue for review, the party seeking to exclude the evidence must object to its admission at trial. State v. Carr, 50 S.W.3d 848, 855-56 (Mo. App. W.D. 2001). Here, Coleman initially challenged the trial court's denial of his motion in limine. He repeatedly raised the issues of the admissibility of the video and the related testimony at trial, and a continuing objection was granted to Coleman at trial. He also argued the trial court erred in admitting the evidence at trial in his motion for new trial. Therefore, the alleged error was not unknown or expanded upon appeal here as it was in Davis. Thus we consider the issue as if it were preserved.

         A trial court has broad discretion to admit or exclude evidence at trial. State v. Hood, 451 S.W.3d 758, 765 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014). The court abuses its discretion if its decision is clearly against the logic of the circumstances and so ...


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