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State v. Edwards

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

May 7, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
SEQUOI D. EDWARDS, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis 1722-CR02097-01 Honorable Michael W. Noble.

          Gary M. Gaertner, Jr. Judge.

         Introduction

         Defendant, Sequoi D. Edwards (Defendant), appeals the judgment after a jury found him guilty of third-degree kidnapping, third-degree domestic assault, unlawful use of a weapon, and two counts of fourth-degree domestic assault. Defendant argues the trial court erred: (1) in admitting into evidence three 911 calls, (2) excluding the testimony of a process server, and (3) instructing the jury on the charge of third-degree domestic assault. The trial court's judgment is affirmed.

         Background

         We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict.[1] The victim began a romantic relationship with Defendant in 2015. Thereafter, Defendant bought a house and the victim moved in. In the early morning of May 11, 2017, Defendant and the victim started arguing at the house. Defendant hit the victim with his fists and a metal mop. Despite Defendant's attempt to block the door, the victim eventually escaped from the house. The victim saw a neighbor, Chris Thomas, standing outside and ran to him, Thomas gave the victim his phone and she called 911. The victim told the 911 operator: her boyfriend, Defendant, was trying to kill her, Defendant was wearing a blue shirt and jeans, Defendant had a gun, Defendant was inside the house, and she was hurt and needed an ambulance.

         Defendant came outside with a gun in his hand. Defendant grabbed the victim by her hair, dragged her down the street, and hit her head with the gun. An unidentified female called 911 once, and a male, believed to be Thomas, called 911 three times. The male caller and the victim told 911 operators that Defendant was wearing a blue shirt and jeans. When the police arrived at approximately 7:30 a.m., they saw Defendant dragging the victim across the street. The officers also observed a handgun protruding from Defendant's waistband and Defendant was wearing blue jeans and a blue shirt. The officers arrested Defendant. The victim went by ambulance to the hospital for treatment of her injuries. The victim suffered a nasal fracture, subconjunctival hemorrhage to her eye, and contusions to her face and other parts of her body.

         The jury found Defendant guilty of third-degree kidnapping, third-degree domestic assault, unlawful use of a weapon, and two counts of fourth-degree domestic assault. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total of 11 years imprisonment for the five convictions. Defendant raises three points on appeal.

         Point I

         In his first point, Defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence and playing for the jury three 911 calls: one made by an unknown female and two made by a male.[2] Defendant asserts the calls were inadmissible hearsay. Defendant also contends that his constitutional rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated because the male and female callers did not testify at trial and, therefore were not subject to cross-examination.

         The trial court's decision whether to admit or exclude evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Blurtom 484 S.W.3d 758, 769 (Mo. banc 2016). "Claims of trial court error are reviewed for prejudice, not mere error." Id. (citation and internal quotations omitted). We "will reverse the trial court's decision only if there is a reasonable probability that the error affected the outcome of the trial or deprived the defendant of a fair trial." Id., There were five calls placed to 911, one by the victim, one by an unknown female, and three from a male. Defendant filed a pretrial motion in limine to exclude four of the calls but did not challenge admission of the victim's call. Defendant argued that the four calls were inadmissible hearsay and violated his confrontation rights. The trial court ruled that three of the four challenged calls were admissible: the male's calls at 7:25 a.m. and 7:29 a.m., and the female's call at 7:31 a.m.

         The victim's 7:20 a.m. call to 911 was played for the jury without objection. Defendant objected to the 911 calls made by the male at 7:25 a.m. and 7:29 a.m., and the female's call at 7:31 a.m.

         During his 7:25 a.m. call, the male caller told the 911 operator that there was a "chick on my front [inaudible], "she just used my phone to call the cops," and he wanted to know where the police were. In addition, a male voice can be heard yelling in the background. The 911 operator responded "we're driving to you now." The male caller called again at 7:29 a.m., and spoke to the 911 operator as follows:

911 Operator: Police Department, [inaudible].
Caller: Yeah. I just called y'all 10 minutes ago, 20 minutes ago. There is a guy across the street dragging a girl over here telling me he's going to kill her.
911 Operator: What's the address?
Caller: [states address].
911 Operator: [repeats address] He has a gun out right now?
Caller:... He's dragging her up and down the street by her hair, hitting her with a pistol.
911 Operator: Okay, what's he wearing?
Caller: He's got a blue shirt on, some jeans. And his hair's ...

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