Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Special Division
from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The
Honorable Sandra Midkiff, Judge
Cynthia L. Martin, Presiding Judge, Alok Ahuja, Judge and
Thomas N. Chapman, Judge
CYNTHIA L. MARTIN, JUDGE
J. Wright ("Wright") appeals her convictions of one
count of involuntary manslaughter in the first degree, one
count of assault in the second degree, two counts of armed
criminal action, and one count of tampering with physical
evidence. Wright argues that the trial court erred by denying
a motion to suppress and admitting her recorded statement at
trial because the statement was made during a custodial
interrogation where Wright had not been informed of her
Miranda rights. Wright further argues the trial
court erred because the verdict directors for the charges of
involuntary manslaughter and assault submitted elements in
the disjunctive, depriving her of unanimous jury verdicts.
Finding no error, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
December 31, 2015, Wright drove herself and her friend Kierra
Ramsey ("Ramsey") to a New Year's Eve party at
a dance hall in Kansas City. In the early hours of January 1,
2016, Ramsey's ex-boyfriend, Sederick Jones
("Jones"), arrived at the party, intent on
encouraging Ramsey to leave with him. Jones followed Wright
and Ramsey into the women's restroom, blocking their exit
until a member of the cleaning crew forced them to leave the
building. Outside, Jones continued pressing Ramsey to leave
with him, and was arguing with Wright. Wright and Ramsey
tried to leave in Wright's car, but Jones got into the
backseat. Jones continued to argue with Wright and Ramsey for
about an hour. During that time, Wright was using her cell
phone to text her boyfriend, Ramon Boyd ("Boyd"),
in relevant part as follows:
Boyd: Keep [Jones] there.
Wright: He is in my car.
Wright: Come get him now.
Boyd: Okay, pulling up.
Wright: Parking lot.
Boyd: Is he still there?
Wright: YES TK COME GET HIM
Boyd: I am. I got you.
Wright: PASSENGER SIDE
Wright: Now, TK
Boyd: Ok. 2 mins
Wright: he gotta gun dude come the fuck on
after this exchange, Jones and Ramsey exited Wright's
vehicle. Boyd shot Jones four times, killing Jones. Ramsey
was shot twice. Gunfire shattered a window on Wright's
fled the scene in her car. Boyd called Wright moments after
the shooting, but Wright did not initiate any calls,
including to 911. Wright drove to her sister's house, and
parked the car. Boyd met her there. The two retreated to
Boyd's home, where Wright stayed until she returned to
her sister's house the next morning.
next morning, Kansas City Police Detectives Jeremy Wells
("Wells") and Darin Penrod ("Penrod"),
were looking for Wright as they knew she had been a witness
to the shooting. They were contacted by Wright's sister,
who told them that Wright was now at her house. Wells and
Penrod arrived at Wright's sister's house, and were
invited inside. Wright was sitting on a couch in the living
room. Wells and Penrod asked Wright if she would be willing
to go to the police station to provide a statement. Wright
agreed to do so. As Wright was leaving, Wright's sister
asked if she wanted her cell phone. Wright responded that she
"did not need her phone." Penrod said "I can
take it." Wright's sister handed Penrod the phone.
Wright did not object.
rode with Penrod and Wells to the police station in an
unmarked police car. She was not restrained in any way.
Wright was taken to an interview room. She was offered water
and the opportunity to use the restroom. At the beginning of
the interview, Wright verbally consented to the
Detectives' request to search her cell phone for any
information that might be helpful to the investigation.
then provided a statement. Wright explained that she and
Ramsey had gone out for the evening; that Ramsey and Jones
had been arguing on the phone earlier in the evening; that
Jones showed up unexpectedly at the dance hall and began
harassing them; and that Jones entered the backseat of her
car as she and Ramsey were attempting to leave. Wright told
the Detectives that Jones was flashing a gun, and that when
Ramsey finally agreed to leave with Jones, she heard gunshots
as they exited Wright's car. Wright described seeing
Jones and Ramsey fall to the ground, but said she had no idea
who shot them. Wright told the Detectives she "blacked
out," and fled the scene out of fear. Wright made no
mention of Boyd or of his involvement in the shooting. Wright
first told the Detectives that she drove away from the scene
without checking on the victims, went walking, and eventually
sat outside until morning before resetting her phone around
6:00 a.m. Later in the interview, Wright said that she drove
to her sister's house after leaving the scene, parked her
car, and then walked with no particular destination before
ending up at an unknown driveway where she sat and waited for
several hours before returning to her sister's house the
next morning. Wright confirmed that she was still in her
dress from the night before, though she had changed into more
comfortable shoes before getting out of her car. During this
portion of Wright's statement, the Detectives were
cordial, though they pressed Wright about why she had not
contacted the police or summoned help for Ramsey, whom Wright
described as her best friend.
Detectives then asked Wright to sign a written form verifying
her consent to search her cell phone. Wright again told the
Detectives she had been required to hard reset her phone the
night before because it had gotten too cold while she was out
walking. Wright asked if she could have a lawyer review the
consent form. Wright was advised that she did not have to
sign the form if she did not want to. Wright did not sign the
and Penrod took a break from the interview, leaving Wright
alone in the unlocked interview room. When they returned,
their questioning of Wright remained cordial, but became more
aggressive. Penrod challenged the implausibility of
Wright's statement, and told Wright that he believed she
was covering for someone. They told Wright a preliminary
statement had already been taken from Ramsey which called
into question the truthfulness of Wright's statement.
They impressed upon Wright the importance of telling the
truth. They told Wright that it appeared possible that
whoever shot Jones may have been acting in justifiable
defense of Ramsey, and suggested that Wright's refusal to
tell them all she knew was thus difficult to understand.
Though the Detectives' questioning of Wright became more
pressing and pointed, the Detectives' demeanor remained
cordial and respectful. Wright's statement never wavered.
Penrod continued to press Wright to tell the truth, Wright
requested an attorney:
Penrod: Okay, no,  let's get to the truth. Let's
get to the truth.
Wright: That is the truth what I told you.
Penrod: No, it's not the truth. No, what you're
telling me ...