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State v. Courtney

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

July 23, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff/Respondent,
ANTONIO DAMON COURTNEY, Defendant/Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County Honorable Deborah J. Alessi.

          SHERRI B. SULLIVAN, P.J.


         Antonio Damon Courtney (Appellant) appeals the trial court's judgment following a jury trial convicting him of class B felony assault in the first degree, unclassified felony armed criminal action, class D felony unlawful use of a weapon, class C felony unlawful possession of a firearm, and class B felony burglary in the first degree, for which he was sentenced as a prior and persistent offender to a total of 25 years' imprisonment. We affirm.

         Factual Background

         On December 10, 2015, Kenneth Strong (Strong), a small business owner, was returning home from the barber shop with his two-year-old son. Strong brought his son into the garage and returned to his car to retrieve a package. When he returned to the garage, he encountered a man wearing a mask over half his face and holding a gun. Strong lunged for the gun, and a struggle ensued. The man struck Strong in the head with the gun several times, causing lacerations that would require staples. During the struggle, the gun fired; a bullet was later found lodged in Strong's house. The man then fled through Strong's and neighbors' backyards.

         Strong and several neighbors each called 911, and law enforcement responded. A crime scene investigator processed the scene, collecting 20 blood samples from the area. Near the blood, investigators found a Bluetooth device, which they sent to a lab for blood swabs and DNA testing. The blood samples in the area belonged to Strong. The DNA found on the Bluetooth device belonged to Appellant.

         A short time later, law enforcement received a tip Appellant was at his girlfriend's home in St. Louis County. Officers responded to the location, and several officers approached the front door to demand entry, while others surrounded the home to cover other exits. As the officers knocked loudly on the door, they heard a male voice within tell someone not to open the door. Eventually, Appellant's girlfriend answered the door. As she answered, Appellant slipped out from a second story window, jumped to the ground, and fled.

         Officers pursued Appellant for several blocks before they caught up to him when he attempted to hide under a bush. Two detectives tried to pull Appellant out, and he began to struggle, thrash, and kick. Officers subdued Appellant as he fought, administering some knee strikes, one or more of them hitting Appellant's face. Detectives searched the bushes where Appellant was found, locating a cellphone. Appellant was handcuffed and returned to his girlfriend's home to be questioned.

         Upon arriving back at his girlfriend's home, Appellant was read his Miranda rights.[1]Appellant stated he understood his rights. A detective asked Appellant whether he had discarded any firearms as he fled. Appellant replied the officers would find what they were looking for where they had arrested him. When asked why he would throw his phone away, Appellant replied, "Because they can get me in trouble," and, "I'm done, I'm f-ked, I'll die in prison, bro."

         Law enforcement obtained a warrant and searched Appellant's cellphone. They found a video depicting two men surveilling Strong's home from a car while discussing plans to rob Strong. When showed this video, Strong recognized one of the voices as belonging to James Scott, an acquaintance of his. Strong knew James Scott because Strong had sold him a car, and later repossessed it due to nonpayment on the loan. Also visible in the video was a decal of a rose on the window of the car, which was the same decal as one on Appellant's girlfriend's car. James Scott later confessed to police he had been in the car with Appellant surveilling Strong's home, but Appellant was the individual who attacked Strong.

         Appellant was tried before a jury and convicted of first degree assault, armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm, and first degree burglary. Additional facts will be adduced as necessary.

         Points Relied On

         Appellant makes three points on appeal. Point I claims the trial court plainly erred by allowing into evidence statements Appellant made to police officers shortly after his arrest. Point II claims the trial court plainly erred by overruling Appellant's Batson challenge made after the State used a peremptory challenge to strike an African-American juror. Point III claims the trial court abused its discretion by overruling Appellant's objection to the State questioning jurors about small business owners making cash deposits, which inaccurately characterized the facts of the case.

         Poin ...

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