Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Cause No.
1822-JU00455 Honorable Robin Ransom Judge.
P. PAGE, JUDGE.
appeals the judgment of the Juvenile Division of the City of
St. Louis Circuit Court convicting him of unlawful use of a
weapon, pursuant to Section 571.030.1(10) RSMo (2016).
August 31, 2018, J.M. was a student at Lift for Life Academy
("Academy") when the principal, Dr. David Lemay
("Dr. Lemay"), searched his bag and discovered a
handgun. The Juvenile Officer charged J.M. with one count of
unlawful use of a weapon, alleging that on or about August
31, 2018, J.M. knowingly carried a firearm into a school in
violation of Section 571.030.1(10). On September 26, 2016,
J.M. filed a motion to suppress "any and all articles
seized and intend[ed] to be used against [J.M.], and any
testimony regarding such evidence" alleging it was
obtained as a result of an unlawful search and seizure in
violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. At
trial, on October 1, 2018, the court adjudicated both the
motion to suppress and the Juvenile Officer's allegations
was participating in Academy's long-term on-site
suspension program, Success Academy ("Success"),
for possession of drug paraphernalia. As a suspended student,
J.M. was permitted to be on Academy's premises during the
regularly scheduled hours for Success, but was otherwise
forbidden to "be on any academy property or attend any
[Academy] function whether on or off campus during the period
of suspensions" unless authorized to do so by
Academy's principal or director. Consequently, on August
31, 2018, J.M. was dismissed at noon and was required to
immediately leave campus.
Juvenile Officer presented the testimony of Chandra Palmer
("Palmer"), dean of students at Academy, Ariel
Turner ("Turner"), assistant dean at Academy, and
Dr. Lemay. All three witnesses consistently testified about
the events giving rise to the search.
testified she saw three students waiting for Dr. Lemay to
give them their bus tickets. Palmer ensured the students
received their bus tickets, and requested they leave the
building. Shortly thereafter, Turner was
transitioning students from lunch to class, when she saw J.M.
with another student, J.J., outside of the front entrance.
She saw J.J. throw "his arm to his side as if he was
trying to hide something in his pocket." It appeared to
Turner that both students were communicating with someone in
the English classroom. Turner informed Palmer that
"something was going on" because both J.M. and J.J.
were still on campus. Specifically, Palmer testified Turner
told her that she observed J.J.'s and J.M.'s behavior
and suspected they were possibly attempting to exchange drug
paraphernalia with other students in the building. Palmer
returned to the front door and saw J.J and J.M. communicating
with someone in the building. She once again demanded they
leave campus. Palmer returned to her office; however, when
she came out moments later, she saw both J.M. and J.J.
continuing to attempt to communicate with someone up the
stairs. At this point, Palmer agreed with Turner's
assessment of the students' conduct and she focused on
"stopping them or trying to prevent them from doing
something." Palmer believed Academy's school
officials had reasonable suspicion to search J.M. due to his
unauthorized presence after the dismissal of Success, his
refusal to leave despite multiple requests, his suspicious
behavior with J.J., and his record for previous possession of
drug paraphernalia on school grounds. Palmer decided to bring both
students to the main office to see Dr. Noble.
search of the students was conducted in the presence of Dr.
Noble and Dr. Lemay. J.J. was searched without issue;
however, J.M. became resistant and an argument ensued. At
some point, Dr. Lemay recalled Dr. Noble telling J.M.,
"[i]f you don't calm down, we're contacting the
police." The arguments between J.M. and the
administrators continued to escalate and when Dr. Noble again
stated he was contacting the police, J.M. stated, "[y]ou
can call the police. You can call the police[.]"
However, when the call was actually placed, J.M. replied,
"[w]ell, you didn't even have to call the police.
You can just search it. You can search it." J.M. gave
Dr. Lemay his bag, in which he discovered a small handgun.
testified in his defense. He recounted that after being
dismissed from Success he waited outside for his bus pass for
about an hour while Dr. Lemay was on the phone. He claimed he
only communicated with the other two students who were also
waiting for their bus passes. He denied that Palmer asked him
to leave the premises, and the first time he spoke with her
was when she requested they all report to Dr. Noble's
counsel called J.J. as a witness and the Juvenile Officer
objected due to the late endorsement of the witness. The
Juvenile Officer filed a request for disclosure on September
10, 2018; however, J.M. filed his endorsement of the witness
on September 29, 2018-five days after the due date. The
objection was sustained. An offer of proof was made regarding
J.J.'s testimony. J.J. testified that after being
dismissed, he, J.M., and another student walked over to the
building where Dr. Lemay's office was located to receive
their bus passes. Dr. Lemay told the students to wait for him
out front. He denied Palmer asked them to leave the premises
and stated they waited at the front entrance until Palmer
asked the students to come inside to Dr. Noble's office.
Once there, they were told they were going to be searched.
all of the evidence was presented, the parties argued
J.M.'s motion to suppress. The motion to suppress and
J.M.'s motion for judgment of acquittal were denied. The
juvenile court entered its judgment finding the juvenile
officer had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that J.M.
committed the offense of unlawful use of a weapon and placed
him on official court supervision in the care, custody and
control of his mother.
submits two points on appeal. In his first point on appeal,
J.M. contends the juvenile court clearly erred in denying his
motion to suppress evidence regarding the search of
J.M.'s bag, the seizure of the handgun, and any testimony
concerning such evidence, because the search was not based