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State v. Boyd

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Special Division

December 10, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
RAMON D. BOYD, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Jalilah Otto, Judge

          Before Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge, and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., and Thomas N. Chapman, Judges

          MARK D. PFEIFFER, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Mr. Ramon D. Boyd ("Mr. Boyd") appeals from the judgment of his conviction and sentence, following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri ("trial court"), for voluntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree, two counts of armed criminal action, and leaving the scene of a shooting. Mr. Boyd asserts three points on appeal: (1) that the trial court clearly erred in denying his Batson[1] challenge to the State's strike of an African-American venireperson; (2) that the trial court clearly erred in granting the State's reverse-Batson challenge to the defense's strike of a Caucasian venireperson; and (3) that the trial court committed evidentiary error relating to the admission of Boyd's girlfriend's cell phone records. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History[2]

         On New Year's Eve 2015, friends Kierra Ramsey and Destynie Wright planned to go to a party. After getting ready, they left Ms. Ramsey's mother's house in Ms. Wright's car. The party ended at about 1:00 a.m. When they left, Ms. Ramsey was surprised that her boyfriend, Sederick Jones, was there. He said, "Come on, let's go," and he and Ms. Ramsey and Ms. Wright walked out of the building together. They got in Ms. Wright's car, with Ms. Wright in the driver's seat, Ms. Ramsey in the front passenger seat, and Mr. Jones in the back seat on the passenger side. They were in the car for about an hour, during which time Ms. Wright and Mr. Boyd, Ms. Wright 's boyfriend (who also went by the nickname TK), were texting each other.[3]

         When Ms. Ramsey decided to leave with Mr. Jones, she got her bags out of Ms. Wright's car, moved them to Mr. Jones's car, which was parked next to Ms. Wright's car, and got in on the passenger side of Mr. Jones's car. Mr. Jones was standing on the driver's side of Ms. Wright's car, talking to her. As Mr. Jones walked between the cars, he said something, and Ms. Ramsey leaned out and asked, "What are you talking about?" She saw "a person standing back there" and then heard gunshots. Mr. Boyd was the shooter. Ms. Ramsey was shot numerous times, and Mr. Jones started running. Ms. Ramsey heard more gunshots. Ms. Ramsey was shot in the arm, chest, and legs, and she underwent three surgeries during her month-long hospital stay. Mr. Jones died of multiple gunshot wounds at the scene; his body was found on the ground at the front left quarter panel area of his vehicle.

         After Ms. Ramsey was taken to the hospital, her mother informed police that Ms. Ramsey had been with Ms. Wright the previous evening. The police obtained an address for Ms. Wright. When police arrived, Ms. Wright was not there, but police later learned that the car Ms. Wright had been driving was parked next door to her sister's house.

         The police went to Ms. Wright's sister's house and made contact with Ms. Wright. Ms. Wright voluntarily agreed to go with the police to the police station and give a statement. As they were leaving the residence, Ms. Wright's sister reminded Ms. Wright not to forget her cell phone and handed the phone to one of the detectives as they were walking out.

         At the station, Ms. Wright lied and told police that she did not know who the shooter was. She also stated that she had performed a "hard reset" on her cell phone to permanently delete all the data on her phone. Immediately thereafter, the police applied for and received a search warrant to search the contents of the phone. After the cell phone data was extracted, relevant and incriminating text messages between Ms. Wright and Mr. Boyd from the evening of the crimes were recovered. Ms. Wright and Mr. Boyd were arrested on March 1, 2016.

         The State charged Mr. Boyd with one count of the class A felony of murder in the first degree for knowingly causing the death of Sederick Jones by shooting him, one count of the class A felony of assault in the first degree for shooting at Ms. Ramsey, two counts of the unclassified felony of armed criminal action, and one count of class A misdemeanor of leaving the scene of a shooting.

         At trial, Mr. Boyd testified in his own defense, alleging that he shot Mr. Jones in self-defense. The jury found Mr. Boyd guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the class B felony of voluntary manslaughter, the class C felony of assault in the second degree, two counts of armed criminal action, and the class A misdemeanor of leaving the scene of a shooting. After additional evidence in the penalty phase, the jury returned the following punishment recommendations: twelve years' imprisonment for voluntary manslaughter, five years' imprisonment plus a fine in an amount to be determined by the trial court for assault in the second degree, five years' imprisonment for each count of armed criminal action, and one year's imprisonment in the county jail plus a fine in an amount to be determined by the trial court for leaving the scene of a shooting. The trial court sentenced Boyd in accordance with the jury recommendations except that the court did not impose any fines. The trial court ordered that the sentences run consecutive to one another for a total of twenty-eight years' imprisonment.

         Mr. Boyd timely appealed.

         Point I - Denial of Batson Challenge to Venireperson No. 23

         In Mr. Boyd's first point, he asserts that the trial court clearly erred in denying his Batson challenge to the State's strike of African-American Venireperson No. 23.[4]

         Standard of Review

         The standard of review of a trial court's findings on a Batson challenge is clear error. State v. Meeks, 495 S.W.3d 168, 172 (Mo. banc 2016). "The trial court's findings are clearly erroneous if the reviewing court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the trial court's ruling on a Batson challenge is clearly erroneous, it will be set aside. Id. A trial court's determination that a peremptory strike was made on racially neutral grounds is entitled to great deference on appeal. State v. Cole, 71 S.W.3d 163, 172 (Mo. banc 2002). "Further, because of the subjective nature of peremptory challenges we place great reliance in the trial court's judgment when it comes to assessing the legitimacy of the [S]tate's explanation." State v. Morrow, 968 S.W.2d 100, 114 (Mo. banc 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Analysis

         "The Equal Protection Clause in the United States Constitution prohibits parties from using a peremptory challenge to strike a potential juror on the basis of race." Meeks, 495 S.W.3d at 172. "In Batson, the Supreme Court described a three-step, burden-shifting process for challenging a peremptory strike on this basis." Id. (citing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 96-98, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986)). "The Supreme Court, however, 'decline[d] . . . to formulate particular procedures to be followed upon a defendant's timely objection to a prosecutor's challenges.'" Id. (quoting Batson, 476 U.S. at 99). To fill that void, the Missouri Supreme Court articulated a three-step procedure for trial courts to use in evaluating a Batson challenge:

First, the defendant must raise a Batson challenge with regard to one or more specific venirepersons struck by the [S]tate and identify the cognizable racial group to which the venireperson or persons belong. The trial court will then require the [S]tate to come forward with reasonably specific and clear race-neutral explanations for the strike. Assuming the prosecutor is able to articulate an acceptable reason for the strike, the defendant will then need to show that the [S]tate's proffered reasons for the strikes were merely pretextual and that the strikes were racially motivated.

Id. at 173 (quoting State v. Parker, 836 S.W.2d 930, 939 (Mo. banc 1992)).

         As a preface to making the Batson challenges at Mr. Boyd's trial, defense counsel observed that out of the twenty-four persons remaining in the jury pool, "the State elected to use four out of their six peremptory strikes to strike four of the six African Americans." In point of fact, defense counsel made Batson challenges to all of the State's peremptory strikes of these four African-American venirepersons and the trial court granted three of defense counsel's Batson challenges and only denied defense counsel's Batson challenge as to Venireperson No. 23. Specifically, at trial, defense counsel made a Batson challenge to the State's strike of Venireperson No. 23, whom counsel identified as African American.

In response to Mr. Boyd's Batson challenge, the prosecutor stated:
No. 23 made extensive comments about-the defense elected to get into some of the facts of their case in voir dire, including not calling 911. And 23 specifically talked about cultural reasons why you might not do that and why that might be okay similarly to Juror No. 22, which was the reason that both of them were peremptory strikes by the State.

         Defense counsel responded that when she asked the venire panel if they could imagine a situation where someone would not call 911 under these circumstances, there was "a lot of feedback from white and black jurors alike that they can imagine a circumstance where someone would not necessarily call 911." Defense counsel stated that Venireperson No. 23 "specifically referenced that there could be cultural reasons why someone wouldn't call the police." Defense counsel asserted: "I think that there is not a race neutral reason for either of those two jurors [Venireperson No. 22 and Venireperson No. 23] to be struck. In fact it appears the reason that it is being offered is that it is race-based."

         The prosecutor disagreed that the reason was race-based, stating that her strikes were based on "the responses to why you wouldn't call 911, not because of [the venireperson's] race."

         The trial court responded that it recalled that line of questioning, and "there were quite a few people that indicated there were a number of reasons as to why they could concede when 911 would not be called." The trial court deferred ruling on ...


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