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State v. Floyd

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

December 20, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JEREMY WAYNE FLOYD, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF SCOTT COUNTY Honorable David A. Dolan

          DON E. BURRELL, J.

         Jeremy Wayne Floyd ("Defendant") appeals his convictions for one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of tampering with physical evidence.[1]See sections 195.202 and 575.100.[2] Defendant's two points on appeal claim the trial court abused its discretion in excluding proffered hearsay testimony from a witness who claimed that another person told her that the drugs at issue belonged to him, not to Defendant. Finding no merit in that claim, we affirm.

         Standard of Review

"We review the trial court's decision to admit or exclude evidence for an abuse of discretion." State v. Hudson, 230 S.W.3d 665, 669 (Mo.App. 2007). "The trial court is vested with broad discretion in ruling on questions of admissibility of evidence, and, absent a clear showing of abuse of discretion, this Court should not interfere with the trial court's ruling." State v. Avery, 275 S.W.3d 231, 235 (Mo. banc 2009). Moreover, our review "is for prejudice, not mere error, and the trial court's decision will be reversed only if the error was so prejudicial that it deprived the defendant of a fair trial." State v. Johnson, 207 S.W.3d 24, 34 (Mo. banc 2006).

State v. Buller, 582 S.W.3d 124, 128 (Mo. App. S.D. 2019).

         The Evidence

         Sikeston police officers executed a search warrant at a residence during the early morning hours. They found eight or ten people inside. Those present included Defendant, Defendant's brother, April Shivers ("Ms. Shivers"), and Dakota "Cody" Smith ("Cody"). Ms. Shivers was the girlfriend of Defendant's brother. When the officers approached the house, Defendant was standing at the back door, and they told him to put up his hands. Instead of doing so, Defendant shut and locked the door, and officers had to use a battering ram to enter the home.

         Once inside, police found Defendant walking out of a bathroom next to the living room. No other suspects were in that particular area. In the bathroom Defendant had just exited, officers found a running toilet that contained liquid laundry detergent and a torn plastic bag. Inside the trap of the toilet, officers also found a large bag of methamphetamine and a broken pipe. Defendant first told officers that he had just awakened and used the bathroom; he later said that he had not been in the bathroom at all. Officers found digital scales in the kitchen next to Defendant's billfold, along with 20 to 25 corner baggies consistent with drug distribution.

         Defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute (Count 1) and tampering with physical evidence (Count 2). On Count 1, the jury found Defendant guilty of the lesser-included offense of possession of a controlled substance. On Count 2, it found Defendant guilty as charged of tampering with physical evidence. We will include other relevant evidence as necessary to address Defendant's points on appeal.

         Analysis

         The rejected testimony, elicited through an offer of proof from Ms. Shivers, was that Cody later told Ms. Shivers that the drugs located by the officers were his and that Defendant had nothing to do with them. Defendant's points claim the trial court abused its discretion in excluding this proffered hearsay testimony based upon two different alleged theories of admissibility, which we will address in the order presented.

         Point 1 - Admissible via Due-Process

         Point 1 claims that Ms. Shivers should have been allowed to testify "about the exculpatory out-of-court statements [Cody] made to her" because they were against Cody's penal interest and their exclusion deprived Defendant of his due-process right to present a defense. Defendant first argues that the statement made by Cody to Ms. Shivers was admissible under State v. Robinson, 90 S.W.3d 547 (Mo. App. S.D. 2002), as it was made by an unavailable declarant, it would have totally exonerated Defendant, and it possessed substantial indicia of reliability. In general, Missouri courts have ruled that statements against penal interest are not a valid exception to the hearsay rule and are thus not admissible in criminal proceedings. Id. at 551. However, such statements may be ...


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