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Chambers v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

April 17, 2015

Jakarrey Deanthony Chambers
v.
State of Alabama

         As Corrected April 30, 2015.

Page 430

          Appeal from Mobile Circuit Court. (CC-12-890; CC-12-1227).

         For Appellant: Christine C. Hernandez, Mobile.

         For Appellee: Luther Strange, atty. gen., and Beth Slate Poe, asst. atty. gen.

          OPINION

Page 431

          KELLUM, Judge.

         The appellant, Jakarrey Deanthony Chambers, was convicted of two counts of murder, a violation of § 13A-6-2, Ala. Code 1975. The circuit court sentenced Chambers to 99 years' imprisonment on each count, to be served consecutively.

         The evidence presented at trial established the following pertinent facts. On January 29, 2011, Tasha Reed went to check on Roy Ezell and Sherley Ezell after she was unable to reach them by telephone. Reed considered Roy and Sherley to be her " godmomma" and " goddaddy." (R. 244.) Reed decided to leave a note at the Ezells' house after she was unable to reach them by telephone. When Reed arrived at the Ezells' house, she noticed that their newspaper was in the front yard and that the mailbox was full. Reed, who had a key to the " burglar bar door" of the Ezells' house, testified that the door could be locked only from the outside with a key. While attempting to open the door to the house, Reed looked through broken blinds in the window next to the door and saw Roy and Sherley lying on the floor with blood around them. Reed immediately ran to the neighbor's house to telephone the police. Reed informed police that the door was locked when she arrived at the Ezells' house.

         Officer Zack Davis with the Mobile Police Department was dispatched to the Ezell residence and arrived at approximately 5:30 p.m. When Davis arrived he saw Sherley Ezell lying face down in the doorway, covered in blood. Sherley did not initially appear to be breathing but gasped for air after officers secured the scene. She was immediately transported to the hospital for treatment but died days later from her injuries. Officer Davis also saw Roy Ezell lying face down and covered in blood with a knife embedded in his back. Autopsies performed on Roy and Sherley indicated that both had blunt-force trauma to the head consistent with having been struck with a baseball bat.

         At the scene, officers found a pipe, similar to one used for smoking crack, and a lighter on the electrical box in an unfinished area of the garage. While photographing the scene, Ronnie Myers, a crime-scene investigator with the Mobile Police Department at the time, rolled Roy's body over and found " a [finger]tip of

Page 432

a plastic latex glove underneath his body." (R. 307.) Forensic testing on a sample of blood taken from the latex glove indicated a mixture of blood with a " major [DNA] profile and a minor contributor." (R. 425.) The major DNA profile belonged to Roy, and Chambers was included as a possible minor contributor. According to the DNA profile, 1 in 209,000 random unrelated African-American individuals have a DNA profile that would be included as a possible contributor. Officers also discovered a bloody shoe print near Roy's body that one of the officers believed was made by a Nike Air Force One athletic shoe. Photographs and measurements of the shoe print were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis. The results of the analysis indicated that the shoe imprint found at the scene most closely corresponded to a Nike Air Jordan Fusion athletic shoe.

         Police later searched a black Kia automobile owned by the Ezells and found in the possession of Chambers at Chambers's residence. Using luminal, police detected blood on the right front floorboard mat, as well as a small amount of blood on the steering wheel. Underneath the floorboard mat, police found a dark red area that was dry, but not " scaly" and did not appear to be very old. (R. 315.) Forensic testing indicated that Sherley's blood matched the blood found on the floorboard mat. Officers also found a pair of black Nike Air Force One athletic shoes in the trunk of the vehicle and various clothing.

         During their investigation, police learned that Chambers had free access to the Ezells' house. Reed testified that Chambers knew the Ezells and was around their house often around the time of the murders. In the early morning hours on the day of the murder, Roy telephoned Chambers at least 44 times.

         Chambers gave six statements to police. Chambers gave his first statement to police on January 29, 2011. During his statement, Chambers confirmed that he was close to the Ezells and that he regularly drove the black Kia. Investigator Charles Bagsby testified that there were some inconsistencies in Chambers's first statement to police. Police confronted Chambers a second time the following day regarding the inconsistencies in his first statement. Bagsby questioned Chambers a third time in June 2011 after the forensic testing had been completed. Chambers gave Bagsby several inconsistent versions of what had happened. Initially, Chambers stated that a third person entered the Ezells' house, robbed them, and killed them with a baseball bat. Then Chambers stated that a Frye Park gang was involved and named two members who had allegedly committed the crime. Chambers next alleged that a man named Michael Glenn was responsible for the murders. Chambers claimed Glenn was armed with a 9-mm. handgun and described Glenn wearing " school clothes" during the murder, but denied seeing Glenn's shoes. (R. 485.) Bagsby testified that at times during the interview Chambers admitted being present when the murders occurred and on at least one occasion Chambers told Bagsby the location of Sherley's body. Bagsby testified that at other times Chambers denied being present at the Ezells' house when the murders occurred.

         On June 12, 2011, Chambers initiated contact with police and gave his fifth statement in the investigation. Chambers informed police that Glenn was wearing a pair of black Nike Air Force One shoes and blue jeans when he murdered the Ezells. Chambers also alleged that Glenn was armed with a baseball bat, which Chambers stated Glenn retrieved from behind the door of the Ezells' house. Chambers

Page 433

denied ever wearing gloves inside the Ezells' house.

         During his sixth and final statement to police, Chambers told Bagsby that he went to the Ezells' house after work to make sure that they were " okay" but found them dead inside the house. (R. 493.) Chambers stated that he then went to CiCi's Pizza with his girlfriend. Bagsby testified that Chambers did not telephone police upon finding the Ezells' bodies because " he said he was scared, [and] that was pretty much it." (R. 493.) Chambers was unable to explain how the door was locked after he left the Ezells' house.

         After both sides rested and the circuit court instructed the jury on the applicable principles of law, the jury found Chambers guilty of two counts of murder. Chambers subsequently filed a motion for a new trial that the circuit court denied. This appeal followed.

         I.

         Chambers first contends that the circuit court erred when it denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal because, he argues, the State presented circumstantial evidence that was insufficient to overcome the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt. Chambers contends that the State failed to prove that he intended to cause the death of the Ezells.[1]

" '" In determining the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction, a reviewing court must accept as true all evidence introduced by the State, accord the State all legitimate inferences therefrom, and consider all evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution." ' Ballenger v. State, 720 So.2d 1033, 1034 (Ala.Crim.App. 1998), quoting Faircloth v. State, 471 So.2d 485, 488 (Ala.Crim.App. 1984), aff'd, 471 So.2d 493 (Ala. 1985). '" The test used in determining the sufficiency of evidence to sustain a conviction is whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational finder of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." ' Nunn v. State, 697 So.2d 497, 498 (Ala.Crim.App. 1997), quoting O'Neal v. State, 602 So.2d 462, 464 (Ala.Crim.App. 1992). '" When there is legal evidence from which the jury could, by fair inference, find the defendant guilty, the trial court should submit [the case] to the jury, and, in such a case, this court will not disturb the trial court's decision." ' Farrior v. State, 728 So.2d 691, 696 (Ala.Crim.App. 1998), quoting Ward v. State, 557 So.2d 848, 850 (Ala.Crim.App. 1990). 'The role of appellate courts is not to say what the facts are. Our role ... is to judge whether the evidence is legally sufficient to allow submission of an issue for decision [by] the jury.' Ex parte Bankston, 358 So.2d 1040, 1042 (Ala. 1978).
" 'The trial court's denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal must be reviewed by determining whether there was legal evidence before the jury at the time the motion was made from which the jury by fair inference could find the defendant guilty. Thomas v. State, 363 So.2d 1020 (Ala. Cr. App. 1978). In applying this standard, this court will determine only if legal evidence was presented from which the jury could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Willis v. State, 447 So.2d 199 (Ala. Cr. App. 1983). When the evidence raises questions of fact for the

Page 434

jury and such evidence, if believed, is sufficient to sustain a conviction, the denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal does not constitute error. McConnell v. State, 429 So.2d 662 (Ala. Cr. App. 1983).'"

Gavin v. State, 891 So.2d 907, 974 (Ala.Crim.App. 2003), cert. denied, 891 So.2d 998 (Ala. 2004)(quoting Ward v. State, 610 So.2d 1190, 1191 (Ala.Crim.App. 1992)).

" '" Circumstantial evidence alone is enough to support a guilty verdict of the most heinous crime, provided the jury believes beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty." White v. State, 294 Ala. 265, 272, 314 So.2d 857, cert. denied, 423 U.S. 951, 96 S.Ct. 373, 46 L.Ed.2d 288 (1975). " Circumstantial evidence is in nowise considered inferior evidence and is entitled to the same weight as direct evidence provided it points to the guilt of the accused." Cochran v. State, 500 So.2d 1161, 1177 (Ala. Cr. App. 1984), affirmed in pertinent part, reversed in part on other grounds, Ex parte Cochran, 500 So.2d 1179 (Ala. 1985).'"

Hollaway v. State, 979 So.2d 839, 843 (Ala.Crim.App. 2007)(quoting White v. State, 546 So.2d 1014, 1017 (Ala.Crim.App. 1989)).

" 'In reviewing a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, this court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. The test to be applied is whether the jury might reasonably find that the evidence excluded every reasonable hypothesis except that of guilt; not whether such evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis but guilt, but whether a jury might reasonably so conclude. United States v. Black, 497 F.2d 1039 (5th Cir. 1974); United States v. McGlamory, 441 F.2d 130 (5th Cir. 1971); Clark v. United States, 293 F.2d 445 (5th Cir. 1961).'"

Bradford v. State, 948 So.2d 574, 578-79 (Ala.Crim.App. 2006)(quoting Cumbo v. State, 368 So.2d 871, 874-75 (Ala.Crim.App. 1978)).

          A person commits murder if " [w]ith intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of that person." § 13A-6-2(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975. With regard to the intent element, this court has stated:

" Normally there is no direct evidence of intent. '" 'Intent, we know, being a state or condition of the mind, is rarely, if ever, susceptible of direct or positive proof, and must usually be inferred from the facts testified to by witnesses and the circumstances as developed by the evidence.'" Ex parte C.G., 841 So.2d 292, 301 (Ala. 2002), quoting Pumphrey v. State, 156 Ala. 103, 106, 47 So. 156, 157 (1908).'"

Brown v. State, 11 So.3d 866, 914 (Ala. Crim. App 2007). " 'The question of intent is hardly ever capable of direct proof. Such questions are normally questions for the jury.'" 11 So.3d at 914 (quoting Payne v. State, 946 So.2d 930, 935 (2006)(other citations omitted)).

         When viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, we find that the evidence presented at trial, albeit circumstantial, was sufficient to establish a prima facie case of murder. The evidence presented at trial indicated that Chambers knew the Ezells and that he had free access to the Ezells' house. Roy Ezell telephoned Chambers numerous times immediately before the murders. At the time the Ezells' bodies were found, the door to the Ezells' house was locked. Testimony indicated that the door could be locked only from the outside with a key. Once inside, officers observed Sherley Ezell lying face down in the doorway and Roy Ezell also lying face down in the house. Both sustained blunt-force trauma

Page 435

consistent with having been struck by a baseball bat.

         While processing the scene, officers discovered the fingertip of a latex glove under Roy Ezell's body that contained a mixture of blood; tests indicated the presence of Roy's blood and that of another person. Forensic testing subsequently indicated a 1 in ...


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