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Stoves v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

March 17, 2017

Rashad Stoves
v.
State of Alabama

         Appeal from Jefferson Circuit Court (CC-12-2410; CC-12-2411; CC-12-2412; CC-12-2413; CC-12-2414; CC-12-2415)

          JOINER, Judge.

         Rashad Stoves was convicted of one count of reckless manslaughter, see § 13A-6-3, Ala. Code 1975, [1] and five counts of felony murder, see § 13A-6-2, Ala. Code 1975.[2] For the manslaughter conviction, Stoves was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment and was ordered to pay court costs. For each felony-murder conviction, Stoves was sentenced to life imprisonment and was ordered to pay a $100 crime-victims-compensation assessment and court costs. All sentences were to be served concurrently.

         The State's evidence at trial tended to show that, in the early morning hours of January 29, 2012, Stoves, Artavius Underwood, and Reginald Mims shot and killed Ronnie Render, Charles Render, Jeffrey Davis, Jonathan Sanchez, and Demetrius Sanford during the commission of a robbery at a house located on Avenue S in Ensley.

         Rayford Williams testified that, in the late evening of January 28, 2012, he and Akechia Harris went to M&N Grocery Store on 24th Street South. As they left the store, Underwood--whom Williams referred to as "Poo Poo"--and two other young males--later identified as Stoves and Mims--asked Williams for a ride. The three young men got into the backseat of Williams's two-door Chevrolet Cobalt automobile; Underwood sat behind Williams; Stoves sat in the middle; and Mims sat behind Harris, who sat in the front passenger's seat. Stoves directed Williams to drive toward Ensley, and, as Williams drove, Williams and Underwood compared their firearms. Williams had a 9-millimeter Smith & Wesson and Underwood had a pistol with an extended clip. Williams stopped near the 2700 Block of Avenue S near Minor Elementary School; Williams opened his door and leaned his seat forward, and Underwood exited the car. Williams testified: "After I let Poo Poo out the car, once I get ready to lean my seat back, Stoves had a pistol on me." Stoves pointed the pistol that Underwood had shown Williams earlier at Williams and said, "Give it up." Williams gave Stoves his cash, drugs, the Smith & Wesson pistol, and the holster. Stoves hit Williams in the head twice with the pistol, and Williams grabbed the pistol; Williams told Stoves he got what he wanted and to get out of the car. Mims, who was standing outside on the passenger's side, fired a revolver into the car. Williams described Mims's revolver as possibly a .38 caliber and "dusty looking."

         Antarius Render testified that, on January 28, 2012, he was living on Avenue S in Ensley. Orlando Scott testified that he had been at Antarius's house for the majority of that day. Between midnight and 1 a.m. on January 29, Antarius, Scott, and Sanford left in Sanford's Crown Victoria automobile and went to the Downtown Lounge, a nightclub. When they returned to Antarius's house around 3 a.m., Sanford backed his car into the driveway, and the men sat inside the vehicle for a few minutes. Scott noticed that all the lights in the house were turned on and that the front door was open. Antarius testified:

"Lights was on, so I get out of the car and I hear noises, like stuff just flipping over and--but I ain't pay no mind, just going in to see what was going on. And I get halfway in the door, and a gun was pointed up to the side of my face."

(R. 1191). Antarius stated that the room had been trashed, and the bed had been moved to the other side of the room. Antarius testified that Stoves was the person holding the gun and that Antarius recognized the gun to be a "Ruger nine with an extended clip." Antarius leaned back, slammed the screen door, and ran out of the house. As he ran, Antarius attempted to tell Sanford and Scott to get out of the car, but he fell against Sanford's car and dropped his hat and cellular telephone in the yard. Antarius saw three people coming out of the house; he saw Stoves approach the driver's side of Sanford's car while a second person approached the passenger's side. Antarius continued running to the Kangaroo store, a local convenience store, where he reported a robbery in progress at his address.

         Officer Ronald Brown, Jr., of the Birmingham Police Department ("BPD") was on patrol around 3:20 a.m. on January 29, 2012, when he stopped at the Kangaroo convenience store on the 2200 block of Bessemer Road. Officer Brown went inside, and shortly thereafter Antarius entered the store. Officer Brown testified that Antarius seemed "winded" and that "his pants were wet and he was bleeding from his hand." Officer Brown asked Antarius what was going on, and Antarius replied that someone was robbing his house. Officer Brown reported a possible robbery in progress at Antarius's address and transported Antarius to BPD headquarters for questioning.

         Orlando Scott testified that, at around 1 p.m. on January 28, 2012, he saw Stoves, Mims, and Underwood in Midfield and that he saw Charles Render speak to them. Scott testified that he, Antarius, and Sanford went to a club around midnight on January 29, 2012, and returned to Antarius's house around 3 a.m. Scott, who was in the rear seat on the passenger's side, and Sanford, who was in the driver's seat, remained in the car while Antarius walked up to the house. Shortly thereafter, Antarius ran out, hit the car, and yelled at Scott and Sanford to "[g]et out of the car!" Scott saw one person chase Antarius down the street as two other people approached Sanford's car. Scott recognized Mims as the person who approached the passenger's side because he had seen him earlier that day. Mims was holding a gun, wearing a skull cap, and attempting to cover his face with a T-shirt. Mims pulled Scott out of the car, hit him with a gun, and told him to lie face down on the ground. Scott identified Stoves as the person who approached the driver's side; Stoves was carrying a 9-millimeter pistol with an extended clip and had Sanford on the floor inside the front doorway of the house. Sanford reassured Scott that he would "handle it, " and Stoves told Sanford to "give it up." Scott then heard a gunshot, and Mims told Scott to keep his head down. Scott then saw a third person run up to the house and heard someone ask "what he shot him with." Stoves, Mims, and the third person then fled in Sanford's car. Scott got up and began running in the direction of his house and stopped at a neighbor's house. Scott told his neighbor he had been robbed, and his neighbor telephoned emergency 911. Two police officers arrived and transported Scott to BPD headquarters. Scott testified that a wallet, rings, earrings, money, car keys, and a cellular telephone were taken from him.

         Officer Rashad Campbell and Officer Rogie McCombs of the BPD responded to the robbery on January 29, 2012. Officers Campbell and McCombs were the first officers to arrive; Officer Campbell pushed the front door of the house open and saw Sanford slumped over a bed with a gunshot wound to his head. Officer Campbell testified that the room had been "ransacked, " "tore up pretty bad, " and that "drawers [were] pulled out" and "clothes w[ere] all over the place." After two additional officers arrived, the four officers cleared the rest of the house. In a back bedroom, the officers discovered Charles, Ronnie, Davis, and Sanchez, who "appeared to be deceased." Officer Campbell testified that the back bedroom had also been ransacked.

         Officers Campbell and McCombs then left the house on Avenue S because they got a call about a possible witness to the robbery--later identified as Scott--who was banging on the front door of a residence on the 1800 block of 47th Street in Ensley. Officer Campbell testified that, when he and Officer McCombs arrived, Scott "came off the front porch with white jeans on, no shoes, wet, and scared." Officer Campbell opened the back door of his patrol car, and Scott dove in. Scott told the officers that he had been robbed and that somebody had tried to kill him. Officers Campbell and McCombs transported Scott to BPD headquarters. As a result of interviews with Scott and Antarius, police developed Stoves--and later Mims and Underwood--as a suspect in the robbery and murders.

         Officer Christopher Finch, an evidence technician with the BPD Crime Scene Unit, responded to the house on Avenue S around 4:10 a.m. on January 29, 2012. Officer Finch observed Sanford in the front bedroom with a gunshot wound to his head and observed Charles, Ronnie, Davis, and Sanchez in a back bedroom, all of whom had been shot. Officer Finch testified that there was "a lot of blood" in the back bedroom and a hole in the closet that appeared to have been caused by a bullet. Officer Finch collected shell casings, cartridges, and projectile fragments from the front bedroom, the back bedroom, the hallway, and the front yard. Specifically, Officer Finch testified that some of the spent bullets he collected were 9-millimeter Luger brand shell casings. Officer Finch also received several projectiles from the coroner that were recovered from the autopsies of Charles, Ronnie, Davis, and Sanchez. Officer Finch later discovered Sanford's vehicle, which had been "burned from front to back."

         Detective Jeffrey Steele of the BPD responded to the house on Avenue S at 3:50 a.m. on January 29, 2012. Detective Steele testified that the following items taken from the house were later recovered elsewhere: (1) an H&R Block tax-service business card belonging to Ronnie was found at a convenience store in Bessemer located two blocks from Mims's house; (2) Scott's cellular telephone was found on the roof of the same convenience store; and (3) Charles's wallet was found in the parking lot of a McDonald's fast-food restaurant. Detective Steele testified that a search warrant was executed at a house on South Street in Dolomite; approximately $1, 500 in cash and a cellular telephone were discovered as a result of the search. Stoves was apprehended at that address at 6 p.m. on January 29, 2012. Stoves gave a statement to police admitting that he, Mims, and Underwood were at the house on Avenue S in the early morning hours, but Stoves denied committing the crimes. Stoves stated that he had left the scene in a vehicle that, Detective Steele testified, was Sanford's car that was later found burned.

         Mitch Rector of the BPD testified as an expert in the field of firearm and toolmark examination. Rector analyzed the bullets recovered from the scene and from the victims' autopsies. Rector testified that the bullets were fired from three different types of guns. The first type of gun was a Smith & Wesson brand 9-millimeter; the second type of gun could have been an American Eagle, Beretta, Browning, CZ, Colt, Cobray, Heckler & Coke, High Point, Kill Tech, Mauser, Norenko, Ruger, Springfield, SWD, Tangfolio, Wather, or Estada brand; the third type of gun was either a Charter Arms, RG, or Rome brand.

         Dr. Gary Simmons testified as an expert in the field of forensic pathology. Dr. Simmons performed the autopsies of Charles, Ronnie, Sanford, Davis, and Sanchez on January 30, 2012. Each victim suffered at least one gunshot wound to the head or face; Dr. Simmons testified that each victim died as a result of their gunshot wounds.

         After the State rested, Stoves moved for a judgment of acquittal on the ground that the State's evidence was insufficient "to support a finding that [he] is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Specifically, Stoves argued that the State failed to show the element of intent. The circuit court denied Stoves's motion. Stoves was ultimately convicted of one count of reckless manslaughter and five counts of felony murder. Stoves filed a motion for a new trial arguing, among other issues, that the "evidence presented at trial was insufficient to find [him] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." The circuit court denied his motion.

          On appeal, Stoves raises several issues. We address each in turn.

         I.

         Stoves contends that his manslaughter conviction must be vacated because, he says: (1) "the offense for which he has been convicted--the manslaughter of more than one person--is a non-existent offense" (Stoves's brief, p. 11); and (2) his "convictions for manslaughter and felony murder violate double jeopardy principles." (Stoves's brief, p. 13.) The State "concedes that Stoves's manslaughter conviction should be vacated because it violates the Double Jeopardy Clause" and asks this Court to remand this case for the circuit court to vacate Stoves's manslaughter conviction. (State's brief, p. 16.)

         This Court addressed a similar issue in Traylor v. State, 93 So.3d 1009 (Ala.Crim.App.2012):

"In Rolling v. State, 673 So.2d 812, 813 (Ala.Crim.App.1995), Rolling's two-count indictment charged Rolling with both the felony murder and intentional murder of one victim. After trial, the jury returned convictions for felony murder and for the lesser-included offense of reckless manslaughter. In analyzing this issue, this Court stated:
"'Reckless manslaughter is a lesser included offense of felony murder; it requires no proof independent of that necessary to establish felony murder. See § 13A-1-9(a)(1)("An offense is an included one if ... [i]t is established by proof of the same or fewer than all the facts required to establish the commission of the offense charged"). See also Vinson v. State, 601 So.2d 196 (Ala.Crim.App.1992)(it would be impossible to commit the greater offense without committing the lesser included offense).'
"Furthermore, this Court has held:
"'Coral v. State, 628 So.2d 954, 958 (Ala.Crim.App.1992), aff'd, 628 So.2d 1004 (Ala. 1993), cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1012, 114 S.Ct. 1387, 128 L.Ed.2d 61 (1994), illustrates the application of the lesser ...

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