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Alexander v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

September 20, 2019

Lakisha Hampton Alexander
State of Alabama

          Appeal from Jefferson Circuit Court (CC-16-3672 and CC-17-485).

          KELLUM, Judge.

         Lakisha Hampton Alexander was convicted of attempted murder, see §§ 13A-6-2 and 13A-4-2, Ala. Code 1975, computer tampering, see § 13A-8-112(a)(7), Ala. Code 1975, and obtaining criminal-offender-record information under false pretenses, see § 41-9-601, Ala. Code 1975. For the attempted-murder conviction, the trial court sentenced Alexander to 20 years' imprisonment but split the sentence and ordered her to serve 3 years in confinement followed by 2 years on probation. For the computer-tampering conviction, the trial court sentenced Alexander to two years' imprisonment but split the sentence and ordered her to serve one year in confinement followed by one year on probation. For the obtaining-criminal-offender-record-information conviction, the trial court imposed a $5,000 fine.

         The evidence adduced at trial indicated the following. In 2013, Alexander, who was a deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, met Tyesha Charity, a long-haul trucker, through an Internet dating Web site. Although Charity lived in North Carolina, the two began a relationship. In 2016, Charity moved to Alabama to live with Alexander, and the relationship quickly deteriorated. Charity described Alexander as bossy and controlling and said that they argued frequently. According to Charity, most of the arguments were verbal but "got physical" once or twice. (R. 576.) In the days leading up to the incident underlying this appeal, Charity and Alexander argued about Alexander speaking with another woman.

         The State presented evidence indicating that at approximately 5:00 a.m. the morning of August 19, 2016, Alexander, who at the time was assigned to the Jefferson County jail, telephoned the Jefferson County 911 center and spoke with dispatcher Gregory Barnett. Alexander asked Barnett to access the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC") and obtain Charity's Social Security number for a report she was completing. Barnett testified that he regularly handled telephone calls from law-enforcement officers requesting background checks on individuals. He searched NCIC and was able to determine that Charity had no outstanding warrants and he informed Alexander of that fact.[1]Barnett, however, was unable to obtain other identifying information, including Charity's Social Security number, and he also gave Alexander that information.

         Phillip Lynn Shobe, a senior special agent with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, testified that the State of Alabama provides law enforcement with the ability to request information about an individual's background from various criminal-justice information systems, such as NCIC. Agent Shobe testified that law-enforcement officers must attend training classes and be certified to make these requests, and that they are taught the rules governing such requests. Specifically, Agent Shobe said that information about an individual may be requested by law-enforcement officers only "in furtherance of the administration of justice," i.e., for "the detection, apprehension, and prevention of crime," and then only if it is part of "the official mission of the agency the official is employed by," i.e., it is part of the official duties of the law-enforcement officer. (R. 518.) Law-enforcement officers who have "some personal interest" in the information sought are not permitted to request the information themselves or through a third party. (R. 519.) According to Agent Shobe, Alexander had completed the training courses, had been certified, and was fully aware of the rules governing requests for information.

         Agent Shobe testified that on August 19, 2016, at approximately 5:00 a.m., Barnett performed a "driver query" about Charity using her name and date of birth. (R. 524.) This type of query automatically includes information about the status of the subject's driver's license, as well as identifying information about the subject and information as to whether the subject had any outstanding arrest warrants. Agent Shobe testified that Alexander was informed during her training that the criminal-justice information systems are not designed to obtain only a single piece of information, such as a Social Security number, and that such a request will automatically include other information, such as whether the person has any outstanding arrest warrants.

         Charity testified that when she woke the morning of August 19, 2016, no one was at home. Later that day, Alexander returned home with two other law-enforcement officers, who served Charity with a protection-from-abuse order ("PFA") and directed her to leave the premises. Charity said that she and Alexander exchanged words and that Alexander summoned a cab to pick her up and take her to her truck, which was parked near a Wal-Mart discount store in the area.[2]According to Charity, as she was gathering her belongings from her truck, Alexander arrived, apologized for what had happened, asked Charity to return home, and told Charity that she would "get rid of" the PFA. (R. 584.) Charity said that this was typical of Alexander's behavior after they had argued. Alexander gave Charity a key to the house and told Charity that she was going to have the oil changed in her vehicle. Charity did not want to go with Alexander to have her oil changed so she took a cab back to the house. Although Charity's truck was parked near a Wal-Mart store, the store's security cameras showed only the rear of the trailer and police were unable to determine whether Alexander and Charity had spoken at Charity's truck that day.

         Charity testified that approximately 30 minutes after she arrived home, she heard Alexander open the garage door and park her vehicle. She then heard Alexander speaking on her cellular telephone as she walked into the house and up the stairs to living room, where Charity was sitting. According to Charity, Alexander told the person on the other end of the line that Charity had returned and that "most of her stuff in the house was torn up." (R. 586.) Alexander then walked to her bedroom, acting as if she did not see Charity. Charity said that she became angry, got a knife from the kitchen, and sliced the furniture in the living room, which she said belonged to her. She also "turned over" the television set and sliced up a pair of boots she had given Alexander as a gift. (R. 588.) Charity then went to the garage, opened the garage door, punctured the tires on Alexander's vehicle, which Charity said she had paid for, dropped the knife, and walked out of the garage. As she was standing in the middle of the driveway, Charity said, Alexander came out of the house into the garage, yelled for Charity to stand still, and said "I'm going to shoot you." (R. 591.) Charity turned to look at Alexander and saw Alexander take a gun out of her purse. Charity said that she did not believe Alexander would shoot her but she then heard a gunshot and felt a burning sensation. The bullet entered Charity's right buttock and lodged in her left buttock. Charity dropped to her knees and Alexander then shot Charity in the back; the bullet lodged near Charity's spine. Charity denied that she had anything in her hands when Alexander shot her and denied that she had ever threatened Alexander or Alexander's daughter, who lived with them.

         Alexander asserted that she was acting in self-defense when she shot Charity. Alexander denied that she asked Charity to return home after the PFA was served on Charity. Alexander said that, when she returned home that afternoon and walked in the house, she saw that the furniture in the living room had been cut and the television had been knocked over. At the time, Alexander was speaking to a friend on her cellular telephone and she told her friend that Charity had returned to the house. Alexander said that she was scared and she reached for her personal weapon but she did not see Charity and did not know whether Charity was still in the house. Alexander returned to the garage to leave, and she discovered Charity in the garage. According to Alexander, Charity had something in her hand but she could not see what it was. Charity lunged toward her swinging what was in her hand. At that point, Alexander said, she shot Charity twice. When asked how Charity had been shot in the back, Alexander said that Charity must have turned as she shot. Alexander testified that Charity had previously hit her, threatened to stab her, and threatened to harm her daughter and that she feared for her life when Charity lunged at her. Alexander maintained that Charity was in the garage when she shot her and that Charity ran outside to the driveway after the shooting. Immediately after the shooting, Alexander telephoned emergency 911. Alexander admitted that she had asked Barnett to obtain Charity's Social Security number the morning of the shooting. She said she thought she needed it to obtain the PFA.

         After both sides rested and the trial court instructed the jury on the applicable principles of law, including self-defense and second-degree assault as a lesser-included offense of attempted murder, the jury found Alexander guilty of attempted murder, computer tampering, and obtaining criminal-offender-record information as charged in the indictments. This appeal followed.


         Alexander first contends that the trial court erred in denying her motion for a new trial on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction for obtaining criminal-offender-record information by false pretenses.

'"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 ...

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