People v. Oliver.
2020 COA 150. No. 17CA1127. Criminal Law—Constitutional Law—First Degree Murder—Intent—Deliberation—Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure—Investigatory Stop—Arrest.
October 29, 2020
A.Q., a victim in this case, and four others arrived at an apartment complex and encountered three men they did not recognize. One of the men was later identified as defendant. Soon after, B.B., a resident at the complex, went out to his car in the parking lot. As he left his car and began walking back toward his apartment, defendant walked up to B.B. and fired approximately six bullets at him. Two of the bullets struck and killed B.B. and another hit A.Q. as she stood on the apartment stairs, paralyzing her.
A nearby police officer saw defendant running from the area and apprehended him. After defendant stopping running, he was cooperative with police. Officers ensured that defendant was unarmed and obtained his identification but left handcuffs on him for approximately two hours while they investigated further. A jury convicted defendant of first degree murder and first degree assault. He was sentenced to life plus a consecutive 32 years in the custody of the Department of Corrections.
On appeal, defendant contended that there was insufficient evidence of intent and deliberation to support his conviction for first degree murder. As to intent, a juror could reasonably infer from the evidence that defendant’s conscious objective was to cause B.B.’s death when he fired multiple shots at him at close range. Further, the evidence that defendant acted angrily and aggressively and remained in or near the parking lot for as long as 20 minutes before approaching B.B. was sufficient to show that he acted after deliberation. The evidence was therefore sufficient to support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defendant also argued that the evidence was insufficient to establish that he acted with intent when he injured A.Q. Because there was sufficient evidence that defendant intended to cause B.B. serious bodily injury and, in attempting to do so, caused A.Q. serious bodily injury, the evidence presented was sufficient to support defendant’s conviction of first degree assault.
Defendant also contended that the officer was not justified in stopping him, and even if any initial stop was justified, it eventually became an arrest unsupported by probable cause and rendered the evidence obtained as a result of the stop improper. Here, the initial stop was justified because the officer apprehended defendant running from the scene. However, the investigatory stop of defendant became an arrest when officers failed to remove his handcuffs after officer safety concerns were dispelled and the officers determined defendant’s identity. Because the officers did not have probable cause at that time, the arrest was unconstitutional. Therefore, the show-up identification and gunshot residue obtained as a result of the unlawful detention should have been suppressed, and the failure to suppress this evidence was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because it possibly contributed to the verdicts. However, the photo arrays were compiled using defendant’s identifying information, which was obtained during the proper investigatory stop. Therefore, the trial court did not err by declining to suppress the arrays and evidence that witnesses had identified defendant in the arrays.
The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.