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Lamar v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

March 22, 2018

REUBEN JUAN LAMAR, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, Appellee.

          AN APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY THE HONORABLE RAY C. ELLIOTT, DISTRICT JUDGE

          MARK McCORMICK ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT

          DAN GRIDLEY JOSH YOUNG COUNSEL FOR THE STATE

          GINA K. WALKER ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT

          E. SCOTT PRUITT OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL THEODORE M. PEEPER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE

          OPINION

          HUDSON, JUDGE

         ¶1 Appellant, Reuben Juan Lamar, was tried and convicted by a jury of Count 2: Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon, After Two Prior Felony Convictions, in violation of 21 O.S.2011, § 801; Count 5: Conspiracy to Commit a Felony, After Two Prior Felony Convictions, in violation of 21 O.S.2011, § 421; and Count 6: Burglary in the First Degree, After Two Prior Felony Convictions, in violation of 21 O.S.2011, § 1431, in the District Court of Oklahoma County, Case No. CF-2012-7029. [1] The jury recommended a sentence of twenty (20) years imprisonment on Count 2, four (4) years imprisonment on Count 5, and twenty (20) years imprisonment on Count 6. [2]

         ¶2 At formal sentencing, the Honorable Ray C. Elliott, District Judge, sentenced Appellant in accordance with the jury's verdicts and ordered the sentences for Counts 2 and 5 to run concurrently and the sentence for Count 6 to run consecutively to the sentences on Counts 2 and 5 and consecutive to Appellant's sentences in Case Nos. CF-2009-7147, CF-2010-4451 and CF-2012-7211. Judge Elliott ordered credit for time served and also ordered post-imprisonment supervision of not less than nine (9) months, nor more than one (1) year. Lamar now appeals, raising nine propositions of error. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 On October 24, 2012, Appellant, Britnie Wiggins and Donnie Parton [3] were driving around south Oklahoma City looking for a way to come up with some fast cash. Wiggins was particularly desperate for cash. Her rent was due and, by her own admission, she "was tired and... didn't want to go work." Wiggins and the others were also high on methamphetamine. To score some cash, Wiggins suggested the trio "hit a lick" meaning they "go rob somebody". After some deliberation, Parton suggested they rob his grandmother, Debbie Parton. Within five minutes, Appellant drove the trio to Debbie's [4] south Oklahoma City residence where they parked and kicked-in the front door.

         ¶4 Debbie lived in her home with Chase Parton, her son, and Chase's girlfriend, Chelsea Alexander. Around 11 p.m. on October 24th, Debbie was falling asleep on the couch in the den when she heard three loud bangs followed by the appearance in her home of a man wearing sunglasses and several bandanas covering his neck and face. This man walked to the back of the house towards Chase's bedroom. When Debbie got up to investigate, she found her front door kicked in. She also discovered two other intruders--Appellant and Wiggins--standing inside her home. Appellant had a handgun with a red laser sight and was smoking a Black and Mild cigar.

         ¶5 Chase was walking towards the front door when the intruders kicked it open and came inside. Wiggins forced Chase into the bathroom and unsuccessfully attempted to handcuff him. In the back bedroom, Donnie Parton told Chelsea Alexander--Chase's girlfriend--to get down on the ground. A few minutes later, Debbie, Chase and Chelsea were seated around the dining room table by their attackers and held at gunpoint by Appellant. Parton and Wiggins ransacked the entire house and stole the victims' valuables. This included two televisions, Debbie and Chelsea's purses, Debbie's jewelry, the house phone, food from the kitchen and Chase's game console.

         ¶6 Appellant chatted with his hostages as their home was ransacked. Appellant sarcastically asked the victims how their day was going and mentioned he was a gang member. At one point, Appellant pointed the gun at Chase and forced him to help move a television. Appellant also forced Debbie to hand over the keys to her 93 Ford Mustang which was parked in the garage. When Debbie tried to remove her house key from the key ring, Wiggins slapped her in the ear causing it to bleed. Appellant told his captives that he wanted drugs and money; Debbie replied that they did not have any drugs or money.

         ¶7 After searching the house, Appellant told the victims not to call the police or he would come back and "get us". Appellant and his two accomplices then left not only with the victims' property from inside the house but also Debbie's Ford Mustang. Despite Appellant's threat, Debbie walked across the street to a neighbor's house and called 911. The police arrived soon thereafter and Debbie, Chase and Chelsea gave statements about what happened. A crime scene investigator recovered a partially smoked cigar tip found near the front door and submitted it for forensic examination. Police also found a pair of handcuffs on the dining room table. Several days later, police showed the victims a photo lineup during which Chase and Chelsea identified Appellant, who was pictured in one of the photographs, as the black robber with the gun.

         ¶8 On November 1, 2012, Wiggins gave a statement to police in which she implicated herself, Appellant and Donnie Parton in the robbery at Debbie Parton's house. That same day, police executed a search warrant at a south Oklahoma City apartment Wiggins shared with Appellant. The police found inside the apartment, inter alia, a Discover credit card in Chelsea Alexander's name. Chelsea's credit card was inside the purse stolen from her during the October 24th robbery.

         ¶9 Detective Eddie Dyer later obtained a search warrant authorizing the collection of Appellant's DNA using buccal swabs of the inside of Appellant's cheek. Campbell Ruddick, the DNA manager for the OCPD Forensic Laboratory, conducted DNA testing of both the cigar tip recovered from the crime scene and Appellant's known biological sample on the buccal swabs. Ruddick developed DNA profiles from both items. Ruddick's comparison of these profiles revealed that the DNA found on the cigar tip matched Appellant's known DNA profile. The probability of selecting an unrelated person at random from the population having this same genetic profile was one in 67.16 quintillion Caucasians, one in 13.9 quintillion African Americans and one in 2.3286 sextillion Southwest Hispanics. A quintillion has 21 zeroes behind it.

         I

         ¶10 In his first proposition of error, Appellant complains that he was denied the right to represent himself at trial. The record shows that on March 19, 2014, Appellant filed with the trial court a one-page handwritten motion requesting to proceed pro se in the case. Appellant requested six (6) months in which to prepare for trial along with production of full discovery for his case. Appellant acknowledged he would be held to the same responsibilities as counsel but believed this was the only way to "assure that there is not a miscarriage of justice of [sic] this matter." Appellant concluded his motion with a request for a hearing.

         ¶11 Judge Donald L. Deason was originally assigned to this case and held three separate pre-trial hearings on Appellant's motion. At the first hearing, Appellant stated that he wanted to go pro se because the appointed public defender was ineffective, "not doing his job" and "not really trying to help me, I feel." Appellant explained that defense counsel waited eighteen (18) or twenty (20) months before talking to him about the case. Appellant stated that he believed he could do a better job than counsel in handling the case. Judge Deason denied Appellant's motion after asking Appellant basic questions about trial procedure which Appellant could not answer. Appellant offered, however, that his ignorance of the law was the reason he asked for six months in which to prepare for trial. Judge Deason found that Appellant "[did not] have even the most basic knowledge to represent [himself]" and that Appellant was "in way over your head on this." A trial date was set for August 25, 2014.

         ¶12 On August 22, 2014, a call docket was held during which the prosecutor expressed his understanding that Appellant was withdrawing his previous request to go pro se and instead wished to proceed to trial with his appointed counsel. When Judge Deason asked Appellant if this was correct, Appellant stated that he previously raised the issue and it had been ruled on by the Court. When asked by Judge Deason whether Appellant wished to proceed to trial with his attorney, Appellant responded "Yeah. Due to the fact that I was denied, yes."

         ¶13 The prosecutor expressed his view that additional questioning was necessary to address this issue and "if he wants to proceed with his appointed attorney... he needs to make that without any conditions of any previous ruling." The following exchange occurred:

DEFENDANT LAMAR: I did that earlier, the first time.
THE COURT: I've addressed that earlier, and I found that though he, like anybody else, has a right to represent himself, Mr. Lamar does not have even the most basic legal knowledge that would help him get through a jury trial. He doesn't even know how to start it, what to do during a trial. With what he's looking at on these charges, I, in good conscience--And I've made my ruling on that.
So, Mr. Lamar, just a straight-up question: Do you desire to proceed with your counsel at this time.
DEFENDANT LAMAR: (No answer).
THE COURT: Yes or no?
DEFENDANT LAMAR: (No answer).
THE COURT: It's not a trick question.
DEFENDANT LAMAR: Well, I think your ruling that I was denied, and you're standing by that, then I guess I'll proceed.
THE COURT: I'd like for you to answer my question. Do you desire to proceed with your counsel, yes or no?
DEFENDANT LAMAR: I'm not going to answer that question.
THE COURT: I can't hear you.
DEFENDANT LAMAR: I'm not going to answer that question.

(8/22/2014 Tr. 5-6).

         ¶14 Appellant persisted in this manner despite Judge Deason urging him to reconsider and answer the question. Defense counsel stated, in response to the court's subsequent questions, that Appellant had been cooperative with him and had been participating in preparing a defense. Judge Deason stated that Appellant's refusal to answer the court's questions was yet another reason, in addition to his lack of legal knowledge, why Appellant should not be representing himself at trial. The prosecutor asked for leave to present additional research on the issue which the trial court agreed to hear and then moved on to other matters.

         ¶15 The prosecutor and defense counsel also engaged Appellant and attempted to get a straight answer concerning his wishes to proceed to trial pro se but to no avail; Appellant would not answer the question. Defense counsel inquired of Judge Deason whether the court would grant a continuance should Appellant choose to represent himself. This prompted the following exchange:

THE COURT: If Mr. Lamar told me clearly and unequivocally that he wants to represent himself, if I give him the appropriate warnings as to what the pit falls of that are and knowing those pitfalls and understanding that he still wished to represent himself, I ...

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