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State v. Huntley

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

November 14, 2017

State
v.
Douglas J. Huntley

         Providence County Superior Court (P2/15-118AG) Associate Justice Robert D. Krause

          For State: Virginia M. McGinn Department of Attorney General.

          For Defendant: Angela M. Yingling Office of the Public Defender.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          MAUREEN MCKENNA GOLDBERG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE

         This case came before the Supreme Court on October 3, 2017, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. The defendant, Douglas J. Huntley (Huntley or defendant), appeals from a judgment of conviction entered in the Superior Court, following a jury trial. The defendant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance; possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a crime of violence; carrying a firearm without a license; breaking and entering a dwelling without consent; and conspiracy to commit the crime of breaking and entering. The defendant assigns error to the decision of the trial justice denying the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on the conspiracy count and his refusal to grant a new trial on the breaking-and-entering offense. After hearing the arguments of counsel and examining the memoranda submitted by the parties, we are of the opinion that good cause has not been shown and that this case should be decided without further briefing or argument. We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         Facts and Travel

         Sabrina Weston (Weston) was the second-floor tenant in a three-story apartment building located at 38 Bergen Street in Providence, Rhode Island. On April 23, 2014, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Weston heard a loud knock at the front entrance to the apartment building.[1] When Weston looked out her window, she saw two men who were unknown to her. From the second floor Weston asked if she could help; the men responded that they were looking for the "gentleman on the first floor." Weston informed the strangers that the first-floor tenant-whom she identified at trial as "Troy Grant" or "Troy Tunstall"-was not home. She then overheard the men discuss "jimmying the lock" and watched as they attempted to gain entrance by manipulating the lock of the front door. After this attempt proved unsuccessful, the men walked around to the back and peered into the first-floor apartment windows. The men began talking to each other, and Weston testified that "they mentioned what they were going to do and then proceeded to do that." Specifically, Weston overheard one of the men say "go pop the front lock" as the other man thereafter pushed open the window to the first-floor apartment; he entered through the window, and Weston called 9-1-1 to report a break-in. The man who entered through the window opened the front door for the other man. Shortly thereafter, Weston saw one man leave the apartment building.

         Two police officers, Giuseppe Scarcello (Officer Scarcello) and Michael Gammino (Officer Gammino) (collectively the officers), were the first to respond. Officer Scarcello testified that when he first arrived he saw the open window on the first floor. After the officers entered the apartment through the front door, Officer Gammino noted that the door to the first- floor apartment was ajar. The apartment was dark and had sparse furnishings. The officers made their presence known, but received no response.

         Upon entering the kitchen, they observed a man's buttocks protruding from beneath the kitchen table, with a firearm next to him and a second firearm on the kitchen counter. Officer Gammino testified that he asked the individual to show his hands, but he neither moved nor responded. The officers apprehended the suspect and located plastic bags containing crack cocaine in the suspect's front jacket. The man was identified as defendant.

         The defendant was charged in a ten-count criminal information[2] that proceeded to trial in October of 2015. After a five-day jury trial, defendant was convicted of simple possession of a controlled substance; possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a crime of violence; carrying a firearm without a license; breaking and entering; and conspiracy to commit breaking and entering. The defendant was acquitted of the remaining charges. Thereafter, defendant moved for a new trial and for a judgment of acquittal as to count 9, breaking and entering, and count 10, conspiracy to commit breaking and entering. On November 9, 2015, defendant's post-trial motions were heard and denied by the trial justice, and the trial justice sentenced defendant to a total of twenty years with twelve years to serve and eight years suspended with probation. The defendant timely appealed to this Court.[3]

         Standard of Review

         "When this Court reviews motions for judgment of acquittal, it applies the same standard as the trial justice." State v. Enos, 21 A.3d 326, 329 (R.I. 2011) (citing State v. Brown, 9 A.3d 1232, 1237 (R.I. 2010)). "As such, we 'must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, without weighing the evidence or assessing the credibility of the witnesses, and draw therefrom every reasonable inference consistent with guilt.'" Id. (quoting State v. Mercado, 635 A.2d 260, 263 (R.I. 1993)). "If the totality of the evidence so viewed and the inferences so drawn would justify a reasonable juror in finding a defendant ...


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