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State v. Alves

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 11, 2018

State
v.
Brandon Alves.

          Providence County Superior Court, P1/14-1415B, Daniel A. Procaccini Associate Justice.

          For State: Owen Murphy Department of Attorney General.

          For Defendant: Susan B. Iannitelli, Esq.

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

          OPINION

          PAUL A. SUTTELL CHIEF JUSTICE.

         The defendant, Brandon Alves (Alves or defendant), appeals from a Superior Court judgment of conviction on count 1, robbery in the first degree, and count 2, conspiracy. Alves was found guilty of both counts by a jury, and the trial justice sentenced him to the Adult Correctional Institutions for fifteen years, with six years to serve and nine years suspended with probation as to count 1, and ten years suspended as to count 2. Alves seeks to have his conviction and sentence vacated, and asks this Court to grant him a new trial on the grounds that the trial justice erred in admitting into evidence identification testimony and a photograph identification. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Procedural History

         On February 7, 2014, Farhan Mustafa was closing his cell-phone-repair shop for the evening when two men entered from the back door and held "guns right in [his] face" and robbed him. Mustafa recognized one of the assailants as "Big D." Although he did not know the second assailant, Mustafa testified that the man was "very familiar, " and that he had observed him for ten to fifteen seconds from less than two feet away. Mustafa called the Providence police to report the incident and also called his friend, Ryan Gallant, who, Mustafa testified, knew Big D. At the Providence police station, Mustafa met with Detective Ronald Riley and described the assailants. He described the second assailant as between five feet eight inches and five feet ten inches tall, with a medium complexion. Detective Riley then showed Mustafa a series of ten to fifteen photographs, from which Mustafa identified the first assailant, Big D. The following day, Det. Riley presented Mustafa with another photo array to identify the second assailant, but Mustafa did not find the second assailant among the photographs presented.

         Later that day, in a further attempt to identify the second assailant, Mustafa and Gallant visited a website that featured pictures of patrons at various Rhode Island nightclubs. After looking at between twenty and twenty-five photographs, Mustafa identified a photograph depicting the second assailant. Mustafa recognized the assailant "right away." Gallant informed Mustafa of the name of the man Mustafa had identified in the photograph. Mustafa printed the website photograph and brought it to Det. Riley. Detective Riley asked Mustafa to draw a circle around the individual he identified. Mustafa then wrote "Brandon New Bedford" in the upper left corner of the image, and signed and dated the photograph.

         On April 16, 2014, Mustafa received a text message from Gallant reporting the then-current location of the second assailant. Mustafa informed the police, who responded and arrested Alves. Two days later, Det. Riley showed Mustafa a single photograph of Alves from a shared-law-enforcement database. Detective Riley testified that he showed Mustafa a single photograph because "[Mustafa] [had] already identified the suspect in the previous photo he gave" to Det. Riley, and that this single photograph was meant to confirm "the name and date of birth" of the suspect. According to Det. Riley, "As soon as [he] put the * * * photo [of Alves] down in front of [Mustafa], " Mustafa "immediately identified" the individual depicted as the second assailant, with one hundred percent confidence.

         Alves was charged with first-degree robbery and conspiracy. He filed a motion to suppress the single photograph shown to Mustafa by Det. Riley. At a hearing on the motion, Alves argued that the identification procedure was "unnecessarily suggestive, " and that there was a "substantial likelihood of misidentification" such that he was denied due process of law. The trial justice denied Alves's motion and determined that the photographic depiction was not "an unnecessarily suggestive procedure." A jury trial commenced shortly thereafter, which resulted in Alves's conviction for first-degree robbery and conspiracy. He timely appealed to this Court.

         II

         Standard ...


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