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State v. Stokes

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

January 29, 2019

State
v.
Michael Stokes

          Providence County Superior Court (P2/15-3731AG) Associate Justice Robert D. Krause

          For State: Owen Murphy Department of the Attorney General

          For Defendant: Jodi M. Gladstone, Esq.

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

          OPINION

          PAUL A. SUTTELL CHIEF JUSTICE

         The defendant, Michael Stokes, appeals from a Superior Court judgment of conviction on three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-2, for which he was sentenced to three concurrent fifteen-year sentences; three counts of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-47-3.2(b)(2), for which he was sentenced to three concurrent twenty-year sentences, which are to run consecutive to the sentences for the assault with a dangerous weapon convictions; and one count of carrying a pistol without a license, in violation of § 11-47-8(a), for which he was sentenced to a term of five years' imprisonment, to run concurrently with the sentences for the discharging-a-firearm convictions. The defendant was also sentenced as a habitual offender to twenty-five years, with fifteen years to serve and the remainder suspended, with probation, to run consecutive to the sentences for the discharging-a-firearm convictions. The defendant seeks to have his convictions vacated, and asks this Court to grant him a new trial on the following grounds: (1) the state untimely disclosed the identity of two witnesses who were placed in witness protection; (2) the trial justice erred in admitting into evidence prior inconsistent statements made to the police by one witness; and (3) the trial justice erred in denying the defendant's motion for a new trial. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I Facts

         In the early hours of October 17, 2015, three people were shot inside El Tiburon, a small Providence sports bar with a few pool tables and a jukebox, located at the intersection of Harold and Valley Streets.

         Renee Tager was one of the three victims. She testified at trial that she and a friend had arrived sometime between midnight and 12:30 a.m. She was standing by the pool tables near the back door when, "out of nowhere [she] heard a gunshot[, ]" then she "heard a series of gunshots." Tager ran outside and, moments later, realized she had been shot in the leg.

         The second victim, Dwayne "Fat Cat" Monteiro, testified that he arrived with a friend at El Tiburon around 1:30 a.m. for a nightcap after having had a few drinks at a friend's house and smoking marijuana. Monteiro testified that, as he was "enjoying [his] drink, some dude walked by [him] and nudged [him] with his shoulder." Monteiro, who is about six feet tall, testified that the person who bumped into him was a black male about as tall as Monteiro's shoulders. Shortly thereafter, Monteiro was shot five times. His next memories were of hearing people running and screaming, the presence of an ambulance, and being tended to by a lady.

         Alize Huntley was the third person shot that night. When she was shot, she was standing by the bar waiting for her friend. In a statement Huntley gave to the police while at the hospital, she said that she felt a burning sensation in her leg, and retreated to the men's bathroom during the chaos caused by the shooting. At that point, she saw that she was bleeding and spotted a bullet on the bathroom floor.

         Tameisha Haynes was also at El Tiburon that night. At the time of trial, she was thirty-two years old. Haynes, a nursing student, was meeting two friends at El Tiburon to talk through a disagreement her friends were having. When she arrived at around 12:30 a.m., Haynes and her friends first spoke outside El Tiburon, then entered the bar. Inside, people were drinking and chatting-Haynes described it as "a regular bar situation." Because people were playing loud music at the jukebox, Haynes, her friends, and her ex-boyfriend who was also present, had difficulty hearing each other. Haynes bought a drink from the bar and sat near one of the pool tables with her friends and ex-boyfriend.

         Haynes first noticed defendant, whom she later identified in court, when defendant bumped into Haynes's friend, spilling her friend's drink. Haynes testified that the person was a black male, about her height or a little taller, wearing black Levi jeans and a black top.[1]

         Haynes noticed that defendant and another man were having "an exchange of words[.]" She slid down the pool table to avoid any chance of confrontation between the two individuals. Haynes heard defendant say, "Yeah, okay, motherfucker[, ]" and saw him walk towards the exit.

         According to Haynes, defendant then "unleashed the firearm and started shooting." Haynes saw defendant fire two rounds before she ran to the corner with an ATM and ducked down. After firing about five rounds, defendant exited through the Harold Street exit. As Haynes was leaving, she saw a victim bleeding on the floor. Haynes testified that, as a nursing student, she felt compelled to stop and help him.

         All three victims gave statements to the police after the shooting, although, in their statements, only one could identify the shooter. Tager spoke to the police about two months after the shooting. Monteiro refused to discuss the incident with the police until just prior to trial, despite their efforts to quickly obtain a statement. Neither Monteiro nor Tager could identify the shooter. Huntley, however, was able to identify defendant as the shooter because she had known him for a few years. Huntley gave a statement to Detective Brian Dyer on October 21, 2015, while she was still in the hospital for treatment of her gunshot wound. In her statement to police, not only did she identify defendant as the ...


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