Appeal from the 177th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 1314604
consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Jamison and
Thompson Frost Chief Justice.
Cornelius Lamont Jones challenges his conviction for capital
murder. He takes issue with the sufficiency of the evidence,
an evidentiary ruling, the trial court's denial of his
request to charge the jury on spoliation, and the trial
court's denial of jury-selection challenges. Concluding
these issues afford no basis for appellate relief, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
complainant and two associates dealt in marijuana. One of the
associates facilitated a prospective purchase through the
associate's friend's brother, who knew appellant. The
brother arranged for the complainant to purchase twenty-five
pounds of marijuana from appellant for about $10, 000. The
brother told the associates and the complainant where to go
to complete the transaction and the three went together to
the indicated apartment complex. Appellant got into their
vehicle and showed the complainant a sample of the marijuana
and then asked the complainant to walk with him to complete
the purchase. As he exited the vehicle, the complainant had
the money in his pocket, in a Crown Royal bag. The
complainant also had on his person two cell phones and a gun.
Appellant told the complainant to walk ahead of him.
residents were hanging out on the balcony of their apartment
building when they saw two males -who appeared to be friends
-walking down the sidewalk. Then, suddenly the two residents
heard a gunshot. Within seconds, one of the residents ran
around the apartment building and saw a body. The other
resident called 911.
the complainant's two associates, who had been waiting in
their vehicle, started to become nervous. Both tried calling
the complainant but he did not answer the phone. When the
associates saw police officers arrive, they left the
apartment complex believing they had been "set up."
Mark Champaigne responded to the resident's 911 call and
discovered the dead body of a male lying face down in the
stairwell in between apartments. Deputy Mark McElvany
investigated the crime scene and recovered a single shell
casing; he did not find any cell phones or guns on the
complainant's body. He did find some cash in the
complainant's pockets, but no Crown Royal bag filled with
complainant's two associates spoke with police officers
later that evening and told them about the marijuana deal.
The police task force then began searching for the man (the
brother of the associate's friend) who had set up the
transaction. He was not home, but the police located that
man's girlfriend. Sergeant Alanis gave her a list of
nicknames of the people for whom he was searching and the
girlfriend provided him with Facebook photographs of those
individuals. Sergeant Alanis used those photographs to match
up the nickname with appellant's true name.
officers then made photo spreads to show to witnesses. The
complainant's two associates identified appellant as the
man who entered their vehicle and left with the complainant
to complete the marijuana purchase. The resident who
discovered the complainant's body immediately after the
shooting picked someone other than appellant from the photo
spread. Police officers later disclosed to appellant's
defense lawyers that the witness had identified another
individual, but they did not save the photo spread to give to
appellant was apprehended, he waived his rights and spoke
with police investigators. Appellant admitted that he shot
the complainant. He said that "something didn't feel
right" about the transaction and then the complainant
pulled a gun on appellant. Appellant said that they struggled
and he shot the complainant in self-defense. Appellant
admitted taking the complainant's phone and gun but said
he did not take any money.
was charged with capital murder for killing the complainant
in the course and scope of committing a robbery. Appellant
pled "not guilty."
voir dire, appellant made a challenge under Batson v.
Kentucky, to four of the State's peremptory strikes.
See 476 U.S. 79, 89, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 1719, 90
L.Ed.2d 69, 83 (1986). The trial court denied all four of
trial, the complainant's two associates testified that
they intended to complete the deal cleanly. One testified
that he would never attempt to rob someone in an unknown
location and that the complainant did not have the right
physical attributes to successfully complete a robbery. (That
associate touted his own background in robbery but testified
that the complainant was more of a "hustler.") Both
associates testified that the complainant had money in a
Crown Royal bag to pay for the marijuana.
residents testified that they heard the gunshot very shortly
after one of them saw the two men walking together. Both
residents testified that they would have been able to hear
screaming and that they heard neither screaming nor sounds of
a scuffle. One resident noted there was not enough time for a
scuffle in between the time he saw the men walking amicably
and the gunshot.
charge conference, appellant requested a charge on spoliation
of evidence due to the police department's failure to
provide him with the photo spread the police had showed to
the resident who did not identify appellant. The trial court
denied the request.
jury found appellant guilty as charged and appellant received
an automatic sentence of life imprisonment. Appellant raises
four issues in this appeal.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
fourth issue, appellant asserts that the evidence is
insufficient to support his conviction for capital murder
because the evidence does not show he intended to rob the
complainant. We address this issue first because, if
sustained, it would afford appellant the greatest relief.
See Tex. R. App. P. 43.3; Campbell v.
State, 125 S.W.3d 1, 4 n.1 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2002, no pet.).
evaluating a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the verdict. Wesbrook v.
State, 29 S.W.3d 103, 111 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000). The
issue on appeal is not whether we, as a court, believe the
State's evidence or believe that appellant's evidence
outweighs the State's evidence. Wicker v. State,
667 S.W.2d 137, 143 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984). The verdict may
not be overturned unless it is irrational or unsupported by
proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Matson v. State,
819 S.W.2d 839, 946 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). The jury is the
sole judge of the witnesses' credibility and the strength
of the evidence. Fuentes v. State, 991 S.W.2d 267,
271 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999). The jury may choose to believe or
disbelieve any portion of the witnesses' testimony.