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CITY OF JOPLIN vs. JAMES MAXWELL LEEPER, JR.
Case Number: SD35546
Judge: PER CURIAM
Before Francis, P.J., Bates, J., and Scott, J.
Court: William W. Francis, Jr.
Plaintiff's Attorney: Unavailable
Defendant's Attorney: Unavailable
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On December 18, 2017, at approximately 1:57 p.m., Officer Mike Larery of the Webb City
Police Department, Ozark Drug Enforcement Team, was conducting surveillance on a residence
in the area of 14th and Missouri in the City of Joplin. Officer Larery was three quarters of a block
away (eighty-five to one hundred yards) from the residence observing an individual through
binoculars for approximately fifteen minutes. Officer Larery observed that the individual had
facial hair, and was wearing a “commercial made do rag” around his head, a Kansas City Chiefs
pullover, and denim jeans. The individual left the residence in a “dark primer gray” Ford Ranger
Officer Larery contacted the Joplin Police Department for an assist. He then followed the
truck for a number of blocks. A check of the pickup’s tags indicated the pickup was registered to
a “James Leeper.” After conducting a search on social media, Officer Larery was able to identify
Leeper as the individual driving the pickup truck.
Officer Larery was unable to continue following Leeper, and Officer Sam Scott (“Officer
Scott”), with the Joplin Police Department, resumed following Leeper. Officer Scott was advised
by Officer Larery that “there was an interest” in the Ford Ranger pickup, and the pickup had several
times failed to use its turn signal.
Officer Scott called dispatch to run the pickup’s plates, which again came back registered
to “James Leeper.” As the pickup passed Officer Scott’s vehicle, he observed that the pickup had
a cracked windshield. Officer Scott caught up to the pickup and activated his lights. The pickup
then turned into a private parking lot, circled around, and headed back toward the entrance. Officer
Scott activated his siren when it was apparent the driver was not going to stop. The pickup then
returned to the street at a high rate of speed and re-entered the roadway, cutting off two vehicles.
Unable to safely continue pursuit, Officer Scott conducted his own internet search and
found a picture of Leeper’s “Tyson Food ID card that was an exact match” for the person he had
seen driving the pickup. Officer Larery contacted Officer Scott, they discussed their independent
identifications of Leeper, and both agreed that Leeper was the driver of the pickup. Later that day,
Officer Scott issued and mailed to Leeper, at Leeper’s address shown on his driver’s license,
citation No. 141132591 for violating four ordinances of the Joplin City Code:
WINDSHIELD AND WINDOWS, WINDSHIELD WIPERS in Violation of Ord #: 114-650 CARELESS DRIVING in Violation of Ord #: 114-173 EMERGING FROM ALLEY, DRIVEWAY OR BUILDING in Violation of Ord #: 114-317 FAIL TO YIELD TO EMERGENCY VEHICLE in Violation of Ord #: 114-98
Officers Larery and Scott testified at the bench trial de novo on May 2, 2018. Officer
Larery made an in-court identification of Leeper as the individual driving the pickup on the day in
question. Leeper’s counsel objected to the identification on the basis of lack of reliability, arguing
“[i]t wasn’t a proper lineup, he just immediately went [to] Facebook and said that was him.” The
prosecutor argued that Officer Larery was subject to cross examination on his credibility, and that
the trial court, as the fact finder, could give whatever weight it wanted to Officer Larery’s
identification. The trial court overruled the objection.
Officer Scott also made an in-court identification of Leeper as being the individual he
observed driving the pickup. Leeper’s counsel again requested the trial court suppress the
identification for the same reasons previously argued. The trial court denied this request.
Leeper’s theory of defense was that he was not the driver in question and was not in Joplin
at the time of the offense. In support, Leeper testified in his own defense, and presented testimony
from his father and several other witnesses. At the close of all the evidence, the trial court took
the matter under advisement, but ultimately found Leeper guilty of each of the four charges, fining
him $650 in the aggregate and also assessing court costs against him. This appeal followed. Claims and Analysis Leeper’s brief botches its points and arguments:
In the Points Relied On section, two points are duplicates, so five charge insufficiency of evidence (as to four counts), and the sixth challenges admission of Officer Scott’s identification testimony. In the Argument section, Point 5 duplicates the Point 6 complaint about Officer Scott’s testimony, but its header cites Officer Larery’s testimony, and its argument addresses both. That noted, all these complaints fail summarily because they ignore our standard of review.
The arguments under Points 1-4 (one as to each conviction challenged), in virtually identical
language, acknowledge the proof against Leeper, but urge that it was not strong enough. The
arguments under Points 5 and 6 similarly assert that the trial court should have disbelieved the
identifications of Leeper by Officers Larery and Scott. Our standard of review is contrary to all
When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we review all evidence and inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, and disregard all contrary evidence and inferences. The trier of fact determines the credibility of the witnesses, and may believe all, some or none of the testimony of a witness. Our function is not to reweigh the evidence, but only to determine whether the conviction is supported by sufficient evidence. State v. Rousselo, 386 S.W.3d 919, 920-21 (Mo.App. 2012) (citations and quotation marks
omitted). These principles are so well established that we need not address them further.
Outcome: Points denied. Judgment affirmed.