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Jones v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 30, 2014

RODNEY L. JONES, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

Page 744

          APPEAL FROM THE VAN BUREN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 71CR-08-132. HONORABLE CHARLES E. CLAWSON, JR., JUDGE.

         Rodney L. Jones, Pro se appellant.

         Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Kent G. Holt, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          OPINION

Page 745

          PRO SE

         PER CURIAM

         In 2008, appellant Rodney L. Jones was charged with capital murder in the shooting death of his former wife, Orzona Fischer, for which the State sought the death penalty. He was tried by a jury in 2010 and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. We affirmed. Jones v. State, 2012 Ark. 38, 388 S.W.3d 411.

         At trial, appellant raised the affirmative defense of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, arguing that his use of prescription drugs and the stress that he had been experiencing induced him to commit the murder. There was evidence adduced at trial that appellant traveled from Colorado to Clinton, Arkansas, where he used a rifle to shoot Ms. Fischer through the front window of her house. He then returned to Colorado, disposing of the rifle in a river in Kansas. Appellant later confessed to authorities, and the rifle was recovered. A witness for the State testified that, months before appellant left Colorado, appellant had tried to convince the witness on multiple occasions to provide him with an alibi for when he traveled to Arkansas to plant drugs on the victim's land or to otherwise harm her. On cross-examination, the defense elicited testimony from the witness that the medication appellant was taking changed his behavior, making him agitated.

         After the judgment was affirmed on appeal, appellant timely filed in the trial court a verified, pro se petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2010). With leave of the trial court, he was allowed to amend the petition. An evidentiary hearing was held, and the relief sought was denied. Appellant brings this appeal.

         In his petition, appellant alleged that he was not afforded effective assistance of counsel at trial. This court has

Page 746

held that it will reverse the trial court's decision granting or denying postconviction relief only when that decision is clearly erroneous. Conley v. State, 2014 Ark. 172, 433 S.W.3d 234. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the appellate court, after reviewing the entire evidence, is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Caery v. State, 2014 Ark. 247');">2014 Ark. 247 (per curiam); Sartin v. State, 2012 Ark. 155, 400 S.W.3d 694.

          When considering an appeal from a trial court's denial of a Rule 37.1 petition based on ineffective assistance of counsel, the sole question presented is whether, based on a totality of the evidence under the standard set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), the trial court clearly erred in ...


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