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Toombs v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

February 11, 2015



Scholl Law Firm, P.L.L.C., by: Scott A. Scholl, for appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Karen Virginia Wallace, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


A Pulaski County Circuit Court jury convicted appellant Anthony Toombs of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to forty years' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction, with fifteen years added pursuant to the firearm-enhancement statute. He was also convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to thirty-five years' imprisonment with fifteen years added pursuant to the firearm-enhancement statute. On appeal, he raises four points for reversal. We affirm.

On August 19, 2012, officers from the Little Rock Police Department responded to a reported homicide at 1624 Brown Street. At the scene, police officers discovered the body of Eddie Larkin with a gunshot wound to the back of the head. Moran Ellis identified Anthony Toombs as the person with whom Mr. Larkin had argued over drugs the night before, and told police that Mr. Toombs had been armed and acting aggressively.

Following the murder, Detective Tommy Hudson of the Little Rock Police Department developed a "photo spread" help identify the person responsible for the crime. He took the picture of the person he believed to be responsible and placed that photo in with six others that looked similar. On August 22, 2012, after several witnesses identified Mr. Toombs from this photo spread, Detective Hudson obtained a warrant for Mr. Toombs's arrest, and then attempted to call Mr. Toombs to convince him to surrender himself. When Detective Hudson called Mr. Toombs's home, he spoke instead to Mr. Toombs's wife, who said she would let Mr. Toombs know. Mr Toombs called back within an hour. Detective Hudson made an audio recording of the phone call, which was played at the trial. In the phone conversation, Mr. Toombs told Detective Hudson that he had given Mr. Larkin money for groceries, but Mr. Larkin spent it on drugs instead. When Mr. Toombs went back to retrieve the money, Mr. Larkin became aggressive, and Mr. Toombs shot him in self-defense. He told Detective Hudson that he "just pulled it off" without intent to kill. Mr. Toombs promised Detective Hudson he would turn himself in as soon he had gotten his affairs in order and hired an attorney. Detective Hudson read Mr. Toombs his Miranda rights, and advised Mr. Toombs that there was a warrant for his arrest, and that the police would be looking for him in the meantime.

Before dawn on August 23, 2012, North Little Rock Police Officer Ira Dale Whitney observed a truck run a stop sign. Officer Whitney attempted to stop the driver for a traffic violation, but the driver continued, running two more stop signs. The driver sped up to thirty miles per hour when Officer Whitney turned on the siren, and after a few blocks a man jumped out of the truck and escaped down an alley. As he was leaving the truck, Officer Whitney shined the spotlight on the driver's face, getting a good look at him. A City of Little Rock employee's badge with Mr. Toombs's name and photograph on it was later found in the truck. Officer Whitney identified Mr. Toombs as the driver.

On August 29, 2012, Mr. Toombs, accompanied by his attorney, turned himself in to Detective Hudson.

I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

In his final point on appeal, Mr. Toombs asserts that the evidence was not substantial enough to support the verdict. We affirm the trial court. In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, considering only the evidence that tends to support the verdict. Satterfleld v. State, 2014 Ark.App. 633, 448 S.W.3d 211. We will affirm if the finding of guilt is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Id. Substantial evidence is that which is of sufficient force to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id. The weight of the evidence and credibility of the witnesses are matters for the fact-finder, not for the trial court on a directed-verdict motion or this court on appeal. Id. The fact-finder is free to believe all or part of a witness's testimony, and may resolve all questions of conflicting testimony and inconsistent evidence. Id. For circumstantial evidence to be substantial, the evidence must exclude every other reasonable hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused. White v. State, 2014 Ark.App. 587, 446 S.W.3d 193. The question of whether the circumstantial evidence excludes every hypothesis consistent with innocence is a decision for the fact-finder, whose determination will not be disturbed unless it reached its verdict using speculation and conjecture. Id.

First-degree murder is defined as "with the purpose of causing the death of another person, the person causes the death of another person." Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-102(a)(2) (Repl. 2002). A person acts with a particular purpose with respect to his conduct or a result of his conduct when it is his conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or to cause the result. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-1-102(17) (Supp. 2011) and § 5-2-202(1) (Repl. 2006).

Viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the jury was able to reach its determination without using speculation or conjecture. The evidence supporting a conviction for first-degree murder was supplied by several witnesses and by expert testimony.

Witnesses Corey Wright and Moran Ellis made early statements, within the first hours and days after the crime, that Mr. Toombs and Mr. Larkin had been fighting the night before about bad drugs Mr. Larkin had sold Mr. Toombs and about money. Leheith Carter and Moran Ellis stated that they knew Mr. Toombs personally and recognized him that night. Carter, Ellis, and Wright all told police that evening that Mr. Toombs had a gun earlier, and though at the trial they denied the veracity of those previous statements, the State was able to cross-examine them about their changed recollection. At trial, Mr. Ellis said that he had lied the evening of the murder to lead police away from considering him as a suspect, and that he did not remember anything about the evening in question; however, his recorded statements were admitted to support his original testimony. In his recorded statements from August 19 and 20, Mr. Ellis described in great detail how Mr. Toombs was holding ...

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