FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST DIVISION [NO.
60CR-13-230] HONORABLE LEON JOHNSON, JUDGE
Willard Proctor, Jr., P.A., by: Willard Proctor, Jr., for
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge
Rickey Neal appeals after he was convicted by a Pulaski
County jury of domestic battering in the second degree, theft
of property, and fleeing and was sentenced to serve a total
of 300 months in the Arkansas Department of Correction. On
appeal, appellant contends (1) that the trial court erred
when it denied his motion for directed verdict and (2) that
the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his
motion for mistrial. We affirm.
was charged by information with aggravated robbery, domestic
battering in the second degree, theft of property,
terroristic threatening in the first degree, and fleeing. At
trial, Officer Stan Wilhite testified that he was dispatched
to the residence of the victim, Betty Frazier, on the evening
of December 2, 2012. During his walk-through of the
residence, the officer observed several items in disarray and
some furniture turned over, which indicated to him that there
had been some sort of an altercation. He observed several
apparent blood stains at the scene, and he took samples of
fresh blood that were found at Ms. Frazier's home and at
a store across the street. The officer testified that he took several
photographs at the scene. Afterwards, the officer went to the
hospital to meet with the victim, Ms. Frazier. Ms. Frazier
had already received medical treatment and had bandages
covering parts of her face. The officer took photographs of
Frazier testified that she was sixty-five years old at the
time of the altercation. She explained that she had been
romantically involved with appellant, that they were living
together, and that he knew her age. She was the owner of a
black 2010 Ford Edge. Ms. Frazier testified that on the night
of December 2, 2012, appellant became upset with her in the
bedroom after she told him that she would not marry him. She
testified that he subsequently struck her with her pistol
that he had taken out of her dresser drawer. After the
appellant had struck her with the pistol, she explained that
she fell against the closet door and "passed out."
When she came to, appellant had lifted her up by her pockets
and was trying to find her car keys. After he found them, she
asked to go to the bathroom because there was blood on her
face and in her eyes. Ms. Frazier indicated that the
appellant followed her throughout several rooms of the home
and continued to "terrorize" her. At one point, the
appellant told her that he would kill her and then kill
himself. In the main room of the residence, appellant took a
hardened seashell and struck her in the forehead. Ms. Frazier
finally was able to get out of the home by shoving appellant
over a chair, and she fled to a tobacco store located across
the street. Ms. Frazier testified that she collapsed at the
store and was subsequently transported to the hospital by
ambulance. After her release from the hospital, Ms. Frazier
discovered that she was missing jewelry and that her Ford
Edge was missing. Ms. Frazier testified that appellant did
not have permission to take her jewelry or her car that
night. Throughout her testimony, the prosecutor showed Ms.
Frazier photographs of the scene as she described the chain
of events, and she indicated that it was her blood depicted
in the photographs.
David Edrington testified that he was Ms. Frazier's
treating physician in the emergency room. He explained that
she suffered from a scalp laceration that was ten centimeters
in length on the crown of her scalp; multiple contusions,
bruising, and swelling, predominantly around her left orbital
area; and one lost tooth. After using staples to close the
laceration, Dr. Edrington chose to admit her into the
hospital for further observation.
Barry Brewer testified that he was the shift commander on
duty the night of the altercation. He explained that he
observed the appellant operating a black Ford Edge and
activated his blue lights in an attempt to stop the vehicle.
However, the vehicle did not stop; instead, the appellant led
law enforcement officers on a high-speed pursuit lasting
approximately sixteen minutes, with appellant traveling up to
132 miles per hour at one point. Eventually, law enforcement
deployed spike strips to stop appellant's vehicle, and
the appellant was apprehended.
Nick Kinsey testified that he assisted in the pursuit of the
appellant. Kinsey testified that after the appellant had been
apprehended, although he observed some blood on
appellant's clothing, he did not observe any injuries on
appellant. Crime Specialist Rachel Carver and Detective
Reagan Hilgeman testified that they searched the black Ford
Edge operated by the appellant after appellant's arrest.
They discovered jewelry and what appeared to be blood in the
Brad Silas testified that he took photographs of appellant in
an interview room after he had been arrested. The detective
noticed that appellant had blood on his clothing and a small
scratch on his hand and chest. However, appellant did not
complain of any injuries at the time, and none of the
injuries were bleeding at that time. Additionally, appellant
did not exhibit any signs of intoxication.
testimony at trial painted a very different version of
events. The appellant openly admitted to the jury that he was
guilty of fleeing and that he had been previously convicted
of second-degree battery, theft by receiving, aggravated
assault on a family or household member, and terroristic
threatening. He explained that on the night of the incident
he had been out drinking with friends while Ms. Frazier
stayed home. The appellant admitted that he was drunk. When
he returned home, the appellant found Ms. Frazier lying in
bed drinking wine. He testified that he went downstairs to
eat, drink some more alcohol, and smoke cigarettes. At some
point thereafter, the appellant stated that he returned to
the bedroom and went to sleep. The appellant explained that
he woke up after he had been hit across his chest, and he
discovered that his hands had been tied with two neckties.
The lights were off in the home. He further testified that
the person continued to hit him, hitting him on his head,
crushing the knuckles of his hand, and stabbing his big toe
with a pocketknife. He managed to get himself loose and
fought with the person around the house. It was only after
the appellant had turned the lights on that he realized that
he had been fighting with Ms. Frazier and that it was Ms.
Frazier lying on the floor. The appellant indicated that he
tried to help Ms. Frazier and wanted to take her to the
hospital. However, Ms. Frazier threw a towel at him and left.
The appellant denied that there was any argument about
marriage. He further denied hitting Ms. Frazier with a gun or
seashell and stated that he instead hit her with a flashlight
in the bedroom only because he did not know that it was Ms.
Frazier. After Ms. Frazier left, the appellant explained that
he left in the Ford Edge because he was afraid that the
police would take him back to prison since he was already on
parole. Finally, he denied taking any jewelry from Ms.
Frazier and explained that the jewelry that was found in the
Ford Edge had already been in the vehicle.
jury found appellant not guilty of aggravated robbery, and
the jury was unable to reach a decision for terroristic
threatening in the first degree. However, the jury did find
appellant guilty of domestic battering in the second degree,
theft of property, and fleeing. The appellant was sentenced
to serve 300 months for domestic battering in the second
degree, 12 months for theft of property, and 180 months for
fleeing in the Arkansas Department of Correction, to be
served concurrently. This appeal followed.
first alleges that the trial court erred in denying his
motion for directed verdict. Specifically, he argues that the
jury lacked substantial evidence to convict him of domestic
battering in the second degree because the victim's
version of events was unlikely based on the evidence of
appellant's physical condition. Instead, he argues that
the evidence was clear that the victim was the initial
aggressor. We disagree.
motion for a directed verdict is a challenge to the
sufficiency of the evidence. Wyles v. State, 368
Ark. 646, 249 S.W.3d 782 (2007). On an appeal from a denial
of a motion for a directed verdict, the sufficiency of the
evidence is tested to determine whether the verdict is
supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial.
Id. In determining whether there is substantial
evidence to support the verdict, this court reviews the
evidence in the light most favorable to the State and
considers only that evidence which supports the verdict.