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Shreck v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

February 16, 2017

RICHARD SHRECK APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE FAULKNER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 23CR-14-827] HONORABLE CHARLES E. CLAWSON, JR., JUDGE

          John Wesley Hall and Sarah M. Pourhosseini, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          SHAWN A. WOMACK, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE

         Appellant Richard Shreck appeals the circuit court's ruling admitting into evidence, during the sentencing phase of his trial, conversations regarding "snuff" sex. Appellant argues the conversations were irrelevant and unduly prejudicial. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         Facts and Procedural Background

         The appellant entered an online chatroom and began to chat with a police officer trained to investigate crimes against children. The chatroom, which they were both in, typically includes people who chat about sexually deviant behavior, including sexually exploiting children. The online profile of the officer was that of a single mother of a ten-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son whom she was willing to make available for the sexual gratification of the chatroom participants. The conversation between appellant and the officer involved sexual acts with the officer's imaginary children. Appellant ultimately made arrangements to meet the officer and her imaginary children at a parking lot in Conway and take them to Hot Springs for sex. Upon meeting the officer, the appellant was placed in custody.

         During the online conversations, appellant admitted that he was interested in "snuff" and bondage sex. He also stated that he had thought about snuffing a child. Further, during one of the conversations, appellant sent a picture of a device he made for snuffing women. He also asked for pictures of the officer's imaginary children and stated that he was talking about snuff sex with others, including a sixteen-year-old girl. Testimony at trial described snuff sex as killing someone during or after sex and indicating that it may be done by impaling someone with a sharpened rod.

         Appellant was ultimately charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit rape and two counts of attempted internet stalking of a child. The internet-stalking charges were nolle prossed by the State. A jury subsequently convicted the appellant of two counts of conspiracy to commit rape and sentenced him to 30 years in prison on each count.

         During the sentencing phase, the officer testified regarding the conversations centered on "snuff" and bondage sex. Additionally, the State entered into evidence pictures that depicted women being impaled during sex, which were found on the defendant's computer, as well as the picture of the device the defendant made for impaling women.

         Standard of Review

         A circuit court's decision to admit evidence during the penalty phase is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Crawford v. State, 362 Ark. 301, 303, 208 S.W.3d 146, 147 (2005); Brown v. State, 2010 Ark. 420, at 12, 378 S.W.3d 66, 73. Determining what is relevant and what is prejudicial is at the discretion of the court. MacKool v. State, 365 Ark. 416, 449-50, 231 S.W.3d 676, 701 (2006). The standard "is a high threshold that does not simply require error in the circuit court's decision, but requires that the circuit court act improvidently, thoughtlessly, or without due consideration." Holland v. State, 2015 Ark. 341, at 7, 471 S.W.3d 179, 184.

         Abuse of discretion

         The Arkansas Code provides that relevant character evidence is admissible during the sentencing phase of a trial. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-97-103(5) (Repl. 2016). Therefore, while the rules of evidence apply during all stages of the proceeding, certain evidence is admissible during sentencing ...


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