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Owens v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

February 22, 2017

KEVIN SPENCER OWENS, SR. APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66FCR-15-459, 66FCR-15-1003, AND 66FCR-15-1005] HONORABLE STEPHEN TABOR, JUDGE.

          Danielson Law Firm, PLLC, by: Elizabeth "Betsy" Danielson, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          MIKE MURPHY, Judge.

         On June 10, 2016, Kevin Spencer Owens, Sr., was convicted by a jury of three counts of delivery of methamphetamine and sentenced to twenty-three years' imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by (1) granting the State's motions in limine precluding him from questioning the criminal informant about his prior convictions and sentences; (2) prohibiting him from eliciting testimony from four witnesses about his family and work history; and (3) allowing the State's rebuttal witness to testify. We find no error and affirm.

         I. Background

         In November 2014, the Fort Smith police set up a controlled buy with Owens through a paid criminal informant. In exchange for $100, the criminal informant, who had a long criminal history, purchased an eighth of an ounce of methamphetamine from Owens for $250. The police provided the money for the purchase to the informant, and he wore a wire during the transaction.

         The criminal informant set up another controlled buy in January 2015. This time, the informant introduced Owens to an undercover police officer, David Stewart, who made the purchase. Stewart, while wearing a wire, purchased about half an ounce of meth for $750. For facilitating the delivery, Stewart let Owens keep 1/16 of an ounce of the meth.

         Stewart set up a third controlled buy directly with Owens in February 2015 for another half ounce. Owens received 1/16 of an ounce of meth as payment for the delivery on that occasion, as well.

         Owens was charged with three counts of delivery of methamphetamine. At trial, Owens argued the affirmative defense of entrapment, contending the police and the informant lured or baited Owens to commit the crime by preying on his addiction when they tempted him with meth in exchange for delivering the drugs.

         II. Entrapment

         Entrapment occurs when a law-enforcement officer or any person acting in cooperation with a law-enforcement officer induces the commission of an offense by using persuasion or other means likely to cause a normally law-abiding person to commit the offense. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-209 (Repl. 2013). Conduct merely affording a defendant an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment. Id. When proving the affirmative defense of entrapment, a defendant is allowed reasonable latitude in presenting whatever facts and circumstances he claims constitute an entrapment, subject to ordinary rules of admissibility. E.g., Young v. State, 308 Ark. 647, 651, 826 S.W.2d 814, 816 (1992). Evidence having any tendency to make the existence of entrapment more probable is admissible. See, e.g., id.; Ark. R. Evid. 401.

         III. Standard of Review

         Trial courts are afforded wide discretion in evidentiary rulings. McCoy v. State, 354 Ark. 322, 325, 123 S.W.3d 901, 903 (2003). Specifically, in issues relating to the admission of evidence under Arkansas Rule of Evidence 401, we have held that a trial court's ruling is entitled to great weight and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Id. Abuse of discretion is a high threshold that does not simply require error in the trial court's decision, but requires that the trial ...


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