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Noble v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

April 20, 2017

WILLIE NOBLE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 60CR-2014-1089] HONORABLE ERNEST SANDERS, SPECIAL CIRCUIT JUDGE

          Ronald L. Davis, Jr. Law Firm, PLLC, by: Ronald L. Davis, for appellant.

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

          RHONDA K. WOOD, Associate Justice

         A Pulaski County jury convicted the appellant, Willie Noble, of first-degree murder and six counts of terroristic acts. It also found him guilty of using a firearm during the commission of a felony on each count. He was sentenced to 240 months for first-degree murder with an additional 120 months' enhancement for use of a firearm to be served consecutively. In addition, he was fined $1, 000 for each of the six felony terroristic acts and was sentenced to 36 months for each of the firearm enhancements to be served concurrently. On appeal, Noble argues that the circuit court erred in not granting his motions for directed verdict on all charges. We affirm Noble's convictions.

         In February 2014, several teenagers went to Noble's home to play a prank on Noble's son by throwing toilet paper, leaves, and mayonnaise on his son's car. Noble was alerted by his dog barking, but by the time he looked outside and saw the toilet paper and leaves on the car, the teenagers had left. However, they returned later that night with eggs to throw at Noble's house and at a neighbor's house. This time, as the teenagers were leaving in their car, Noble came outside with a gun and began shooting in the direction of the teenagers' car. Noble fired multiple shots at the car, shattering the driver's-side window, cracking the windshield, and leaving several bullet holes in the vehicle. Adrian Broadway, who was seated in the front passenger seat, was shot in the head and killed by one of Noble's shots.

         The jury convicted Noble of first-degree murder and six terroristic acts. It also found him guilty of using a firearm during the commission of a felony with regard to each count. On appeal, Noble contends the circuit court erred by denying his motions for directed verdict because the evidence did not demonstrate that his purpose in firing his weapon was to cause property damage and because Broadway's death was not caused "in furtherance of" the terroristic acts as required by the felony-murder statute, Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-10-102(a)(1) (Repl. 2013).

         We treat a motion for directed verdict as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Kinsey v. State, 2016 Ark. 393, 503 S.W.3d 772. The test for determining the sufficiency of the evidence is whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence. Id. Substantial evidence is evidence that is of sufficient force and character that it will, with reasonable certainty, compel a conclusion one way or the other, without resorting to speculation or conjecture. Id. In reviewing a sufficiency challenge, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, considering only evidence that supports the verdict. Id.

         Noble contends the circuit court should have granted his directed-verdict motions in regard to the terroristic acts. He argues there was insufficient evidence that he shot the vehicle occupied by the victim with the intent to cause property damage. He asserts that the only testimony regarding his intent was the statement he gave to the police in which he claimed that he shot with the purpose of scaring away the people in the car. However, the jury was not required to accept his statement as true and was free to believe the testimony of other witnesses. Indeed, a person's state of mind at the time of a crime is seldom apparent and ordinarily cannot be proven by direct evidence. Rollins v. State, 2009 Ark. 484, 347 S.W.3d 20. For this reason, members of the jury are allowed to draw upon their common knowledge and experience to infer it from the circumstances. Id. Because of the difficulty in ascertaining a person's intent, a presumption exists that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of his or her acts. Davis v. State, 2009 Ark. 478, 348 S.W.3d 553.

         From the trial testimony, a jury could have concluded that Noble's actions showed that he shot the vehicle with the purpose of causing property damage. One of the teenagers testified at trial that Noble pointed the gun and shot at the car four or five times. He did not see Noble aim the gun toward the ground. Another teenager similarly stated that she saw Noble aim and shoot the gun at the car. In addition, police officers testified to the damage to the car as the result of the shooting, including a shattered driver's-side window, cracked windshield, and bullet holes in the driver's-side door and in the rear quarter panel. We hold that this evidence was sufficient to support the jury's inference that Noble shot the vehicle with the intent to cause property damage.

         Next, Noble argues that under the circumstances of this case, he did not shoot and kill Broadway in furtherance of the commission of the terroristic acts. The felony murder statute provides,

A person commits murder in the first degree if, acting alone or with one or more other persons, the person commits or attempts to commit a felony and, in the course of and in furtherance of the felony or in immediate flight from the felony, the person or an accomplice causes the death of any person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.

Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-102(a)(1).

         Noble argues that in order for the State to prove that he caused Broadway's death "in the course of and in furtherance of" committing a terroristic act, it must demonstrate that the murder was done to facilitate the terroristic act. Noble cites Parker v. State, 292 Ark. 421, 731 S.W.2d 756 (1987), and Craig v. State, 70 Ark.App. 71, 14 S.W.3d 893 (2000), in support of this argument. He contends that Parker stands for the proposition that the language "in the course of and in furtherance of" requires that the death facilitated the felony. This is simply a misinterpretation of Parker. In Parker, the defendant was convicted of the felony murder of James Warren and Sandra Warren. 292 Ark. 421, 731 S.W.2d 756. Parker drove to the home of James Warren, his ex-wife's father, and as Warren and his daughter were getting into their vehicle, Parker began shooting at them. Id. He ultimately chased Warren into his home where he killed him and his wife, Sandra Warren. Id. The court reversed because ...


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