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Owens v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 31, 2017

CHRISTOPHER L. OWENS, JR. APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE GRANT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 27CR-16-6] HONORABLE EDDY R. EASLEY, JUDGE

          Philip C Wilson, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kristen C. Green, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

         A Grant County jury convicted appellant Christopher Owens, Jr., of residential burglary and theft of property and sentenced him as a habitual offender to serve an aggregate term of fifty years in prison. Owens argues that the trial court erred in denying his directed-verdict motions because there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. We affirm.

         I. Jury-Trial Testimony

         Jake Dodridge testified that on December 31, 2015, around 11:00 a.m., he arrived at his parents' house in Traskwood to help move a dryer. He stated that he had known his parents' neighbor, Curtis Rushing, who lived directly across the way from his parents, for approximately fifteen years. Dodridge stated that Rushing's vehicles were gone and that no one appeared to be home. Dodridge testified that "[w]hen you're in a small area, you know what people drive and you know what is normal and what ain't." Dodridge stated that he saw an unfamiliar car, which he described as "dirty white" with no hubcaps, parked halfway up Rushing's driveway. Dodridge then observed a man walking from Rushing's carport to the car in the driveway. Dodridge said that the man had "a look of shock" when he looked up and saw Dodridge watching him. Dodridge said that approximately thirty minutes later he saw that the same car and the same man had been stopped by a police officer in Haskell. Dodridge stopped and told the officer what he had seen at the neighbor's house.

         Officer Russ Hansley with the Haskell Police Department testified that on December 31, 2015, around 11:30 a.m., he stopped a white car with expired tags. He noticed a very large television and electronic equipment in the backseat of the car and became suspicious because an extension cord and drywall were still attached to the equipment. Hansley identified Owens as the driver of the car. He placed Owens under arrest and took inventory of the car. During the inventory, Hansley found a bag of prescription-pill bottles with the name "Curtis Rushing" on them. Hansley contacted Rushing, who came to the scene and identified other items belonging to him.

         Curtis Rushing testified that he had left his residence around 7:45 a.m. on December 31, 2015, to go hunting. He was sitting in his deer stand when he received a call from Hansley. Rushing stated that, when he arrived at the scene where Owens had been stopped, he saw his television, a DIRECTV box, the back from his entertainment center, a box containing ammunition, a Wii station, and his medicine bag. Rushing stated that he did not know Owens and had not given Owens or anyone else permission to take the items from his home. He said that he had not left his door open and that the door facing had not been broken when he left that morning.

         Investigator Jason Teague with the Grant County Sheriffs Office testified that he arrived at the traffic stop to assist Hansley. He said that he accompanied Rushing back to his residence and that they discovered a door that had been forced open. Teague said that Rushing took him through the house, pointing to areas from which the items found in Owens's car had been stolen. Teague said that he later took a statement from Owens, who claimed that he had found the items on the side of the road.

         Owens's statement was introduced into evidence. According to Owens, he had been driving around trying to find a transmission shop when he passed a wooded area and saw a television in a ditch. Owens said, "I did not go in that man's house, I did not take none of his belongings. I did not do that."

         Defense counsel moved for a directed verdict on both charges, but the trial court denied those motions. The jury found Owens guilty of residential burglary and theft of property. The State introduced Owens's previous convictions for theft (two counts) and residential burglary (four counts). The jury then sentenced Owens to thirty-five years and fifteen years, respectively, and recommended that the sentences be served consecutively.

         II. Standard of Review

         On appeal, Owens argues that the trial court erred in denying his motions for directed verdict. We treat a motion for directed verdict as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Hubbard v. State,2017 Ark.App. 93, 513 S.W.3d 289. In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in a light most favorable to the State and consider only the evidence that supports the verdict. Id. We affirm a conviction if substantial evidence exists to support it. Id. Substantial evidence is that which 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. The ...


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