FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60CR-14-2002] HONORABLE BARRY SIMS, JUDGE
James Law Firm, by: William O. "Bill" James, Jr.,
and Michael Kiel Kaiser, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Jacob H. Jones, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
M. GLOVER, Judge
Keenan Lewis was convicted of first-degree murder in the
shooting death of Jason Harris. He was sentenced to
thirty-one years' imprisonment, with an additional
consecutive fifteen-year sentence for use of a firearm during
the murder. On appeal, Lewis raises three major points, with
several subpoints: (1) the circuit court abused its
discretion by allowing the State to question Bree Hood, on
redirect examination, about prior specific instances of
conduct on redirect examination; (2) the circuit court erred
by refusing to allow Lewis to testify about his knowledge of
Harris's gang affiliation; and (3) there was insufficient
evidence to support the conviction because Lewis proved he
was justified in shooting Harris in
self-defense. We affirm.
April 29, 2014, Harris and his girlfriend, Jessica White,
were visiting friends at an apartment complex on Sanford
Drive in Little Rock. Shortly after Harris arrived, Lewis
walked from a second apartment complex across the street and
approached Harris. White testified she heard Harris ask Lewis
if he knew him and if they had a problem, heard three
gunshots, and saw Lewis leave in a black sedan. White denied
Harris had said anything threatening to Lewis or had a gun on
resident of the apartment complex, Levell Crump, who knew
Harris by the nickname "Dreads, " witnessed the
shooting. Crump explained he saw a person who looked like
Lewis with his arm fully extended, pointing a gun at
Harris's head; heard a few "quick loud words"
from the man holding the gun; and then heard the gun fire.
Crump described Harris as crouched down in a defensive
position, leaning away from the person holding the gun, when
he was shot. Crump testified Harris had a gentle disposition,
was a non-threatening person, and he did not hear Harris say
anything aggressive to the shooter.
Hood, Lewis's girlfriend, was called as a witness for the
State; she testified she did not witness the shooting because
she was inside their apartment, but that she did hear
gunshots outside. Hood said she did not know Lewis carried a
gun. Hood did not know Harris, but she said Harris had come
to their door approximately a month before the shooting
occurred and talked to Lewis; while she did not know what was
said, she testified it scared Lewis and made him nervous.
Hood stated that sometimes when she and Lewis were leaving
the apartment, Harris would make Blood gang-affiliation
sounds and point at Lewis, but Harris never made any
statements directly to her. However, Hood claimed Harris
would say things to her daughter that scared her while she
was walking to and from the bus stop. Hood testified she
never called police about any of the incidents because she
did not want to be seen talking to the police because
"snitches get stitches."
Charles Kokes, the medical examiner who performed
Harris's autopsy, testified that Harris was hit by nine
bullets. It was his testimony that two of the wounds-one that
entered through the left arm and injured the aorta, lodging
in Harris's thoracic spine, and the other that entered
the right chest and passed through the heart-by themselves
would have been fatal. Additionally, Harris was shot through
the left cheek and six times in his lower extremities; the
wounds to his lower extremities were incurred while Harris
was lying on the ground.
was also called as a witness for the defense. She testified
that a lot of apartments were being broken into, her children
were fearful about incidents that occurred while they were
coming from and going to school, and while she and Lewis had
talked about moving, they could not afford to do so at the
time. Breanna Small, Hood's daughter, confirmed she had
encountered Harris, whom she knew as "Dreads, " as
she walked to and from her bus stop. She said Harris had
asked her name and age, and once he asked her where her
"punkass" daddy was; she was uncomfortable with
these interactions, which she said began to happen out of the
testified in his own defense. According to Lewis, the first
time he encountered Harris, he saw him coming out of an
apartment with a television. Lewis surmised Harris had broken
into the apartment, and he said Harris knew he had seen him.
Lewis was also concerned that Harris was talking to Breanna.
Lewis said the next time he saw Harris was when Harris came
to his apartment a few weeks before the shooting, and at that
time, Harris had a gun strapped to his hip and made threats
that scared him, including statements that he would kill
Lewis. Lewis indicated the threats were gang related. On the
day of the shooting, Lewis said he had decided to talk to
Harris "man-to-man" to resolve the situation.
Although Lewis stated he had no intent other than to talk, he
admitted he took a gun with him for self-protection, but he
did not intend to use it. Lewis testified that when he
confronted Harris, Harris became offensive and aggressive,
and the discussion became an argument. Lewis claimed Harris
had reached for his gun, and Lewis had shot him because he
believed Harris was about to kill him.
it is his third point, we must consider Lewis's
sufficiency argument first on appeal, as preservation of
Lewis's right against double jeopardy requires our court
to consider challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence
before alleged trial error is considered, even if the
sufficiency-of-the-evidence issue is not presented as the
first issue on appeal. See LeFever v. State, 91
Ark.App. 86, 208 S.W.3d 812 (2005). In reviewing a challenge
to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the State, considering only the
evidence supporting the verdict, and affirm if there is
substantial evidence to support the conviction. Taylor v.
State, 2017 Ark.App. 331, S.W.3d . Substantial evidence
is evidence 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. Witness credibility and the weighing of evidence
are matters for the finder of fact, who is free to believe
all or part of any witness's testimony and whose duty it
is to resolve questions of conflicting testimony and
inconsistent evidence. Id.
argues he proved the justification of self-defense because he
possessed a reasonable belief Harris was about to use deadly
force against him, and therefore, there was insufficient
evidence to support his conviction for murder in the first
degree. The State contends Lewis's sufficiency argument
is not preserved for appellate review; we agree.
33.1(a) of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure provides
that, in a jury trial, a directed-verdict motion must be made
both at the close of the prosecution's evidence and at
the close of all the evidence, and such motion shall state
the specific grounds therefor. Subsection (c) of Rule 33.1
requires a directed-verdict motion to specify in what respect
the evidence is deficient, as a motion merely stating that
the evidence is insufficient does not preserve for appellate
purposes issues relating to a specific deficiency, such as
insufficient proof on the elements of the offense; the
failure to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence in the
time and manner required in Rule 33.1(a) constitutes a waiver
of any question pertaining to the sufficiency of the evidence
to support the verdict.
counsel made the following directed-verdict motion at the
close of the State's case:
Your Honor, I move for a directed verdict on the first-degree
murder. There wasn't-and I just deal with the ones that
don't count first-the purpose of causing the death,
purpose of causing death of another person, Mr. Lewis caused
the death of Jason Harris. There's-the State didn't
meet their burden that, one, he caused the death of Mr.
Harris. Two, that Mr. Lewis was identified as a person. They
didn't prove that he had the purpose to kill Mr. Harris.
And Judge, ...