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Cutsinger v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

November 29, 2017

AARON MICHAEL CUTSINGER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, GREENWOOD DISTRICT [NO. 66CR-15-164] HONORABLE JAMES O. COX, JUDGE.

          Short Law Firm, by: Lee D. Short, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Valerie Glover Fortner, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, JUDGE.

         Appellant Aaron Cutsinger was convicted of one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of committing the offense of first-degree murder in the presence of a child. On appeal, he does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence; instead, he argues that the circuit court erred in denying his motion in limine to exclude part of a text message. While we agree that the circuit court erred in denying Cutsinger's motion in limine, the error was harmless in light of the evidence presented at trial. We therefore affirm.

         I. Background

         Cutsinger had a tumultuous relationship with Leanora Rippy. In September 2015, Rippy's body was discovered on the side of a mountain road in Sebastian County. She had been run over repeatedly by a vehicle. Rippy's infant son, S.C., was also found on the side of the road a short distance away from her body. S.C. had multiple bruises, contusions, and abrasions on his head and torso consistent with "road rash." Cutsinger was arrested within days and charged with the murder of Rippy and the attempted murder of S.C.

         Prior to trial, Cutsinger filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence of text messages he had sent to a friend, Scott VanHorn, in the weeks prior to Rippy's death. The message was part of an exchange of texts between Cutsinger and VanHorn as follows:

Cutsinger: Tell Lea to piss off and her n her kid can brin [sic] in hell fuck off you white piece of luring [sic] trash fuck u
VanHorn: I cannot tell her anything like that. And by texting me messages you violate the restraining order.[1] I can talk about anything else but I cannot do what you asked. This is for everyone's protection. Hope you understand. Here is hoping you have a wonderful evening.
Cutsinger: Fuck the restraining order I kill them both she a living white ass bitch I'm ready to kill me some cops come on you peace [sic] of shit fuck your n [S.C.] hope you both die
Come at me she done fuck up
You all have God can't even save you!!!

         Specifically, Cutsinger's motion in limine sought to preclude the State from introducing the last message from him in which he said he was "ready to kill me some cops." He asserted that the message had no independent relevance because he was "not on trial for any offense committed against the police." He further argued that any relevance this statement might have was outweighed by the danger of undue ...


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