AARON K. CRIFT APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35CR-16-382]
HONORABLE ALEX GUYNN, JUDGE
Robinson & Zakrzewski, P.A., by: Luke Zakrzewski, for
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kent G. Holt, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
W. GRUBER, Chief Judge.
found appellant, Aaron Crift, guilty of first-degree murder
in connection with the shooting death of James Murray. He was
sentenced as a habitual offender and received 50 years for
the murder and 15 years as an enhancement for the use of a
firearm in the commission of the offense. On appeal,
appellant argues that the circuit court erred by declining to
instruct the jury on manslaughter as a lesser-included
offense of capital murder and first-degree murder. We find no
error and affirm.
22, 2016, Sgt. Rowland Dorman of the Pine Bluff Police
Department responded to a shooting call at 315 West Fifteenth
St. He found James Murray slumped in a corner on the front
porch with a gunshot wound to his forehead. Sergeant Dorman
learned that the shooter was a black male who left the scene
in a white Jeep with a black male and a white female.
Sergeant Dorman immediately broadcasted the information over
Mike Sweeney was on his way to the scene when he heard the
broadcast and spotted a vehicle matching the description
approximately ten blocks from 315 West Fifteenth St. As he
approached the vehicle, he saw a black male wearing a yellow
shirt flee from the driver's side. He made contact with
Deonna Logue, the female passenger in the backseat. Detective
Sweeney and other detectives who arrived on the scene set up
a perimeter around a house because of the presence of the
vehicle matching the description of the car that was fleeing
the scene of the shooting, and the male wearing the yellow
shirt had exited the vehicle and had run inside the home. The
man was later identified as Arthur "Jay" Paylor.
When Detective Sweeney approached the home, Paylor and
another man, Travis Roberts, came outside. Paylor
acknowledged that the white Jeep belonged to him, and both
men said that no one else was in the home.
Scott lived at 1516 South Walnut St. She testified that on
June 22, she saw appellant and a white female sitting on the
porch at 1509 South Walnut St. and heard them talking about
clothes. She heard appellant say in a loud tone,
"He['s] going to give me your stuff." Scott
went inside and soon after heard a loud pop. When she opened
the door, she saw appellant running from around the corner
with a gun and heard him say to the white female on the
porch, "I just shot this mother******." She then
saw appellant and the white female run into the house. A
short time later, she saw appellant and the white female get
into a white SUV. Scott described the gun as having a silver
barrel with a black handle. She also heard a lady from
Murray's house saying, "He shot my brother."
Jackson testified that he lived at 1509 South Walnut St. and
worked at Subway. He and appellant were as close as blood
relatives. The night of June 21, Jackson had friends over,
including appellant and Deonna Logue, who both spent the
night at his home. When Jackson left for work, appellant and
Logue were the only people remaining in the home. Around
12:00 p.m. he learned from a neighbor that his house was
surrounded by police. He went home and the police told him a
suspected murder weapon was inside. Jackson testified that he
did not have a weapon in the house because he was a felon and
not allowed to have a gun. He consented to a search of his
home, and a long silver handgun with a black handle was
Logue had dated James Murray for three years but was dating
appellant at the time of the shooting. She testified that
they were at Jackson's house the day of the shooting,
talking on the porch when appellant got mad and went inside.
When he came back out, she asked him what he was doing, and
he replied that he was going to talk to Murray. She knew
Murray was staying at his sister's home around the
corner. She testified that she was on the porch when
appellant went around the corner, and it sounded like he and
Murray were arguing. Shortly after he had left, Logue heard a
gunshot, which sounded to her like it came from where Murray
had been staying. She saw appellant with a gun when he came
back around the corner, although she had not seen it when he
left. She described it as silver with a black handle. Logue
testified that when appellant returned, he told her he had
shot Murray. He then called Paylor, who picked them up in a
white Jeep. They then went to Paylor's cousin's
house, where appellant and Paylor went inside. Logue stayed
in the backseat. She explained that appellant would want to
shoot Murray because they had been arguing over clothes that
belonged to her that were in Murray's possession. She
indicated that appellant was upset about threats they had
made against one another and not the clothes, but that it all
started with the clothes. About a month before the shooting,
Logue had heard appellant say that he was going to
"level" Mr. Murray's house.
"Jay" Paylor, Jackson's little brother,
testified that on June 22, 2016, he was at Subway when he
received a call from appellant around 11:00 a.m. to come get
him at Jackson's house. Paylor testified that when he
pulled up to his brother's house on Walnut Street,
appellant and Logue got in his white Jeep. Paylor drove to
appellant's cousin's house at 1222 West Fourteenth
St. where he and appellant went inside while Logue stayed in
the car. Paylor asked appellant what was going on when he saw
the police surround his car. He testified that appellant told
him that he had shot someone.
Jason Howard assisted in the search of 1222 West Fourteenth
St. because a homicide suspect was possibly inside the
residence. Appellant was discovered inside a closet
underneath some clothes.
Gorman, Murray's brother, testified at trial that he had
been at 315 West Fifteenth St. at the time Murray was shot.
He stated that he answered a knock on the door around noon.
When he opened the door, appellant told Murray he needed to
speak to him. Soon after appellant and Murray had gone
outside, Gorman heard yelling and then a gunshot. When Gorman
opened the door, he saw appellant standing over Murray with a
gun in his hand pointed at Murray, who had been shot in the
head. Gorman went to call 911, and appellant was gone.
testified in his defense that he did not shoot Murray and
that he did not go to Murray's house on the day of the
shooting. He claimed he was hiding the day he was arrested
because he had an absconder warrant ...