CHASE J. HALLSTED APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04CR-16-736]
HONORABLE ROBIN F. GREEN, JUDGE
Knutson Law Firm, by: Gregg A. Knutson, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge
J. Hallsted appeals his convictions for rape and sexual
assault in the second degree. On appeal, Hallsted contends
that the trial court erred in striking a potential juror for
cause over his objection and erred in failing to declare a
mistrial or admonish the jury in response to improper
questions by the prosecutor. We affirm.
first argues that the trial court abused its discretion in
striking a potential juror for cause when there was no
indication of actual bias. At a bench conference during voir
dire, potential juror Mestrovich informed the court why he
did not think he would be an appropriate juror for this case.
The State moved to strike him for cause and Hallsted
objected. The court declined to strike him and stated that
"we'll see how it develops." Mestrovich then
returned to the group of potential jurors being questioned.
After voir dire of this group concluded, both the State and
the defense announced that they had no strikes for cause.
Both sides then submitted their peremptory strikes, and the
court remarked that the State was exercising one of its four
remaining peremptory strikes. It is clear from the record
that the defense was exercising three of its peremptory
strikes. The court then excused Mestrovich and
three other potential jurors.
the State initially moved to strike Mestrovich for cause, the
court did not grant that request. Following questioning of
the group including Mestrovich, the State abandoned its
request when it announced that it had no strikes for cause.
Because the record does not show that Mestrovich was struck
for cause, Hallsted's argument is without merit. Although
Mestrovich was ultimately struck, the defense made no
next argues that the trial court erred in failing to declare
a mistrial or admonish the jury during the sentencing phase
of the trial. He claims that the prosecutor improperly
questioned him regarding why he did not plead guilty and that
the questions were tantamount to comments criticizing his
decision to exercise his constitutionally guaranteed rights
to a jury trial and to confront witnesses.
testified during the sentencing phase that he was taking full
responsibility and that he was sorry for his actions. On
cross-examination, he said that he had been thinking for a
few months about taking full responsibility for his actions.
When the prosecutor asked why he did not take responsibility
until after being found guilty, Hallsted asked how he could
have done so. The prosecutor responded that he could have
said he was guilty and spared the victim from testifying.
Defense counsel asked to approach. At the bench conference,
defense counsel asserted that the State was asking the jury
to punish Hallsted for exercising his right to a jury trial
and his right to confront a witness. The court agreed that it
did not want the jury thinking Hallsted should be punished
for exercising his rights. The prosecutor said that he was
trying to show that it was misleading for Hallsted to say
that he had not had a way to take full responsibility.
However, the prosecutor said that he was not implying that
Hallsted did not have those rights, and he would make that
clear. The court agreed, stating that "I'll let you
make that clear." The prosecutor then resumed
cross-examination, first stating that Hallsted absolutely had
the right to have the trial.
contends that he preserved this issue for review by timely
objecting to the line of questioning. However, a trial court
is generally under no duty to sua sponte declare a mistrial.
Nickelson v. State, 2012 Ark.App. 363, 417 S.W.3d
214. The supreme court has held that failure to seek relief
in the form of an admonition or a motion to declare a
mistrial precludes the court's consideration of the
issue. Zachary v. State, 358 Ark. 174, 188 S.W.3d
917 (2004) (citing Puckett v. State, 324 Ark. 81,
918 S.W.2d 707 (1996)).
that he did not request further relief, Hallsted argues that
the error was so serious that the trial court should have
acted on its own initiative to admonish the jury or declare a
mistrial. Hallsted is apparently referring to the third
Wicks exception to the contemporaneous-objection
rule that applies when the error is so flagrant and so highly
prejudicial in character as to make it the duty of the court
to intervene on its own motion. Wicks v. State, 270
Ark. 781, 606 S.W.2d 366 (1980). The supreme court has
explained that this exception is intended to be narrow and
that a reversal when the trial court failed to intervene
would be an "extremely rare exception." Fink v.
State, 2015 Ark. 331, at 7, 469 S.W.3d 785, 790. We
decline to apply the exception to the facts of this case.
See Jones v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 286, 524 S.W.3d 1
(holding that a prosecutor's statements during the
sentencing stage that allegedly violated the defendant's
due-process rights were not errors that fall into the third
Wicks exception). Hallsted's testimony opened
the door to the line of questioning regarding his decision to
take responsibility for his actions. He failed to request a
mistrial or an admonishment in response to the
prosecutor's allegedly improper questions, and to the
extent that his objection requested any relief, he received
it through the prosecutor's clarification upon resuming