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Walter v. Chism

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

February 14, 2018

TAMEKIA WALTER APPELLANT
v.
GEROME D. CHISM APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FOURTEENTH DIVISION [NO. 60DR-17-1427] HONORABLE VANN SMITH, JUDGE.

          Dustin A. Duke, Center for Arkansas Legal Services, for appellant.

          Morley Law Firm, by: Stephen E. Morley, for appellee.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE.

         Tamekia Walter appeals after the Pulaski County Circuit Court denied and dismissed her petition for an order of protection in favor of appellee Gerome D. Chism. On appeal, Tamekia argues that the trial court erred when it denied and dismissed her petition because it erroneously found that she failed to meet her burden of proof. We affirm.

         I. Facts

         Tamekia filed a petition for an order of protection on April 11, 2017, wherein she alleged that she was afraid of Gerome and that there was an immediate and present danger of domestic abuse stemming from an incident that occurred at Gerome's home on April 10, 2017. The trial court granted an ex parte temporary order of protection, and a hearing was held on the petition on April 26 and May 1, 2017.

         At the subsequent hearing for the order of protection, Tamekia testified that Gerome was her boyfriend and that they had been in a relationship for almost six years. Tamekia testified that she had an argument with Gerome that began about potato salad. The argument took place at Gerome's home on April 10, 2017, around 9:30 p.m. Tamekia further testified that when she attempted to leave, Gerome lunged at her and grabbed her hair. Tamekia ran to Gerome's daughter's room, but Gerome dragged her back down the hallway to his room and hit the side of her head with a closed fist. Tamekia additionally testified that after she had accused Gerome of cheating on her, Gerome assaulted her for approximately twenty minutes, kicking her in the stomach, hitting her in the face, and choking her until she "blacked out." After she went home, Tamekia called the police but did not seek any medical attention. Officer Evans responded and took photographs of the scratches on her neck and swollen left eye. Finally, Tamekia testified that Gerome had abused her in the past and submitted photographs of past injuries that she alleged Gerome had caused.

         Officer Phillip Evans testified that he responded to Tamekia's call for assistance. Officer Evans stated that Tamekia reported that Gerome had assaulted her. Tamekia indicated that Gerome hit her in the face and stomach. Tamekia did not, however, advise the officer that Gerome choked her or pulled her hair. Officer Evans observed that Tamekia had some swelling to the left side of her face and some red marks around her neck; however, he did not see any bruising on her stomach. Gerome was subsequently taken into custody, wherein he denied Tamekia's allegations.

         Tamekia's son testified that Tamekia returned home that evening with a black eye and seemed upset.

         Gerome denied that he physically assaulted Tamekia. Gerome described his relationship with Tamekia as mostly an "on and off sexual relationship." On April 10th, Gerome invited Tamekia to join him and his daughter, Justice, for leftover barbeque for dinner. Gerome testified that Tamekia was very jealous and immediately questioned him about whether another woman had made the potato salad for him. After an argument had ensued, Gerome asked Tamekia to leave, and she refused. Gerome testified that he had to lift her up to get her out of his home. Tamekia continued to scream at him from outside the door and told him that she would call the police. After Tamekia eventually left, Gerome received a text message that she was going to take his livelihood away from him and thanking him for another black eye. Gerome repeatedly denied ever striking or hitting her and had no explanation for how Tamekia received any of the injuries she alleged. Gerome explained that Tamekia did not have any marks on her when she left his home.

         Gerome's daughter, Justice, testified at the hearing and corroborated her father's testimony. She testified that Tamekia kept resisting and trying to hit her father when he was trying to remove her from their home. Gerome's daughter specifically testified that she did not see her father hit Tamekia or grab her by the hair as Tamekia alleged. She further testified that she did not see any marks on Tamekia before she left their residence that night.

         In a detailed order, the trial court denied and dismissed Tamekia's petition for an order of protection and made the following pertinent findings:

28. The Plaintiff has the burden of proof to show that she was in the immediate and present danger of domestic abuse at the time of the alleged act. If the Plaintiffs testimony meets the burden of proof, ...

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