FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, CHICKASAWBA
DISTRICT [NO. 47BCR-16-161] HONORABLE MELISSA BRISTOW
Dunigan, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't
Att'y Gen., and Sharnea Diggs, Law Student Admitted to
Practice Pursuant to Rule XV of the Rules Governing Admission
to the Bar of the Supreme Court under the Supervision of
Darnisa Evans Johnson, Deputy Att'y Gen., for appellee.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge.
Rodney Antonio Willis was convicted by a jury in Mississippi
County Circuit Court of two counts of aggravated robbery. The
charges related to two armed robberies committed on the night
of April 4, 2016, in Blytheville, Arkansas, one at
Jordan's QuikStop and one at a Pizza Hut. Appellant's
sole argument on appeal is that the trial court erred in
denying his motions for directed verdict because there was
not sufficient evidence to corroborate the testimony of his
accomplice, Courtney Ford. We hold that the trial court did
not err in denying appellant's motions and affirm.
person is criminally liable for the conduct of another person
when he is the accomplice of another person in the commission
of an offense. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-402 (Repl. 2013);
Davis v. State, 2013 Ark.App. 658, 430 S.W.3d 190.
An accomplice is a person who, with the purpose of promoting
or facilitating the commission of an offense, solicits,
advises, encourages, or coerces the other person to commit
it; aids, agrees to aid, or attempts to aid the other person
in planning or committing it; or having a legal duty to
prevent the commission of the offense, fails to make a proper
effort to do so. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-403;
treat a motion for directed verdict as a challenge to the
sufficiency of the evidence. Snider v. State, 2010
Ark.App. 694, 378 S.W.3d 264. The test for determining the
sufficiency of the evidence is whether the verdict is
supported by substantial evidence, either direct or
circumstantial; evidence is substantial if it is of
sufficient force and character to compel reasonable minds to
reach a conclusion and pass beyond suspicion and conjecture.
Id. On appeal, we view the evidence in the light
most favorable to the State, considering only that evidence
that supports the verdict. Id. A jury is free to
believe all or part of a witness's testimony, and we do
not weigh the credibility of witnesses on appeal-that is a
job for the finder of fact, not the appellate court.
Foster v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 63, 510 S.W.3d 782.
law is clear that a conviction cannot be had in any case of
felony upon the testimony of an accomplice unless
corroborated by other evidence tending to connect the
defendant with the commission of the offense. Procella v.
State, 2016 Ark.App. 515, 504 S.W.3d 686. The
corroboration of accomplice testimony is not sufficient if it
merely shows that the offense was committed and the
circumstances thereof. Smith v. State, 2012 Ark.App.
534, 423 S.W.3d 624. The corroboration must be sufficient,
standing alone, to establish the commission of the offense
and to connect the defendant with it. Id. The test
for corroborating evidence is whether, if the testimony of
the accomplice were totally eliminated from the case, the
other evidence independently establishes the crime and tends
to connect the accused with its commission. Id. The
corroborating evidence may be circumstantial so long as it is
substantial; evidence that merely raises a suspicion of guilt
is insufficient to corroborate an accomplice's testimony.
Riley v. State, 2009 Ark.App. 613, 343 S.W.3d 327.
The presence of an accused in proximity of a crime,
opportunity, and association with a person involved in the
crime are relevant facts in determining the connection of an
accomplice with the crime. Id. Corroborating
evidence need not, however, be so substantial in and of
itself to sustain a conviction. Smith,
supra. Rather, it need only, independently of the
testimony of the accomplice, tend in some degree to connect
the defendant with the commission of the crime. Procella,
was no dispute that two masked females wearing black hoodies
entered the two Blytheville businesses on the night in
question, pointed a gun at the employees, and demanded money
before they fled in a white Dodge Charger. One of those
females, Courtney Ford, later turned herself in to the
police. She admitted that she and a female friend, Jamacia
"JJ" Nevels, planned the armed robberies with Dante
Reed, who drove the car, and with appellant, who rode in the
front passenger seat of the Charger. Ford said that appellant
gave her the gun that she used in the robberies.
testified that before the robberies, they went to Reed's
house. Ford said that she wanted to go home, but appellant
pulled out a gun and told her that she was not going
anywhere. The four went to the Family Dollar store, and then
all four went to Wal-Mart to "get hoodies and
stuff." Ford said that Nevels picked out the hoodies,
and Reed paid for them. Ford stated that when they went to
Jordan's QuikStop, appellant told her and Nevels to go in
even though she (Ford) was scared and said she "was not
going to do it." Ford testified that appellant told the
girls that they "were going to do it because [Reed] did
not get all of this stuff for nothing." Ford said that
she got the gun from appellant, she and Nevels went into the
store, they demanded the money, Nevels grabbed the money, and
they ran back to the car. She said that it was
appellant's idea to rob the Pizza Hut, which they
accomplished in the same manner as the convenience store. She
testified that all four of them got money from the robberies
and that she returned the gun to appellant.
employee at Jordan's QuikStop, James Sledge, testified
that he was working on the night that the store was robbed at
gunpoint by two masked girls wearing hoodies. A Pizza Hut
employee testified that two females came in and robbed the
restaurant at gunpoint and that they left in a white Charger.
Blytheville police officer, Eric Ferrell, testified that he
retrieved the video footage from Jordan's QuikStop, which
had been robbed at approximately 9:30 p.m. Ferrell was able
to acquire still photographs of the two female suspects,
which led to Ford turning herself in to the police. Ford was
the first to bring up appellant's involvement when he met
with her; Ferrell said that he did not bring up appellant in
asset-protection manager at Wal-Mart, Brandon Smith,
testified about his retrieval of video surveillance in the
store recorded between 8:26 p.m. and 8:38 p.m. Smith
testified about the video clips shown to the jury, which
showed the parking lot, the entry to the store, the bathroom
area, the hallway leading to the cash registers, and the exit
from the store.
testified that based on the Wal-Mart video, he could see two
black males and two black females exiting a white four-door
Dodge Charger and subsequently purchasing black hoodies.
Ferrell identified the males as Dante Reed and appellant.
Ferrell identified the females as Courtney Ford and Jamacia
Nevels. He stated that appellant was observed entering the
bathroom at approximately 8:28 p.m. and exiting one minute
later, crossing the main aisle into the store and entering
the clothing section. Ferrell stated that appellant was seen
on the video stopping to talk to Reed, and then Reed
proceeded into the clothing section, whereas appellant headed
toward the exit. Appellant went off camera near the
store's exit at approximately 8:31 p.m. Ford, Nevels, and
Reed were observed in the clothing department. Reed paid for
two black hoodies at a self-checkout register at
approximately 8:32. Ford was observed carrying the
merchandise out of the store, followed by Nevels. Reed was
seen reentering the driver's seat of the vehicle, and the
two females were seen entering the back seats. The vehicle
left the parking ...