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Ward v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

March 28, 2018



          William R. Simpson, Jr., Public Defender, by: Clint Miller, Deputy Public Defender, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Jacob H. Jones, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


         Appellant Devon Ward appeals from the Pulaski County Circuit Court's denial of his motions to transfer four cases to the juvenile division of circuit court.[1] Appellant argues on appeal that the circuit court's denial of his motions to transfer was clearly erroneous. We affirm.

         Based on being a sixteen-year-old at the time of the alleged offenses, appellant filed a motion to transfer to the juvenile division of the circuit court on March 8, 2017, in each case, and a joint hearing was held on March 9, 2017. At the hearing, Det. Michael Lundy of the Little Rock Police Department testified that he investigated an aggravated robbery incident that occurred on April 17, 2016. Lundy testified that officers responded to Sharks restaurant on Fair Park Blvd. in reference to a robbery and carjacking. Officers made contact with the victim, Robert Taylor, who gave them details of the incident. Taylor reported that he was approached by four or five black males, fifteen to seventeen years of age, who were armed with handguns and demanded his car keys. Taylor testified that they took his 2014 Nissan Sentra, and he notified the police. Lundy testified that Taylor described the person who approached him and did the majority of the talking as a black male with a chubby face, wearing black clothes and armed with a black revolver.

         A car matching the description of the stolen vehicle was located at the Hall High School parking lot and was identified by the VIN as Taylor's vehicle. When appellant was developed as a suspect, Taylor positively identified appellant in a photo lineup as the aggressor. Based on the identification, Lundy obtained an arrest warrant, and appellant was arrested. After being Mirandized, appellant gave two statements to police. Initially, appellant denied being present, but he later admitted his presence and identified another person as the aggressor. At the time appellant was taken into custody at Hall High School, he had a backpack, which was left at the school. An inventory was subsequently taken of the backpack, which revealed a loaded revolver.

         Detective Julio Gil of the Little Rock Police Department testified about two separate incidents he investigated-one at a Shell gas station called Super Galleria on Asher Avenue and the other outside an apartment complex on University Avenue. Gil stated that four individuals ran into the Super Galleria on June 25, 2016; one of the individuals was armed with what appeared to be a revolver. The individuals demanded money from the clerk, stole items, and "pretty much destroyed" the store. The clerk was not able to give a description of the individuals. Gil testified that he developed appellant as a suspect, and appellant came in and spoke to Gil. Gil explained that appellant acknowledged that he was involved in the robbery but claimed that he was "forced" to participate because he was the only one who knew how to drive. Gil testified that appellant said the others forced him to go inside the store and commit the robbery; appellant admitted to Gil that he stole items from the store and that he had smoked marijuana.

         Gil also investigated a second robbery incident, which occurred on July 5, 2016, at an apartment complex on University Avenue. Gil explained that the victim, Raphael Johnson, was sitting in his vehicle outside the apartments when he was approached by two suspects who kidnapped him; the suspects got into Johnson's car and made him drive around for 30 minutes until they pulled into a gas station on South University Avenue. Gil stated that Johnson was able to get out of the car and run away. The suspect who was in the passenger seat had pointed a gun at Johnson. Gil developed appellant as a suspect, and Johnson identified appellant as the individual in the passenger seat who had pointed the gun at him. Gil talked to appellant about this incident, and while appellant admitted involvement in another carjacking incident, he denied involvement in the incident involving Johnson.

         Detective Grant Humphries of the Little Rock Police Department testified about two aggravated robberies allegedly involving appellant-one incident occurring on July 2, 2016, and the other on July 3, 2016. Humphries explained that on July 2, 2016, police responded at 4:15 a.m. to a report of a robbery that occurred in the parking lot of 6420 Colonel Glenn Road. The victim, Trelissa Morris, who worked for Metro PCS, was returning a company van to the business where her personal vehicle was parked. She was moving items from the van to her car. When she returned to her car after locking the van, she was approached by three young black males armed with handguns. Morris reported that the males robbed her and stole her car.

         Humphries testified that Morris described the suspects as being around 5'9" tall and possibly in their teens; the one who approached the victim at her car door was described as having shoulder to chin-length dreads that were layered. Morris reported that the first subject approached her with a gun, demanded her keys, and told another one of the suspects to "show her his strap." Humphries explained that based on his experience and training, the word "strap" is a street term for gun. Morris described the gun as a small revolver.

         Humphries testified that Morris's vehicle was located traveling north on North Shackleford Road. Officers attempted to stop the vehicle, and a pursuit ensued. The pursued vehicle crashed, and the occupants fled. Two of the suspects were taken into custody, one of which identified the third individual as appellant and the one who was at the driver's door and drove the vehicle. Humphries testified that he showed Morris a photo spread, and she identified appellant and was ninety percent positive that he was the person who approached her with the revolver and pointed the gun at the door of her car. Humphries also testified that when the vehicle was processed, multiple cell phones were found, including a Samsung cell phone found under the driver's seat. Humphries stated that the phone was locked but that the screen saver displayed a photo of appellant holding a firearm. A search warrant was obtained to recover information from the phones. Humphries testified that there were multiple photos that appeared to be appellant holding different guns.

         Humphries testified that he investigated another aggravated robbery on July 3, 2016, which occurred at 6310 Colonel Glenn Road around 4:20 a.m. The victim, Laquienta Lockhart, reported that he had pulled into his apartment complex and observed three black males by the laundromat. They approached his vehicle and robbed him of his vehicle at gunpoint. Lockhart described one of the suspects as having short dreads, being around 5'5" to 5'8", weighing 140 to 150 pounds, and being armed with a black and silver semi-automatic handgun. Humphries stated that the vehicle was recovered at an apartment complex located at 1601 North Shackleford Road.

         Humphries testified that appellant spoke to detectives about this incident; appellant admitted his involvement to Julio Gil while Gil had been talking to appellant about a different carjacking incident. Appellant indicated that he was involved, that the gun was a BB gun, and that he drove the vehicle. Humphries further testified that Lockhart was shown a photo spread, but he could not identify anyone. In addition, Humphries stated that appellant's fingerprints were located on the trunk of the vehicle.

         In addition to the testimony of the officers who investigated the incidents, Charon Meadows, a juvenile probation officer, testified that she first met appellant in 2013 when he was thirteen or fourteen. She indicated that his eleven juvenile charges were all misdemeanors, including theft of property, communicating false alarm, criminal mischief, and fleeing. Meadows testified that appellant had been adjudicated on four theft-of-property charges, and the rest were dismissed. Meadows stated that appellant was placed on conditions of release on some of the charges and then placed on indefinite probation in July 2015. Disposition of one case was still pending. Meadows testified that there was a revocation request due to appellant's school attendance, explaining that appellant had tardies that resulted in out-of-school suspensions and that he had been skipping school. Meadows stated that appellant would be eligible for Division of Youth Services (DYS) if his cases were transferred to the juvenile division but that there was no guarantee he would receive DYS.

         Appellant called several witnesses after the State rested. Jacob Grummer, a school-based therapist with Living Hope Southwest, testified that he was based at Hall High School and was appellant's therapist from March 2015 until the summer of 2016. Grummer met appellant when appellant was in the 9th grade. He testified that he had a good relationship with appellant and that appellant had participated in the summer program for the past two summers. Grummer described appellant as a "tough guy" and a "very kind person" who would be the one to speak up for the class or for another student if the teacher was being unfair to the class or picking on a student. Grummer explained that because appellant had been missing class, he made a deal with appellant that if he went to ...

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