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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 2, 2018



          Dana Stone, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Jason M. Johnson, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          N. MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge

         This case is before us for a second time after we initially ordered rebriefing. Williams v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 663. Jordan Williams was convicted by a jury in the Hempstead County Circuit Court of two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated residential burglary, one count of first-degree battery, two counts of second-degree battery, one count of interference with emergency communication, and one count of theft of property. He received an aggregate sentence of fifty years' imprisonment. On appeal, Williams argues that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict, denying his motion to suppress, and denying his Batson challenge. We affirm.

         Prior to trial, Williams filed a motion to suppress his confession made during a custodial interview. Detective Andrew Watson of the Hope Police Department testified at the suppression hearing that he informed Williams of his Miranda rights prior to the interview, and Williams initialed and signed the form indicating his understanding. The interview began around 10:50 a.m. Watson said that Williams was concerned about missing his college welding courses, and Williams initially said that he had no involvement in the incident and did not know the victims, Mary Stuckey and her adult son Jordan Stuckey. Watson asked Williams if he would participate in a voice-stress analysis to determine whether he was telling the truth and to clear his name, and Williams agreed to do it.

         Detective Todd Lauterbach testified that he administered a computerized voice-stress-analysis examination, which he described as computer software that reads a person's voice for truth verification. Prior to administering the exam, Lauterbach again informed Williams of his Miranda rights, and Williams signed a waiver and agreement to submit to the voice-stress-analysis exam. Lauterbach testified that Williams gave deceptive answers to the questions "were you at Mary and Jordan Stuckey's house the night of the robbery?" and "did you rob Mary and Jordan Stuckey?"

         After the exam, Lauterbach left the room for a few minutes and conferred with Watson before they both returned to question Williams. Williams ultimately told the detectives that he was contacted by a "homeboy" who told him that the victims were supposed to have around $6000 in cash and some marijuana. Williams said that his accomplice kicked in the door. He told the detectives that his job during the robbery was to take Mrs. Stuckey's phone and keep her from calling the police while his accomplice robbed Mrs. Stuckey's son. When Williams returned to the front of the house, his accomplice had the money and was trying to get drugs, and two or three shots were fired. Williams claimed that he had not known his accomplice had a gun. They then ran out of the house to a side street where a third accomplice was waiting in a black Nissan. A video recording of the interview was played for the court.

         Williams argued that the fact that he was enrolled in a trade course indicated relative intellectual weakness. He claimed that the detectives improperly induced his confession by stating that he could go free after taking the voice-stress-analysis exam and by telling him it would be bad if the detective had to testify. He also argued that he should have been advised of his Miranda rights before being questioned after the voice-stress-analysis exam. The circuit court denied the motion to suppress upon finding that Williams waived his Miranda rights and confessed voluntarily.

         At the jury trial, Mary Stuckey testified that she woke up on the night of September 3, 2015, to find a man standing over her. She said that he hit her on the head and face and grabbed her phone from the foot of the bed. Mary hit the intruder with a stick and ran out of her room. She was shot in the lower back as she ran out the front door. She then saw two men running away from her home. Jordan Stuckey testified that when he woke up that night he saw both intruders in the house, and one continued toward his mother's room. The other intruder demanded money from Jordan and pointed a gun at his head. Jordan said that he gave the intruder $900 and was then shot twice. He saw both intruders run away and get into a dark colored Maxima.

         Sergeant Daniel Oller testified that he responded to the Stuckeys' home at approximately 2:50 a.m. He was told that the intruders had left in a dark colored Nissan Maxima, and he determined that the intruders entered the home by kicking in the locked door. Detective Watson testified about his interview with Williams in which he initially denied involvement but later admitted it. Watson testified that Williams provided specific facts of the crimes that were consistent with the facts provided by the victims, including each intruder's actions, the fact that the door had been kicked in, when the shots were fired, and the type of vehicle they fled in. The video of Williams's police interview, excluding the voice-stress analysis, was played for the jury.

         Whitney Hall testified on Williams's behalf that on the night of the incident she got off work around 2:15 a.m. and spoke on the phone with Williams during her drive home. She said that Williams was at her home when she arrived around 3:10 a.m. Williams testified that he gave a false confession because he felt like the detective was belittling him and he thought the detective would help get him into drug rehabilitation. He said that the details he provided the detectives were things that he had heard from "the streets" and from a friend who had spoken to Jordan Stuckey's brother.

         We first address Williams's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. In considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, considering only the evidence that supports the verdict. Gipson v. State, 2010 Ark.App. 820. We affirm if the verdict is supported by substantial evidence. Id. Substantial evidence is evidence that is forceful enough to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id. Williams first argues that the evidence was insufficient because his confession should have been suppressed, and without his confession, there was no evidence identifying him or placing him at the home at the time of the robbery. However, when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a conviction, this court considers all of the evidence introduced at trial, whether correctly or erroneously admitted, and disregards any alleged trial errors. Tennant v. State, 2015 Ark.App. 81. Thus, this argument is without merit.

         Williams also claims that the evidence was insufficient because the State failed to corroborate his confession. A confession of a defendant, unless made in open court, does not warrant a conviction unless accompanied with other proof that the offense was committed. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-89-111(d)(1) (Supp. 2017). This requirement for other proof, sometimes referred to as the corpus delicti rule, mandates proof only that the offense occurred and nothing more. Molpus v. State, 2015 Ark.App. 452, 469 S.W.3d 374. Under the corpus delicti rule, the State must prove (1) the existence of an injury or harm constituting a crime and (2) that the injury or harm was caused by someone's criminal activity. Id. It is not necessary to establish any further connection between the crime and the particular defendant. Id. Here, it is clear that the requirement for other proof was met by the evidence offered by the State, including ...

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