FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 17CR-15-658]
HONORABLE GARY COTTRELL, JUDGE
Lisa-Marie Norris, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
J. GLADWIN, Judge
Curtis Roberts appeals his conviction by a Crawford County
jury on a charge of murder in the first degree, with an
enhancement for committing a felony with a firearm, for which
he was sentenced to a total of twenty-five years'
imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Roberts argues that the trial court erred in allowing into
evidence pictures of the victim found on the victim's
cell phone and in restricting evidence of the victim's
past violent behavior against Roberts that was relevant to
his justification defense. We affirm.
November 30, 2015, Roberts was charged in connection with the
shooting death of Roberts's brother, Michael Roberts.
Roberts filed a motion in limine seeking to prevent the
admission into evidence pictures of the victim found on the
victim's cell phone, among other items. At the jury
trial, the motion in limine was denied, and Detective Donald
Eversole testified regarding the pictures on the victim's
cell phone. Roberts's defense to the first-degree murder
charge was justification, as set forth in a model jury
instruction, AMI Crim. 2d 705; however, his counsel was
limited to presenting only the past five years'
interactions between Roberts and the victim, rather than
introducing evidence to attempt to show what Roberts claimed
was a lifetime of abuse inflicted on him by the victim.
jury found Roberts guilty of murder in the first degree, and
he was sentenced to twenty years on the murder charge plus
five years on the firearm enhancement, to run consecutive to
the twenty-year sentence, pursuant to the sentencing order
filed on February 14, 2017. Roberts filed a motion for new
trial on March 3, 2017, which was denied by order on April 3,
2017. Roberts then filed a timely notice of appeal on April
Did the Trial Court Err in Ruling No "Fact of
Consequence" Was Necessary in Order to Deem the
State's Proffered Evidence as "Relevant"?
matters regarding admissibility of evidence are within the
sound discretion of the trial court. E.g.,
Williams v. State, 374 Ark. 282, 287 S.W.3d 559
(2008); see also Williams v. State, 2017 Ark. 287,
528 S.W.3d 839. The appellate court will not reverse a trial
court's decision regarding the admissibility of a
photograph absent an abuse of discretion. E.g.,
Garcia v. State, 363 Ark. 319, 214 S.W.3d 260
(2005). The threshold is high and does not simply require
error in the decision, but rather that the trial court acted
improvidently, thoughtlessly, or without due consideration.
E.g., Williams, 374 Ark. at 290, 287 S.W.3d
Rule of Evidence 401 defines relevant evidence as
"evidence having any tendency to make the existence of
any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the
action more probable or less probable than it would be
without the evidence." Pafford v. State, 2017
Ark.App. 700, at 12, 537 S.W.3d 302, 310.
the admission of allegedly inflammatory photographs, our
supreme court has held that the trial court is required to
first consider whether such evidence creates a danger of
unfair prejudice and then must determine whether the danger
of unfair prejudice substantially outweighs its probative
value. Williams, 2017 Ark. 287, at 8, 528 S.W.3d at
844. Even the most gruesome photographs are admissible when
they are helpful to explain testimony, assist the trier of
fact by shedding light on an issue, prove a necessary element
of the State's case, corroborate testimony, or enable the
jurors to better understand testimony. Garcia, 363
Ark. at 321, 214 S.W.3d at 261-62.
supreme court has made it clear that the defendant cannot
prevent the admission of a photograph by stipulating to or
conceding facts that the State must prove. Garcia,
supra; see also Williams, 374 Ark. at 291,
287 S.W.3d at 566 (holding that the State is entitled to
prove its case as conclusively as it can); Holloway v.
State, 363 Ark. 254, 213 S.W.3d 633 (2005) (holding that
stipulating to a fact surrounding the crime is insufficient
to prevent the State from offering photographs that prove the
elements). The State is also entitled to prove the elements
of the charge with its best evidence. Williams, 374
Ark. at 291, 287 S.W.3d at 566.
motion in limine, Roberts sought to exclude pictures that he
took on the victim's cell phone after the victim was dead
on the basis the pictures were not relevant to any issue in
the case. Despite Roberts's stipulating to or admitting
that he had shot the victim, the trial court ruled that the
pictures were admissible and relevant. Roberts's counsel
noted that the trial court failed to articulate what
proposition in the case the State was providing the pictures
to prove and requested that the State identify the
proposition for which the pictures were relevant. The trial
court denied that request:
I don't think they are obligated, if there is something
the Court has determined is admissible, I don't believe
they are obligated to propagate or to boost or to make or to
satisfy you relative to it. All that's necessary is the