FROM THE OUACHITA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 52CR-15-129-4]
HONORABLE ROBIN J. CARROLL, JUDGE
Hancock Law Firm, by: Sharon Kiel, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
K. WOOD, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Ouachita County jury convicted the appellant, Eric Thrower,
of first-degree murder and arson. He was sentenced to life
imprisonment for first-degree murder and a consecutive term
of ten years' imprisonment for arson. Thrower argues nine
points on appeal. Primarily, he challenges the sufficiency of
the evidence on both convictions and argues that the case
must be reversed and remanded for a new trial due to
deficiencies in the record. We find there was sufficient
evidence to support the convictions, but reverse and remand
for a new trial because the record is insufficient.
Thrower was charged with the murder of Erika Batton and
arson. Emergency personnel were called to a fire at
Batton's apartment and discovered her body inside. An
autopsy revealed that she sustained "severe blunt and
sharp force injuries of the head with extensive internal
bleeding around the neck and scalp" and bleeding around
the State's witnesses, Demontrey Hathaway and Cornelius
Hennings, were with Thrower only hours before the murder.
Both recalled that just prior to Batton's murder, Thrower
learned that his close friend, Courtney Anderson, had been
arrested. They similarly detailed how Thrower became mad, and
even cried. Thrower blamed Batton for the arrest, identifying
her as a "snitch." According to both Hathaway and
Hennings, Thrower maintained a bitter hatred toward snitches,
wishing that "they were all dead."
evidence revealed that bloody footprints trailing out of
Batton's apartment measured the same length as
Thrower's foot. Cullen Rufus, a resident of the same
apartment complex, also testified that he saw Thrower
"creeping" around the complex shortly after the
murder. Finally, two recorded interviews between Camden
police and Thrower revealed that Thrower knew crime-scene
details that were not publicly available.
State's key witness was Thrower's sister, Francine
Cobb. She also testified that Thrower was visibly upset after
hearing of Anderson's arrest. After Batton was identified
as the "snitch," Cobb saw Thrower enter
Batton's apartment. Cobb heard an altercation erupt and
heard Batton emit "a horrible gut-wrenching
scream." Approximately fifteen minutes later, Thrower
returned to Cobb's apartment with blood spatters on his
shirt and socks. Cobb testified that Thrower admitted to
stabbing Batton and setting her apartment on fire.
jury convicted Thrower of first-degree murder and arson.
Thrower appealed. During briefing, appellant's counsel
discovered that the jury instructions, and every bench
conference, were missing from the record. He filed a motion
to require correction or supplementation of the record, which
this court granted. The circuit court conducted a
reconstruction hearing. The record was supplemented to
include the transcript from that hearing, an affidavit from
the original court reporter, and an order from the circuit
court. Thrower raises nine issues on appeal.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
first point on appeal challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence supporting the murder and arson convictions. He
contends that the court erroneously denied his motions for
directed verdict because the State's only evidence of
guilt was Cobb's testimony and a single bloodied
footprint in Batton's kitchen. Thrower argues that
because Cobb was initially charged as his alleged accomplice,
her testimony was not credible and not otherwise
reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we
consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the
State and only consider the evidence that supports the
verdict. See, e.g., Tarver v. State, 2018
Ark. 202, 547 S.W.3d 689. We will affirm the conviction when
substantial evidence supports it. Id. Substantial
evidence constitutes evidence of sufficient force and
character to compel a reasonably certain conclusion, without
resorting to speculation or conjecture. Id. To
affirm Thrower's first-degree murder conviction,
substantial evidence must support the conclusion that Thrower
purposely caused Batton's death. See Ark. Code
Ann. § 5-10-102 (Supp. 2017). We will affirm
Thrower's arson conviction if substantial evidence
indicates that ...