FROM THE BOONE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 05CR-16-270]
HONORABLE GORDON WEBB, JUDGE
Hancock Law Firm, by: Charles D. Hancock, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: David L. Eanes Jr., Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
J. GLADWIN, JUDGE
Morgan Vaughan appeals her conviction by the Boone County
Circuit Court. She challenges the sufficiency of the evidence
to support her conviction on a charge of aggravated robbery
either as a principal or as an accomplice. We affirm.
October 7, 2016, the State filed a felony information
charging appellant with one count of aggravated robbery as an
accomplice to her then live-in boyfriend, Shay Butler, in the
alleged aggravated robbery of Jeremy Scroggins. A jury trial
was held on September 5, 2017. Butler, an admitted
accomplice, testified for the State. Butler was convicted of
the June 27, 2016 aggravated robbery and murder of Scroggins
and received a thirty-six-year sentence.
testified that on June 27, 2016, he told appellant that he
was going to pick up Scroggins and beat him up and take
anything he had on him-because Butler suspected Scroggins had
stolen one of his cell phones and an ounce of methamphetamine
from him. When Butler and appellant picked up Scroggins,
Butler told him that they were going to collect some money
and that he needed Scroggins for backup. Butler explained,
however, that he never told appellant that he had a
.22-caliber pistol in his possession that he had stolen from
her family. Butler stated that appellant had no idea about
what he was going to do once they stopped near a cemetery and
he and Scroggins got out of the car. Butler testified that
appellant was not involved in what he did to Scroggins on
June 27, 2016.
said that when they arrived at the cemetery, he and Scroggins
got out of the car, started walking to the cemetery, and
hopped the fence. At that time, appellant followed
Butler's directions to "[j]ust drive down the
road." Butler explained that after Scroggins had begun
asking him questions, he turned around, drew the gun, asked
him about the stolen drugs, and shot Scroggins two times
after he had received no answer. The first shot misfired, but
then Butler shot Scroggins in the head. He took a pill bottle
containing marijuana and pills out of Scroggins's pocket.
returned to the road where appellant picked him up
approximately ten minutes after appellant had left him there,
and Butler testified that appellant asked him what had
happened. Butler stated that he told appellant that he
thought he had killed Scroggins. Butler explained that
appellant "started freaking out," which made him
panic, so he told her that Scroggins was not dead. On the way
home, Butler showed appellant the pill bottle he had taken
from Scroggins. Without further discussion, the pair went to
their home, and Butler put the gun away.
Bob King of the Boone County Sheriff's Department
testified about the investigation. He explained that they
identified Butler as the person Scroggins last had contact
with via Facebook messenger records. That led to officers
interviewing Butler and a few months later interviewing
appellant, whose stories were similar but contained some
conflicting information and timing discrepancies. Appellant
acknowledged that she could not fill in more details because
she had been "pretty strung out on meth," was
confused about when and where she had met with Scroggins and
Butler, and did not know what had happened to Scroggins that
night. She tried to establish that she was at her
grandmother's residence on the evening in question.
subsequently was interviewed by Special Agent Buster Rink of
the Arkansas State Police, to whom Butler had previously
confessed. According to Rink's testimony and the
transcript, appellant's memory of the events was more
clear during the subsequent interview, but she continued to
claim that her only involvement was to drive the car. She
claimed that Butler did not tell her that he was going to
beat up Scroggins or that he had a gun. She acknowledged that
she did not go to the police after Butler told her that he
was afraid he had killed Scroggins because she was scared.
Appellant also acknowledged that Scroggins had left his cell
phone in her car that evening because he thought he would be
coming back to it.
Agent David Small of the Arkansas State Police also testified
regarding the discovery of Scroggins's remains and a
spent .22-caliber casing, which were recovered after an
interview with Butler.
close of the State's case-in-chief, appellant moved for a
directed verdict, arguing that the State had failed to
present the circuit court with any type of corroboration,
which would be independent of Butler's testimony, to
sustain the aggravated-robbery charge against appellant.
Counsel argued that the testimony of the accomplice, Butler,
was uncorroborated and that a prima facie case was not made
by the State. Counsel said the State had not given any
distinct and independent evidence that would prove anything
other than that appellant had been merely present. The
circuit court denied appellant's motion for a directed
verdict, finding that there was substantial corroboration of
appellant's participation by her own statement to police
independent of Butler's testimony.
did not present any evidence in her defense. At the close of
appellant's case, counsel renewed the motion for a
directed verdict, arguing that the State had failed to
present sufficient proof of corroboration independent of
Butler's testimony. The circuit court again denied
was found guilty by the jury of aggravated robbery and
sentenced to thirteen years in the Arkansas Department of
Correction pursuant to a judgment and commitment order
entered on September 7, 2017. Appellant filed a notice of
appeal on September 22, 2017.
Standard of Review
motion for directed verdict is a challenge to the sufficiency
of the evidence. Hill v. State, 2018 Ark. 194, 546
S.W.3d 483. In a challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence, this court considers only the evidence that
supports the conviction in the light most favorable to the
State and determines whether the verdict is supported by
substantial evidence. Id. Substantial evidence is
evidence that is forceful enough to compel a conclusion
beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id. Circumstantial
evidence may constitute substantial evidence to support a
conviction if it excludes every other reasonable hypothesis
other than the guilt of the accused; that determination is a
question of fact for the finder of fact. Wilson v.
State, 2018 Ark.App. 371, ___S.W.3d ___.
the evidence, reconciling conflicts in the testimony, and
assessing credibility are all matters exclusively for the
trier of fact. Lovelace v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 146,
at 6, 516 S.W.3d 300, 304. A jury may accept or reject any
part of a witness's testimony, and its conclusion