FROM THE HOT SPRING COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 30CR-16-201]
HONORABLE EDDY EASLEY, JUDGE.
Gregory Crain, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge.
Eric Jamar Carter appeals after he was convicted by a Hot
Spring County Circuit Court jury of rape and was sentenced as
a habitual offender to serve a total of 480 months'
imprisonment. On appeal, appellant contends that (1) the
trial court erred by denying his motion for directed verdict;
(2) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of prior
rapes that he was alleged to have committed pursuant to
Arkansas Rule of Evidence 404(b) (2017); and (3) the trial
court erred in denying his motion for mistrial after the
prosecutor spoke to members of the jury during a trial break.
We affirm appellant's conviction but remand to the trial
court with instructions to correct the sentencing order.
summary, appellant was charged and subsequently convicted as
a habitual offender for raping T.S., a thirty-one-year-old
woman with learning disabilities and characteristics of
autism spectrum disorder, in violation of Arkansas Code
Annotated section 5-14-103 (Supp. 2017). Appellant had
previously lived at T.S.'s address before she had moved
to that address from Alaska. On April 20, 2016, appellant
went to T.S.'s home around midnight, and she invited him
inside. After she asked him to leave, he refused. He pinned
T.S. to the sofa and held her arms behind her back as she
yelled for him to leave. While he held her down over the
sofa, appellant penetrated T.S.'s vagina from behind with
his fingers and then his penis. T.S. additionally sustained
an injury to her shoulder, and there was a bite mark on her
right breast. T.S. subsequently reported the incident to
police after her mother came from Alaska to check on her in
trial, the State filed a preliminary motion to determine the
admissibility of testimony regarding two other rapes that
appellant had allegedly committed in a similar manner. The
State alleged that the testimony was admissible under
Arkansas Rule of Evidence 404(b) as it was introduced as
proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan,
knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.
Appellant filed a response alleging that the evidence was
irrelevant, that the probative value was substantially
outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, and that the
alleged rapes were too separated in time, making them unduly
remote and therefore inadmissible. A hearing was held on June
hearing, H.W. testified that appellant approached her on the
evening of March 11, 2014, when she was walking home from
work in Malvern, Arkansas. She had stopped to rest on the
church steps because she was ill with bronchitis. Appellant
demanded that she come with him, and when she refused, he
grabbed her by the arm and forced her down the steps with
him. H.W. explained that appellant dragged her across the
street to a row of houses. At one point, appellant allowed
her to answer her phone when one of her friends, Laycon
Clark, called her. She was able to provide Clark with some
detail to be able to find where she was by lying to appellant
that she was giving her friend directions to someone
else's home. Appellant subsequently took her into the mud
room of one of the houses, pinned her against the wall, and
penetrated her vagina with his fingers. After he pulled out a
knife and warned her not to try anything, he released her arm
and penetrated her vagina with his fingers a second time.
When H.W. recognized Clark's vehicle passing by the
house, she kicked appellant in the groin and escaped. H.W.
testified that she waited until the next day to report the
incident to law enforcement.
Turner and Laycon Clark testified that they were H.W.'s
coworkers and that they were looking for H.W. on the night of
the incident. Turner explained that when she was driving home
after work, she saw H.W. walking home. Although Turner
attempted to get her attention, she was unable to do so.
Instead, she called Clark to see if Clark had H.W.'s
phone number so that she could offer H.W. a ride home. Later,
Turner met up with Clark, and they both started driving
around to find H.W. Clark testified that she eventually was
able to reach H.W. on the phone. Thereafter, she was able to
find H.W., and H.W. ran and jumped into her car. Clark
observed that H.W. was breathing heavily and was very upset.
Dorata Delacruz testified that he had participated in the
investigation after H.W. reported the incident to law
enforcement. Based on H.W.'s description of the man, law
enforcement prepared a photograph lineup of six individuals,
one of them being appellant. H.W. identified appellant as the
man who had assaulted her. Lieutenant Delacruz testified that
there were reports that H.W. occasionally had episodes of
sleepwalking; however, H.W. testified that she was not asleep
during her encounter with appellant. Lieutenant Delacruz
further testified that he had interviewed appellant during
the investigation. The video of that interview was played for
the court and admitted into evidence.
that interview, appellant denied the allegations. At first,
appellant told Lieutenant Delacruz that he did not see any
girl on the night of the incident while he was exercising and
walking in the area where the alleged incident had occurred.
Later, however, appellant admitted that he saw a girl in a
car who was looking for a friend. After he subsequently saw
another girl during his walk, he told the second girl that he
thought someone was looking for her. He further explained
that the second girl walked behind him and had a conversation
with him for a little bit. He denied grabbing the second girl
and instead claimed that she ran off after he told her that
he thought the people in the car and the police were looking
testified that she had reported to law enforcement that she
had been raped by appellant in April 2014. She has an eye
disease, keratoconus, and is unable to see very well. On the
night of the incident, C.R. was at her apartment with her
boyfriend, Tommy White, and her three children, who were
asleep. Appellant, identifying himself as "Lazy,"
had walked down the street and started a conversation with
them. Eventually, C.R. and White invited appellant inside.
After thirty or forty-five minutes, White left to go to the
store to buy cigarettes, and appellant left at the same time
and started walking away. A few minutes later, C.R. answered
the door after she heard a knock. C.R. testified that
appellant was at the door. Although she told appellant to
leave, appellant refused to do so and entered the apartment.
Eventually, appellant pushed C.R. and pinned her down and
bent her over onto a television stand. He pulled her pajama
pants down and proceeded to rape her by first sticking his
fingers and then his penis into her vagina. He fled the
apartment when White's headlights appeared in the front
window. Subsequently, appellant returned to the apartment,
and White struck appellant with a flashlight. C.R. reported
the incident to law enforcement the next morning. She
admitted that she did not call law enforcement the night of
the incident because they had been using drugs that night.
testified at the hearing and corroborated C.R.'s version
of events. Furthermore, Trooper Kyle Sheldon and Sergeant
Frazier Ford testified that they had investigated the
incident after it was reported. Sergeant Ford testified that
he had previously heard the nickname "Lazy" being
associated with appellant. He presented a photograph lineup,
and both White and C.R. identified appellant.
Jackson, one of C.R.'s neighbors and appellant's
cousin, testified that she did not believe C.R. had been
raped. Her stories to law enforcement and to the court were