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McDaniel v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

March 7, 2019



          Short Law Firm, by: Lee D. Short, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Darnisa Evans Johnson, Deputy Att'y Gen., and Brad Newman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee


         On July 19, 2017, appellant, Ricardo McDaniel, was convicted by a St. Francis County Circuit Court jury of capital murder, one count of first-degree battery, and one count of aggravated residential burglary. McDaniel was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for capital murder and two consecutive twenty-year sentences for the battery and aggravated residential burglary.

         This appeal stems from the October 25, 2014, death of twelve-year-old Joshua Wilson and injury to Xavier Melton. Lashundra Wilson is the mother of Joshua and Melton. Wilson testified that she and McDaniel were in a relationship on and off for six and a half years, beginning in 2007. Wilson testified that the two lived together off and on during this time as well. In January 2014, Wilson asked McDaniel to move out for good. After McDaniel moved out, the two continued to see each other on the weekends, but that ended in September 2014 after McDaniel had an altercation with Wilson's two sons. At that point, Wilson told McDaniel to not return to her home, and she changed the locks. At trial, the State alleged that on the night of October 24, 2014, McDaniel broke into Wilson's home and shot and killed Joshua. Further, the State alleged that McDaniel attempted to kill Melton by holding a pillow on his face, stabbing, and shooting him. McDaniel testified in his own defense that on the night of the crimes, Wilson invited him to her home, that he was in Wilson's bedroom with her when he heard a noise and went out to the hallway to check for the noise when he was tackled by Melton, who was armed with a gun. McDaniel testified that Melton tackled him and that the gun discharged accidentally.

         The jury convicted McDaniel as set forth above and this appeal followed. On appeal, McDaniel contends that the circuit court erred when it denied McDaniel's motion for mistrial.

         For his sole point on appeal, McDaniel asserts that the circuit court erred when it denied McDaniel's motion for mistrial because the statement was contrary to the pretrial motion and agreement-and the limiting instruction was insufficient to cure the prejudice. The State responds that McDaniel has failed to demonstrate unfair prejudice because the instruction cured any error, and therefore, this court should affirm the circuit court.

         A mistrial is an extreme and drastic remedy to be resorted to only when there has been an error so prejudicial that justice cannot be served by continuing the trial. Russell v. State, 306 Ark. 436, 815 S.W.2d 929 (1991). The grant or denial of a motion for mistrial lies within the sound discretion of the circuit court, and the exercise of that discretion should not be disturbed on appeal unless an abuse of discretion or manifest prejudice to the complaining party is shown. King v. State, 298 Ark. 476, 769 S.W.2d 407 (1989). Further, in dealing with issues relating to the admission of evidence pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Evidence 404(b), a circuit court's ruling is entitled to great weight, and this court will not reverse absent an abuse of discretion. Anderson v. State, 357 Ark. 180, 163 S.W.3d 333 (2004); Barnes v. State, 346 Ark. 91, 55 S.W.3d 271 (2001). Additionally, we have held that "an admonition will usually remove the effect of a prejudicial statement unless the statement is so patently inflammatory that justice could not be served by continuing the trial. Kimble v. State, 331 Ark. 155, 959 S.W.2d 43 (1998)." Williams v. State, 2011 Ark. 432, at 8, 385 S.W.3d 157, 162. Finally, "among the factors this court considers on appeal in determining whether a circuit court abused its discretion in denying a mistrial motion are whether the prosecutor deliberately induced a prejudicial response and whether an admonition to the jury could have cured any resulting prejudice." Armstrong v. State, 366 Ark. 105, 113, 233 S.W.3d 627, 634 (2006) (citations omitted).

         Before trial, McDaniel filed a motion in limine to exclude any prior bad acts or altercations between McDaniel and Wilson. At the pretrial hearing, the State agreed with McDaniel's motion in limine regarding prior altercations between McDaniel and Wilson:

Prosecutor: Regarding past altercations between [McDaniel and Wilson], we don't anticipate putting on proof of past alterations between [Wilson] and . . . McDaniel. . . . So if their motion is simply limited to past events concerning [McDaniel and Wilson], I don't believe we have a problem with that.

         At trial, during Wilson's testimony on direct examination, Wilson was questioned about her relationship with McDaniel:

Prosecutor: [H]ow long did you and [McDaniel] have a relationship with each other, how long a time?
Wilson: Six, six and half years.
Prosecutor: A long time. Did you date other individuals during that time period?
Wilson: No, because we met, then we moved in together and we was just living together. He was there. He was like - he was there.
Prosecutor: During that time, did you all have any periods of time where you all would separate from each other?
Wilson: At the beginning, it was rocky. I ain't going to lie. At the beginning, we had our fights. I had to go to work with the black eye. I had co-workers tell me, they said, I can see the black eye. "Oops, I told you I'm allergic to fish."
And, at first, we - -

(Counsel approached the Bench, and the following proceedings were held outside the hearing of the Jury):

Defense Attorney: Judge, may we approach?
The Court: Yes, sir.
Defense Attorney: Your Honor, we would at this time, we would move for a mistrial because we just agreed that she couldn't talk about prior abuse. And that's just what she did.
Prosecutor: The question I asked said, "did you all have any periods of separation?" And I think that her answer, you know, a jury can be cured by instruction. I didn't intend to go through that. The question didn't call for it.
Defense Attorney: But she - - the order is she can't go into it, and that's what she did. The only ...

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