FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 47BCR-16-386]
HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE
H. Bradley, Chief Public Defender, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Darnisa Evans Johnson, Deputy
Att'y Gen., and Jason Michael Johnson, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
A. WOMACK, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
convicted Avante Lawshea of capital felony murder for the
deaths of Bahadur "Bob" Dhillon and Anthony Tramble
and one count of aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to life
imprisonment for each murder and to ten years for the
aggravated robbery. Because the murders were committed in the
presence of a child, each life sentence received a ten-year
enhancement. Lawshea appeals, arguing there was insufficient
evidence to support the verdict. After careful review, we
conclude his argument lacks merit and affirm his conviction.
Lawshea challenges the sufficiency of the evidence in support
of his convictions, we recite the facts in the light most
favorable to the verdict. See Williams v. State,
2017 Ark. 287, at 4, 528 S.W.3d 839, 842. On the evening of
November 5, 2016, Lawshea met with Christopher Clay and
Ledarrius Simmons at the home of Issac Branch in Blytheville,
Arkansas. They asked Branch to drive them to a nearby hotel
in his white 1994 Chevrolet Cavalier station wagon. Branch
shared a cigarette rolled with marijuana with Lawshea and
Simmons during the drive.
drove them to the hotel, where he waited inside the car.
Lawshea, Clay, and Simmons did not go inside the hotel, but
instead walked to the nearby Shell gas station. Surveillance
footage shows three masked men approaching the station, one
dressed in red and the other two dressed in dark colors. They
were unable to enter the locked station where an attendant
was working inside. Branch saw them running toward his car
and noticed they appeared agitated when they returned. He was
then given directions to Bob's Cherry Tree gas station.
On the way to the Cherry Tree station, the men finished
smoking and left the cigarette butt in the car's ashtray.
Branch parked on a dark road behind the station, turned off
the ignition, and again stayed inside the car while Lawshea
and the others left.
Ruby Cullins was parked outside the Cherry Tree station. Her
friend, Robert Calvin, was inside purchasing gas and sodas
with Cullins's granddaughter, T.B., and goddaughter, SC
At the time, both girls were nine years old. The station was
about to close for the evening and they were the only
customers inside. Bob Dhillon owned the station and was
behind the counter while Anthony Tramble worked in the back
Calvin and the girls were shopping, Lawshea entered the store
with Clay and Simmons. Once again, they had masked their
faces. The masked robber in red, later identified as Lawshea,
was armed with a 9-millimeter handgun. Lawshea ordered
Dhillon to give him the money from the register. He then shot
Dhillon in the back of the neck. When Tramble emerged from
the back room, Lawshea instructed him to not move or speak
before shooting him in the face. The three men left with a
couple hundred dollars and some cigarettes while Dhillon and
Tramble lay dead on the floor. They were seen running toward
the road behind the station. A third shot was fired as they
heard three gunshots while sitting in his car. Shortly after
the gunfire, he saw Lawshea and the two others running toward
the car. They entered the vehicle and yelled for Branch to
"go" and "drive." A witness saw the
station wagon parked on the road behind the Cherry Tree
station. After hearing the gunshots, he noticed men running
towards the car and watched them drive off.
subsequent police investigation uncovered surveillance
footage from the hotel and the Shell station. Because
Branch's station wagon was unique in that area, police
were quickly able to identify him. He eventually admitted
that Lawshea, Clay, and Simmons were in the car with him that
night. Branch claimed that Lawshea had not been in his car
before or since that night. He also stated that Lawshea had
been dressed in red, while the other two men wore black and
green. His girlfriend, Jaleesa Harris, admitted seeing the
three young men with Branch that evening. She identified
Lawshea, Clay, and Simmons in separate police lineups. Police
recovered the station wagon and found a cigarette butt with
Lawshea's DNA in the ashtray. All four men were charged
with two counts of felony capital murder predicated on one
count of aggravated robbery. Lawshea was convicted on all
three charges and now raises this direct appeal.
lone argument on appeal is that the circuit court erred in
denying his motion for directed verdict. His contention is
premised on the claim that there was insufficient
corroboration of accomplice testimony to sustain ...