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Woods v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

March 7, 2019

JONATHAN ANTONIO WOODS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE DREW COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. CR-2014-40-1] HONORABLE SAMUEL B. POPE, JUDGE

          James Law Firm, by: Michael K. Kaiser, Megan M. Wilson, and William O. "Bill" James, Jr., for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Darnisa Evans Johnson, Deputy Att'y Gen., and David L. Eanes, Jr., Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE

         Appellant Jonathan Antonio Woods appeals an order of the Drew County Circuit Court denying his petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Rule 37 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure. For reversal, Woods argues that (1) the circuit court erred when it denied without a hearing his claim that his trial counsel was ineffective because counsel compared his case to the O.J. Simpson case, and (2) appellate counsel was ineffective by failing to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on direct appeal. We affirm.

         I. Background

         In January 2016, Woods stood trial before a Drew County Circuit Court jury. The State introduced evidence demonstrating that on March 14, 2014, the Monticello Police Department was called to the Save-A-Lot store in Monticello for reports of a man assaulting a woman in the parking lot. The woman proved to be Samantha Poole, and the man was Woods. The incident began inside the store when Woods grabbed Poole by the hair and dragged her outside. Witnesses reported that the man eventually forced Poole at gunpoint into the driver's seat of a Cadillac. One eyewitness reported hearing gunshots and seeing Poole exit the vehicle once before Woods "brought her back." The two then drove away. James Slaughter served as a Drew County sheriff's deputy on the date of the crime. Slaughter testified that he was on the way to the Save-A-Lot when he saw the Cadillac pulling out of the parking lot. Slaughter blocked the Cadillac with his cruiser. Once the Cadillac was stopped, Woods shot Poole multiple times, killing her. Slaughter shot Woods during the confrontation, but Woods survived.

         Woods was charged with kidnapping and capital murder under Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-11-102 (Repl. 2012) and Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-10-101 (Supp. 2017). Section 5-11-102 provides that:

(a) A person commits the offense of kidnapping if, without consent, the person restrains another person so as to interfere substantially with the other person's liberty with the purpose of:
(4) Inflicting physical injury upon the other person;
. . . .
(6) Terrorizing the other person or another person

         Section 5-10-101 provides that a person commits capital murder if the person commits certain felonies, including kidnapping, and "[i]n the course of and in furtherance of the felony or in immediate flight from the felony, the person or an accomplice causes the death of a person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life[.]" Woods was convicted of both kidnapping and capital murder and was sentenced respectively to forty years imprisonment and life imprisonment without parole.

         Woods filed a timely Rule 37 petition alleging multiple points at which trial and appellate counsel allegedly rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance, including trial counsel's references to the Simpson case and appellate counsel's failure to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence that are the bases of this appeal. The State argued in response that Woods (1) did not show that he was prejudiced by any discussion of the Simpson case, (2) did not explain how counsel's response to a juror's comment about the case was ineffective, and (3) did not demonstrate that any argument by appellate counsel as to the sufficiency of the evidence would have been successful. The circuit court issued written findings and denied the petition without a hearing, and Woods filed a timely appeal.

         II. Standard of Review

         This court reviews the trial court's decision on a Rule 37.1 petition for clear error. Gordon v. State, 2018 Ark. 73, 539 S.W.3d 586. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the appellate court, after reviewing the entire evidence, is left with the definite and firm ...


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