FROM THE LAFAYETTE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 37CR-16-64-2]
HONORABLE BRENT HALTOM, JUDGE
Knutson Law Firm, by: Gregg A. Knutson, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Joseph Karl Luebke, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
K. WOOD, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
found appellant David McClendon guilty of first-degree
murder. He argues two points on appeal. First, McClendon
asserts that the circuit court erred in denying his motion
for directed verdict. Second, he argues that the circuit
court abused its discretion by denying his mistrial motion.
We affirm. The State presented sufficient evidence to convict
McClendon of first-degree murder, and the circuit court did
not abuse its discretion in denying his mistrial motion.
15, 2016, Ricardo Martin was shot and killed at his home in
Stamps, Arkansas. An autopsy revealed that Martin was shot
through the hand, chest, and head; the shot to the head
proving fatal. Martin was a drug dealer and was seen earlier
that day with a large quantity of meth. By nature of his
trade, he was known to carry several hundred dollars in cash
on his person at all times. When police arrived at the scene,
they found Martin lying in a pool of blood with his pockets
partially turned out and bloody footprints trailing away from
his body. The morning of the murder, McClendon had been to
Martin's house looking for meth. According to
Martin's girlfriend, Martin turned McClendon away because
McClendon did not have any money. But later that day,
Martin's neighbor saw McClendon's truck back at
after the murder, law enforcement searched McClendon's
house and discovered a substantial amount of cash and meth.
Behind his house, police found McClendon's truck, a burn
pile, a gas can, and a hoe. The doors of the truck stood wide
open, and the floorboards were wet as if they had recently
been washed. Next to the truck, the garden hose was still
running when police arrived. Police recovered charred
portions of the clothes that McClendon had been wearing
earlier that day, khaki pants and a white shirt, in the trees
behind McClendon's house. Nearby, they found Martin's
cellphone. When McClendon arrived at the police station for
an initial interview, he was not wearing pants, a shirt, or
convicted McClendon of first-degree murder. He was sentenced
as a habitual offender to life in prison, plus a fifteen-year
firearm enhancement pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated
section 16-90-120 (Repl. 2016). He argues two points on
appeal. First, McClendon asserts that the circuit court erred
in denying his motion for directed verdict. Second, he argues
that the circuit court abused its discretion by denying his
mistrial motion. We affirm.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
moved for a directed verdict at the close of the State's
case and again at the close of all the evidence. On appeal, a
motion for directed verdict is treated as a challenge to the
sufficiency of the evidence. Arnold v. State, 2018
Ark. 343, at 4, 561 S.W.3d 727, 729. In reviewing a challenge
to the sufficiency of the evidence, we review the evidence in
the light most favorable to the State, considering only
evidence that supports the verdict. Id. We will
affirm the verdict if substantial evidence supports it.
Id. Substantial evidence is evidence of sufficient
force and character that it will, with reasonable certainty,
compel a conclusion one way or the other without resorting to
speculation or conjecture. Id. McClendon argues that
the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he
was responsible for the murder. However, the State met its
State's evidence established that McClendon was at
Martin's home on the morning of the murder, and that his
truck returned to Martin's house that evening. Although
the murder weapon was never recovered, McClendon's wife
testified that he called her that day searching for his
nine-millimeter pistol-the same caliber used to kill Martin.
McClendon's wife had hidden the gun from him earlier that
day after he fired it in their living room. When
McClendon's wife told him where the gun was hidden,
McClendon confirmed, "I've got it. I've got
everything I need." Ballistics testing revealed that the
two shell casings and two bullets recovered at the crime
scene were fired from the same weapon as the shell casing and
bullets recovered at McClendon's house, which his wife
stated he fired from his nine-millimeter earlier that day.
the State presented evidence that McClendon's original
purpose in visiting Martin was to purchase meth. Although
Martin turned him away that morning because he did not have
any money, shortly after the murder, McClendon was found with
a substantial amount of both cash and meth. And although
Martin's girlfriend testified that Martin's sole
source of income came from selling meth, police found no meth
in Martin's house and no money on Martin's person.
the State presented evidence demonstrating McClendon's
efforts to conceal his involvement in the crime. Our court
has held that efforts to conceal a crime and evade detection
can be considered as evidence of consciousness of guilt.
E.g., Howard v. State, 2016 Ark. 434, at
13, 506 S.W.3d 843, 850. When police searched the perimeter
of McClendon's house the next morning, they found a burn
pile, a gas can, and McClendon's truck. The doors of the
truck stood wide open, and the floorboards were wet as if
they had recently been washed. Testimony from McClendon's
wife established that McClendon had been wearing khaki pants
and a white shirt on the day ...