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Farmer v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

June 5, 2019

JAYLEN LAMARVIN FARMER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE CRITTENDEN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 18CR-17-518] HONORABLE JOHN N. FOGLEMAN, JUDGE

          Roy C. Lewellen, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kent G. Holt, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          LARRYD. VAUGHT, JUDGE

         Jaylen Lamarvin Farmer appeals the sentencing order entered by the Crittenden County Circuit Court convicting him of one count of attempted capital murder, with an enhancement for employing a firearm; sixteen counts of second-degree unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, with each count being enhanced for employing a firearm; and one count of fleeing, with an enhancement for employing a firearm. Farmer was sentenced to a total of ninety-six years' imprisonment for these convictions. On appeal, Farmer raises three points: (1) the circuit court erred in denying his motion for mistrial; (2) the circuit court erred in denying his motion for new trial; and (3) there was insufficient evidence corroborating the accomplice testimony to support his convictions. We affirm.

         At trial, the evidence established that around 9:30 p.m. on May 19, 2017, patrol officer Cody Gross of the West Memphis Police Department observed a gold Oldsmobile Alero with three occupants turn into a convenience store. Officer Gross witnessed two of the occupants of the Alero, Farmer and Vondre McClure, standing outside the vehicle at the gas station. When the Alero left the convenience store, the officer followed it. As the vehicle approached speeds of fifty-five to sixty-five miles an hour, Officer Gross turned on his blue lights to initiate a traffic stop. The Alero made an abrupt right turn without applying the brakes, after which someone in the backseat of the Alero pointed an assault rifle out of the window and began firing multiple shots at the officer. One of the bullets struck the passenger-side windshield of Officer Gross's patrol vehicle. Officer Gross stopped his vehicle, and the Alero drove away. Law enforcement officers later found the Alero in a ditch at a dead end still running with the front doors open.

         Officer Gross testified that he was familiar with Farmer's vehicle and had assumed, immediately after the incident, that Farmer was driving it when the shots were fired from the backseat. Gross further testified that he could have been mistaken and that he was unable to identify the person who was driving. After reviewing surveillance video from the convenience store, Officer Gross stated that Farmer was wearing a green shirt and a watch and that McClure was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt.[1]

         Farmer, McClure, and JK, a minor, were arrested following the incident. Farmer gave an interview to police wherein he stated that the Alero is his vehicle and that he had been driving the vehicle. He said that he was going to pull over for the officer when JK unexpectedly started firing a weapon from the backseat. Farmer denied that either he or McClure shot at the officer. Farmer stated that once he stopped the vehicle, he ran from his car on foot.

         McClure testified at trial that JK had been driving the Alero when Farmer, who was in the backseat, fired the assault rifle at Officer Gross. McClure stated that when the officer tried to stop the Alero, Farmer told JK to "go, go." McClure further testified that when JK reached a dead end, all three occupants jumped out of the car and ran away. McClure stated that he met up with Farmer later that night and that Farmer told McClure that JK was going to take the blame as the shooter and for McClure not to "snitch." According to McClure, when he disagreed with Farmer's plan, McClure felt threatened by Farmer. McClure turned himself in to the authorities the next day.

         McClure also testified that he had given three interviews to police. In his first two interviews, he said that he had lied and told officers that Farmer was the driver and that JK was in the backseat firing the assault rifle because that is what Farmer told him to say, and he was afraid of Farmer. McClure said that he received seven or eight letters from Farmer while they were both in jail indicating that JK was going to take the blame as the shooter, stating that there was no evidence against Farmer or McClure, and instructing McClure not to "snitch." McClure testified that he requested a third police interview, and on February 2, 2018, he told the police the truth that JK had been driving the Alero and that Farmer was the person who had shot the assault rifle from the backseat.

         Harvey Taylor, a sergeant with the West Memphis Police Department, testified that he was skeptical about McClure's third interview, so he conducted a follow-up investigation. Taylor said that he read the letters that Farmer had sent to McClure[2] and listened to a phone call Farmer made from jail to McClure.[3] Sergeant Taylor stated that the letters and the phone call were consistent with McClure's story that JK was taking the blame as the shooter for Farmer. Sergeant Taylor testified that he watched gas-station surveillance video that showed Farmer wearing a shiny watch and McClure wearing a red hoodie. The sergeant also watched Officer Gross's dashcam video that showed the shooter had bare arms and a shiny object on his wrist.[4] Sergeant Taylor testified that after his follow-up investigation, he believed Farmer was in the backseat firing the assault rifle at Officer Gross.

         The State also presented evidence that sixteen shell casings from an AK-47 assault rifle were collected at the scene. The parties stipulated that no DNA, fingerprints, or other scientific evidence was found on the shell casings. Seven DNA samples were taken from the Alero. The state crime laboratory tested the samples, and the results were inconclusive.

         As set forth above, the jury convicted Farmer. This appeal followed.

         Farmer's third argument on appeal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. Due to double-jeopardy concerns, we are required to review arguments regarding the sufficiency of the evidence first. Morgan v. State, 2009 Ark. 257, at 6, 308 S.W.3d 147, 152. In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and consider only the evidence that supports the verdict. Id., 308 S.W.3d at 152. We affirm a conviction if substantial evidence exists to support it. Id., 308 S.W.3d at 152. Substantial evidence is that which is 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., 308 S.W.3d at 152. Circumstantial evidence may provide a basis to support a conviction, but it must be consistent with the defendant's guilt and inconsistent with any other reasonable conclusion. Id. at 6-7, 308 S.W.3d at 152. Whether the evidence excludes every other hypothesis is left to the jury to decide. Id. at 7, 308 S.W.3d at 152. The credibility of witnesses is an issue for the jury and not the court. Id., 308 S.W.3d at 152.

         Farmer was convicted of attempted capital murder, sixteen counts of second-degree unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, and fleeing. A person commits capital murder if, with the premeditated and deliberated purpose of causing the death of any law enforcement officer, the person causes the death of any person. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-101(a)(3) (Supp. 2017). A person also commits capital murder if the person purposely discharges a firearm from a vehicle at a person or at a vehicle he or she knows or has good reason to believe to be occupied by a person and thereby causes the death of another person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-101(a)(10). A person commits criminal attempt to commit capital murder if he or she purposely engages in conduct that "[c]onstitutes a substantial step in a course of conduct intended to culminate in the commission of an offense." Ark. Code Ann. § 5-3- 201(a)(2) (Repl. 2013). A person commits unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle in the second degree if he or she recklessly discharges a firearm from a vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of physical injury to another person or property damage to a home, residence, or other occupiable structure. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-74-107(b)(1) (Supp. 2017).

         If a person knows that his or her immediate arrest or detention is being attempted by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, it is the lawful duty of the person to refrain from fleeing, either on foot or by means of any vehicle or conveyance. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-54-125(a) (Repl. 2016). Fleeing by means of any vehicle or conveyance is considered a Class D felony if, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, a person purposely operates the vehicle or conveyance in such a manner that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-54-125(d)(2). Finally, a person is an accomplice of another person in the commission of an offense if, with the purpose of promoting or facilitating the commission of an offense, the person solicits, ...


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