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Jones v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

August 28, 2019

Freddie Lee JONES, Appellant
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

          Rehearing Denied September 25, 2019

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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         Laura Avery, Fayetteville, for appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Karen Virginia Wallace, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.


         WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge

          A Washington County jury convicted appellant Freddie Lee Jones of aggravated robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Appellant was sentenced as a habitual offender to forty years’ imprisonment for the aggravated-robbery conviction and five years’ imprisonment for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The sentences were to run concurrently for an aggregate prison term of forty years. Appellant appeals his convictions, arguing that the circuit court erred by denying his pretrial motion to suppress pretrial identifications of him and by denying his directed-verdict motion. We affirm.

         Appellant was accused of the aggravated robbery of the Valero gas station located at the corner of Zion and Crossover Roads in Fayetteville on October 20, 2017. When the Fayetteville Police Department (FPD) could not find a suspect, they turned to Facebook. An edited copy of the surveillance video of the robbery was posted to FPD’s Facebook page around October 30, 2017, to find leads.[1] FPD subsequently received an anonymous tip naming appellant as the suspect. Appellant was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery and being

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a felon in possession of a firearm. He filed several pretrial motions to exclude evidence, including the pretrial identifications of him by two witnesses. A motions hearing took place on May 23, 2018.

          Detective Nick White of the FPD testified that he was the lead investigator on the Valero robbery case. He stated that he processed the scene and spoke with the victim, Manish Patel. He also said that he collected surveillance footage of the robbery on October 21, 2017, the day after the robbery. He testified that he did not identify any specific person as a suspect at that time. He stated that two patrol officers had canvassed the area and come up with two potential persons of interest, but they were eventually ruled out. Detective White stated that FPD’s community-oriented policing division posted the surveillance video to the public on the FPD’s Facebook page. He said that instead of "having the actual audio from the surveillance footage[,] we had a scary music video soundtrack to it." He stated that he did not get any tips or develop any information about who the suspect was between the time of the robbery and the time of the Facebook post. He admitted that he had developed a suspect of his own but ruled him out based on the presence of tattoos on the person’s wrists that were not present in the surveillance video. He testified that he received an anonymous call naming appellant as the suspect after the video had been posted to Facebook. He stated that the caller was female and that she gave specific information as to why she believed appellant was the suspect, where he lived, and with whom. He said that no one else called in any tips or information about the robbery. Detective White stated that the informant left a voicemail for him but called back and spoke to him directly. He said that he did not have contact with the informant again until about a week before the hearing. He testified that the prosecutor told him that the informant was Haylie West, Natasha Marquez’s daughter. He stated that based on the tip, he asked patrol officers to go to appellant’s residence at 804 South Erika and attempt to locate either appellant or his girlfriend, Marquez, so that they could be interviewed. He said that he eventually interviewed both of them. He said that Marquez was aware that appellant was the person he was investigating for the robbery.

          Detective White stated that he spoke with Jarren Brown, appellant’s cousin, following Brown’s arrest on unrelated narcotics charges. He stated that Brown requested to speak to him the day Brown was arrested and that Brown indicated appellant was the person on the video. He said that Brown stated that Marquez had shown him the Facebook post and that it was "definitely [his] cousin" on the video. Detective White testified that he and Brown viewed the surveillance video later, after Brown had already identified appellant as the person. He stated that Brown identified appellant on the surveillance video by appellant’s stature, appearance, and voice.

          Detective White testified that appellant was initially arrested on an unrelated warrant. He stated that he interviewed Marquez, and she gave statements concerning appellant’s involvement in the robbery. He said that Marquez’s statements included intimate details that had not been released to the public, including the fact that the victim would not stop eating peanuts. He stated that appellant was then arrested on the robbery charge. He said that Marquez denied any involvement at the time and was released.

          On cross-examination, Detective White stated that he spoke with Marquez three separate times before she was arrested. He said during the first interview, Marquez

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identified appellant as the robber. In the second interview, Marquez stated that the victim would not stop eating peanuts, that appellant had to fire his weapon twice, and that the victim would not give appellant the money. According to Detective White, in the third interview, Marquez admitted being the driver on the night of the robbery and gave information about where she parked during the commission of the robbery. He said that Marquez told him that appellant had taken the weapon to Brown’s residence. The narcotics detectives were subsequently involved and conducted a controlled buy at Brown’s residence. A search warrant was issued, and Brown was arrested. He stated that Brown denied having the weapon but stated that appellant had approached him about buying the weapon. He ...

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