Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Terrell v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

October 2, 2019

Christopher W. TERRELL, Appellant
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee


         James Law Firm, by: Michael Kiel Kaiser and Bobby R. Digby II, Little Rock, for appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: David L. Eanes, Jr., Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.


         N. MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge

          A Poinsett County Circuit Court jury found appellant Christopher Terrell guilty of first-degree murder in the death of James Hunt. On appeal, Terrell argues that (1) insufficient evidence supports his conviction; (2) the circuit court erred in denying his motion in limine; (3) the circuit court erred in admitting the prior testimony of an unavailable witness; (4) the circuit court erred in denying his motion for a new trial; and (5) the circuit court erred in denying his two motions for a mistrial. We affirm Terrell’s conviction.

         James Hunt’s body was discovered by law enforcement underneath his burnt truck at a levee in Marked Tree on November 29, 2014. Hunt died from a shotgun wound to the head. Trails of blood led to the truck, and law enforcement determined that the body had been rolled down a hill for more than sixty feet. Hunt’s wife, Peggy, told law enforcement that Terrell and Betty Grant had been around her husband prior to his death. Peggy testified that on November 27, 2014, she received a call from Terrell from the phone number (870) 227-3854 asking if she knew where Grant was. She provided police with Terrell’s phone number as well as other numbers that appeared on her husband’s phone. Law enforcement started looking for Terrell and Grant and did an "emergency ping" on Terrell’s phone number.

          Grant was interviewed by police the next day and told them that she had accidentally killed Hunt. However, she testified at trial that she was under the influence of methamphetamine during this interview and that nothing she had said was true. She testified that it was, in fact, Terrell who had killed Hunt. Grant said that she had been in sexual relationships with both men. She recounted her actions in the days leading up to the murder starting on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, which was when she said Hunt took her to his house to get high and injected her with methamphetamine. Grant recalled going to a motel with Hunt and another man and making a "sex movie." She testified that on November 29, she took Terrell to "Miss Laura’s" home before she went back to Hunt’s house and continued using methamphetamine. Later, both Grant and Terrell were at a friend’s house when Terrell walked outside holding something wrapped in a blue shirt and told Grant to get in her car.

          Terrell and Grant drove to the levee, and Terrell then called Hunt several times to tell him to come to the levee with some gasoline. Grant testified that the hood and trunk of the car were open, and she fell asleep in the front seat. Grant awoke to "a really loud noise like a gun" and saw Hunt bleeding from the face and appearing to take his last breaths. Grant then saw Terrell dragging Hunt past the car, and she refused his request to help. When she looked up again, Hunt was at the bottom of the levee. Terrell then drove Hunt’s truck down to the bottom of the levee, poured gas on it, and set it on fire. When Terrell returned to the car, he told Grant that she "was his now." Grant said that Terrell changed clothes, they drove around, and Terrell watched the "sex movie" from the camcorder he had taken from Hunt’s truck. They eventually ended up at the house of Terrell’s brother, Keith Terrell. Grant said that she went to sleep and remembered Terrell waking her up, hitting her in the face and head, and telling her that she was not telling the story right.

          Joseph Wilson testified that "Miss Laura" is his grandmother and that he was working on her car with Terrell on November 29, 2014, when Terrell asked if Wilson could get him a gun. When he asked Terrell what he needed a gun for, Terrell said it was to "take care of some business." Wilson was not able to get a gun for Terrell. Wilson said that he later dropped Terrell off at Sydney Phillips’s home and then rode around with his girlfriend before encountering Terrell sitting in Grant’s car at the levee. Wilson thought he saw Grant pass by him in the passenger seat of an older model truck. As Wilson was leaving, he saw Grant’s car parked with the trunk open and Terrell walking out of the woods.

          Lloyd Watson was deemed an unavailable witness, and his prior testimony was read into the record. Watson lived next door to Terrell’s brother, Keith. On November 29 between 7:30 and 8:15 p.m., Watson was outside when he saw a car speed by his house and park next door. Watson had not seen the car in a while, but Terrell had previously told him that it belonged to his girlfriend. Watson heard two doors slam but did not see who got out of the car. The next morning, Watson saw the car backed into the shed area behind the house. He saw Terrell get out of the car and take several items from the trunk into the shed, including a spare tire, several gas cans, and clothes. Watson said that Terrell seemed to be in a rush and that Terrell then removed the driver’s-side door panel and took it into the shed. The police seized the door panels, along with clothes and gas cans, but no blood was found on them.

          Special Agent Kevin Horan of the FBI testified about performing a historical record analysis of the cell phone number (870) 227-3854 for the time between 1:54 and 4:04 p.m. on November 29, 2014. Horan explained how cell phones communicate with phone towers by measuring the signal strength and how he could illustrate where a phone was located at a certain date and time that it was used. The phone number in this case belonged to a Verizon prepaid phone. Horan said that Verizon measures how long it takes for the phone signal to go from the tower to the phone and back, and on the basis of that measurement, Verizon could provide the approximate distance a phone was located from a cell tower. Horan said that thirty range-to-tower measurements were taken in the analyzed time period from calls, texts, and data usage. He produced maps showing the areas the phone had been used in close proximity to the location of the murder.

          The jury found Terrell guilty, and he was sentenced to twenty-three years’ imprisonment. Terrell subsequently filed a motion for new trial alleging that the jury had erroneously considered the theory of accomplice liability and had convicted him as an accomplice. After a hearing, the motion was denied.

          I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

          Terrell first argues that there is no substantial evidence to support his conviction given Grant’s initial confession to the murder and the fact that she blamed him only after she had been in custody for four months facing a murder charge. Grant admitted that she told police numerous times in her initial interview that Terrell had nothing to do with Hunt’s death and that it took her four months to remember things. Special Agent Mike Grimes with the Arkansas State Police testified that he believed Grant may have been under the influence of something at the time of her interview. She had been unable to make bond until after her murder charge had been dropped, and at the time of Terrell’s trial, she was facing only a charge of hindering apprehension. Terrell further argues that, notwithstanding her credibility issues, because Grant testified that she did not see the shot being fired or the circumstances surrounding it, her testimony was insufficient to show that he purposely caused Hunt’s death.

          The test for determining the sufficiency of the evidence is whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Lenoir v. State, 77 Ark.App. 250, 72 S.W.3d 899 (2002). Substantial evidence is evidence of sufficient certainty and precision to compel a conclusion one way or the other and pass beyond mere suspicion or conjecture. Id. In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.