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Gillard v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

October 2, 2019



          Dusti Standridge, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Jason Michael Johnson, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


         Appellant Tanisha Gillard was convicted in a jury trial of second-degree murder. The victim was Wesley Booker, who died as a result of multiple stab and cutting wounds. Tanisha was sentenced to ten years in prison in addition to a five-year enhancement for committing the crime in the presence of a child.

         Tanisha now appeals, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support her second-degree murder conviction. Tanisha argues that the State failed to prove that she had the required mental state to commit the offense. She further argues that the State did not disprove her claim that she acted in self-defense. We affirm.

Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-10-103(a) (Repl. 2013) provides:
(a) A person commits murder in the second degree if:
(1) The person knowingly causes the death of another person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; or
(2) With the purpose of causing serious physical injury to another person, the person causes the death of any person.

         In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this court determines whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Medlock v. State, 2016 Ark.App. 282, 493 S.W.3d 789. Substantial evidence is evidence forceful enough to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id. We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, considering only the evidence that supports the verdict. Davis v. State, 2016 Ark.App. 274, 493 S.W.3d 339. Weighing the evidence, reconciling conflicts in the testimony, and assessing credibility are all matters exclusively for the trier of fact, in this case the jury. Id.

         On the morning of September 2, 2017, Tanisha Gillard was at her home taking care of Wesley Booker's infant daughter. Frustrated that Wesley had not picked the child up from her home, Tanisha texted Wesley and informed him that she was taking the child to Wesley's mother's apartment. Wesley was in the area, and he followed Tanisha as she drove the child there. The two exchanged contentious text messages and continued to argue after they arrived at the apartment complex. During the argument, Tanisha stabbed Wesley repeatedly, causing him to drop the child. Wesley was able to remove himself from the struggle, and he took his daughter and attempted to drive away. Wesley, however, drove about ninety yards before stopping the vehicle and succumbing to the wounds inflicted by Tanisha.

         After the police arrived, Tanisha spoke to the police about the incident, and she later gave a custodial statement. Tanisha admitted stabbing Wesley, but she told the police that she did so because he had attacked her. Tanisha told the police that when Wesley exited his car, he punched her in the left eye. Tanisha further stated that Wesley dragged her across the pavement while stomping on her and hitting her. Tanisha told the police that while she was being assaulted by Wesley, she "picked up a piece of glass or something" and stabbed him with it. Tanisha told the police she did not know where the object was that she had stabbed Wesley with, and after searching the area the police did not recover any weapon. Tanisha denied that she had used a knife. Tanisha maintained that she was scared and did not mean to hurt anyone.

         Officer John Lewis, who responded to the scene, testified that Tanisha's left eye was a little watery, she had a very small scrape on one of her knuckles, and she had small scratches on her shin. Other than that, he saw no injuries. Officer Lewis stated that Tanisha did not have torn clothes or dirt on her to indicate that she had been fighting. Officer Luke Davis, who was also at the scene, testified that Tanisha kept claiming she was injured and needed an ambulance but he did not see evidence that she was injured. Officer Bobby Morgan took Tanisha's custodial statement, and he saw no evidence that she had been attacked as she claimed. Mandy Childress, a medical assistant at the county jail, examined ...

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