FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, OSCEOLA DISTRICT
[NO. 47OCR-16-257], HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE
Rosenzweig, for appellant.
Rutledge, Atty Gen., by: Jason Michael Johnson, Asst Atty
Gen., for appellee.
J. HARRISON, Judge
2018, a Mississippi County jury convicted Ashton Clark of
first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. The States
theory of the case was that Clark and three codefendants
attempted to rob John Williams, who was shot and killed in
the process. As his first point on appeal, Clark argues that
his convictions should be reversed because the State failed
to corroborate the accomplice testimony of Harold Weeden. We
agree. Because the State lacks enough corroborating evidence
to support Clarks convictions, we must reverse and dismiss.
The State Did Not Meet Its Burden of Proof
motion for directed verdict is a challenge to the sufficiency
of the evidence. Williams v. State, 351 Ark. 215, 91
S.W.3d 54 (2002). The test for determining the sufficiency of
the evidence is whether the verdict is supported by
substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Id.
Evidence is substantial when it can compel a conclusion.
Id. Circumstantial evidence, in particular, is
substantial when it excludes every reasonable hypothesis
consistent with innocence; whether it does so is usually a
jury question. Id. When reviewing a challenge to the
sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the State. Id. Having stated
the standard of review, we now apply it.
contends the circuit court erred by denying his motions for
directed verdict. During the trial, Clark argued that
"[t]heres zero evidence that there was a robbery
committed outside of the accomplices testimony." He
also argued that Zaria Colemans testimony was insufficient
corroboration under Ark. Code Ann. § 16-89-111 (Supp. 2017).
In Clarks view, Colemans testimony put him "at least
an hour, if not more, before this robbery happened or murder
happened. So that doesnt even put him close in time to where
it happened— to the crime." Clark renewed his
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence
against him at the appropriate times. Given Clarks motions,
we must delve into the facts presented at trial.
Coleman was gambling on Broadway Street in Osceola the day
John Williams was shot and killed. Harold Weeden was with
Coleman the day the shooting occurred. Weeden and Coleman
were shooting dice when Zebarius Hawkins walked up in the
middle of the game and whispered in Weedens ear. Weeden got
up and left the game. Shakur Bingham, who is Colemans uncle,
was there, too. Coleman said she became concerned because
Hawkins "had just robbed one of [her] friends the week
before." She told the jury that the three men
"pulled across the street and picked up the next
person," whom she identified as the defendant, Ashton
According to Coleman, it was still light outside when she saw
Clark leave with the other three men. Approximately an hour
and a half later Coleman received a telephone call informing
her that Williams had been killed. (She also said it could
have been less than an hour later that she received the
call.) On cross-examination, Coleman said that the men left
the dice game about 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. She confirmed that she
later saw Clark and Bingham walking near the homicide scene
where a crowd of people had gathered. On redirect, Coleman
said that when she saw the men leaving the dice game they
were riding in "Harold [Weeden] momma truck," which
was a "little four-door truck" or "SUV"
that "had a sign on the side of it."
David Scrivener of the Osceola Police Department testified
that he was called the night John Williams was killed to help
with "crowd control." While at the scene, Scrivener
saw several video cameras that surveilled the area. Maurice
Kelly, David Scrivener, Will Skaggs, and Jerry Hamilton
testified about various surveillance videos that were taken
from the victims residence at 117 Parkway, from a
neighboring house at 111 Parkway, and from a nearby apartment
or housing complex called Seminole Village. Ten videos were
assembled on a portable storage device (usb flash drive) and
collectively admitted at trial as States exhibit no. 10.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Adam Craig testified that John
Williams died from a bullet that entered the back of his
brain. Arkansas State Crime Lab employee Deborah Britton
testified that the bullet recovered from Williamss head was
consistent with a 9 mm Luger cartridge. Osceola police
officer Colby Newell photographed the crime scene and
confirmed that Williams had died there.
Weeden testified for the State. He agreed to speak against
Clark in exchange for a conditional fifteen-year sentence.
Weeden said that the plan on 12 October 2016 was to rob
Williams because Williams had been pictured on Facebook with
a large amount of money. Weeden said that he left the dice
game and went across the street to see "Toots," who
was Ashton Clark. There, Weeden, Clark, and Zebarius Hawkins
discussed "hitting a lick," which Weeden said meant
committing an aggravated robbery. Shakur Bingham joined the
group. According to Weeden, during the robbery he (Weeden)
used a "Dillinger" style gun that Bingham had
supplied, Clark (the defendant) was the getaway driver, and
Hawkins was the other gunman who used a 9 mm caliber handgun.
Weeden said that during the robbery Hawkins shot at Williams
five times. Clark and Bingham were waiting in a vehicle
nearby and were "paranoid" after learning that
Hawkins had shot Williams, which was not part of the plan.
Clarks defense was that he "wasnt there and didnt do
it." To that end, Clarks counsel called ...