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Rankin v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

October 23, 2019

Alex RANKIN, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

Page 380

          APPEAL FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT [NO. 16JCR-17-995], HONORABLE PAMELA HONEYCUTT, JUDGE

          Benjamin Bristow, for Appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Michael L. Yarbrough, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for Appellee.

          OPINION

         LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge

          Alex Rankin was charged with committing a terroristic act and first-degree murder. Rankin filed a motion to sever the charges, which was denied by the Craighead County Circuit Court. A jury found Rankin guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to twenty-five years’ imprisonment. The jury acquitted Rankin of the terroristic-act charge. After the circuit court entered a sentencing order, Rankin appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in denying his motion to sever. We affirm.

         At the pretrial hearing on Rankin’s motion to sever the charges, the State argued that joinder of the charges for committing a terroristic act and first-degree murder was proper because they constituted a single scheme or plan. More specifically, the State contended that on the evening of July 6, Rankin’s girlfriend and Dewayne Manning[1] were smoking methamphetamine from a pipe at Rankin’s home. When Rankin’s girlfriend dropped the pipe, Manning became upset, which led to an argument between Rankin and Manning. According

Page 381

to the State, after Manning left Rankin’s home, Rankin stole a 9mm gun from his sister’s vehicle, went to Manning’s home, knocked on the front door, exchanged words with Manning, and fired four shots into Manning’s home. Early the next morning, Manning went to Rankin’s house and threw a brick through a window and fled. In response, Rankin left his house with the gun in pursuit of Manning. Rankin found Manning near his house carrying an ax. Rankin shot and killed Manning.

          Counsel for Rankin argued that pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 22, he had a right to sever the charges because the two incidents were not a part of a single scheme or plan. The defense contended that the incident on the evening of July 6 was a separate event from the incident that occurred the next morning. The defense argued that the State sought to join the two charges in order to bootstrap a weaker case to another case in order to secure two convictions. The defense further argued that Rankin was prejudiced by having the two charges joined because he was forced to "juggle" two defenses: denial of the terroristic act and justification for first-degree murder. He also claimed that his right to remain silent on the terroristic-act charge was jeopardized by his desire to testify to support his claim of self-defense on the first-degree murder charge.

          The circuit court denied Rankin’s motion to sever, stating,

There’s more to this story than somebody came over and threw a brick in a window. There’s more to it. It’s the getting of the gun. It’s intent. Was there intent, motive. There’s a lot more to this story than somebody came up and threw a brick in a window.

          The court further stated that the "the same witnesses would have to testify to all of this information" and that the events occurred within a short proximity of time. "We’re talking about 12 hours" and "[a]pparently there were ongoing things that were happening during that 12 hours." On appeal, Rankin challenges the court’s denial of his motion to sever.

         Whether to grant a defendant’s motion for severance of two or more offenses lies within the circuit court’s discretion, and this court will not reverse that decision absent an abuse of discretion. Turner v. State,2011 Ark. 111, at 3-4, 380 S.W.3d 400, 402 (citing Dillard v. State, 333 Ark. 418, ...


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