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Daniels v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

October 30, 2019

Courtney DANIELS, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

         APPEAL FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT [NO. 16JCR-18-333], HONORABLE RANDY F. PHILHOURS, JUDGE

          Terry Goodwin Jones, for appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Joseph Karl Luebke, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.

          OPINION

         WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge

          Appellant Courtney Daniels was found guilty by a Craighead County jury of one count of breaking or entering and sentenced to serve a term of six years in the Arkansas Department of Correction and ordered to pay a $5000 fine. On appeal, he contends that the circuit court erred in denying his directed-verdict motion, arguing there was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction. We affirm appellant’s conviction without reaching the merit of his sufficiency challenge due to his failure to preserve the argument for appellate review.

          As he was leaving for work in the early morning hours of January 5, 2018, Dan Hancock saw a man "robbing" his neighbor’s vehicle. Hancock reached for the nine-millimeter pistol that he kept in his truck but discovered that it was missing. The man, whom Hancock described as wearing a dark hoodie and dark pants, took off running; at the same time, a car that was parked directly behind his (Hancock’s) drove off. Hancock chased the car, took down the license-plate number, and provided it to police.

          Security-camera footage obtained by the Jonesboro Police Department from Hancock’s neighbor showed appellant checking the door handles of several vehicles and "rummaging through" another vehicle. The man in the footage was wearing clothing similar to the clothing worn by the man Hancock described— he was wearing a dark hoodie and dark pants. He was also

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wearing a knit hat displaying the word "DOPE" across the front.

          The Jonesboro Police Department tracked the license-plate number provided by Hancock to a car owned by Chelsea Cannady. After obtaining a search warrant, police searched the vehicle and found a marriage license with Cannady’s and appellant’s names on it and a knit hat with the word "DOPE" on the front that matched the one seen in the security-camera footage.

         Appellant was charged with breaking or entering and theft of property.[1] The jury found appellant guilty of breaking or entering; however, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on theft of property, and a mistrial was granted as to that charge. Appellant was sentenced to a term of six years’ incarceration and ordered to pay a $5000 fine. He now appeals.

         Appellant argues that the circuit court erred when it denied his motion for directed verdict because "there was insufficient substantial proof to sustain a conviction" against him. In order to preserve a sufficiency challenge on appeal, a timely, clear, and specific motion for directed verdict must be made to the circuit court.[2] Our courts have explained that the reason for the specificity requirement for a directed-verdict motion is that

when specific grounds are stated and the absent proof is pinpointed, the circuit court can either grant the motion, or if justice requires, allow the State to reopen its case and supply the missing proof. A further reason that the motion must be specific is that ...

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