FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26CR-15-670]
HONORABLE JOHN HOMER WRIGHT, JUDGE
Willard Proctor, Jr., P.A., by: Willard Proctor, Jr. and
Dominique T. King, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Ass't
Att'y Gen.; and Joseph Karl Luebke, Ass't Att'y
Gen., for appellee.
K. WOOD, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Reid appeals from his two capital-murder convictions, a
firearm enhancement, and his sentence of death. He alleges
multiple errors during the trial's guilt and sentencing
phases. We affirm.
October 19, 2015, Eric Reid killed his wife, Laura Reid, and
his daughter, Mary Ann Reid. The night of the murders, Reid
argued with Mary Ann regarding her parenting habits.
Following the argument, Reid retrieved a pistol from his
nightstand and shot his wife twice in the back and once as
she lay on the ground. He then turned the gun toward his
daughter, Mary Ann, and began shooting. Reid's first shot
missed. But the second shot struck both Mary Ann and Heather,
Reid's other daughter who was standing next to Mary Ann
when the shooting began. Mary Ann retreated to the back of
the house, and Reid pursued. After shooting Mary Ann a total
of four times, Reid walked to the end of the driveway and
waited for the police.
trial, there was no question that Reid killed his wife and
daughter. The central issue was whether Reid's actions
were premeditated and deliberate. The State's evidence
included testimony from Heather. She depicted the week
leading up to the shooting as volatile, describing ongoing
disputes between Reid, Laura, and Mary Ann regarding
financial struggles and parenting decisions. Heather also
recounted the shooting. She explained how her father shot
Laura and Mary Ann each at least one time after they were
already down, and that after killing them both, Reid
instructed her to call 911 and tell them that he had shot his
wife and daughter.
State also played Reid's police interview from the night
of the murders. When asked to explain what happened, Reid
stated that he knew he used "deadly force" after he
allowed a woman to "draw [him] off sides" and
"push [him] over the edge." Consistent with
Heather's testimony, Reid explained that the tension with
his wife and daughter had been "brewing for quite a
while." Finally, the jury heard testimony from a prison
guard who overheard Reid tell another inmate, "If
you're going to shoot someone with a gun[, ] make sure
they die, like I did."
convicted Reid of both capital-murder counts and a firearm
enhancement. The jury sentenced him to death. Reid appeals
his convictions and sentence.
first argues that the circuit court abused its discretion in
limiting his use of hypotheticals during voir dire. The
extent and scope of voir dire falls within the broad
discretion of the circuit court. E.g., Isom v.
State, 356 Ark. 156, 171, 148 S.W.3d 257, 267 (2004).
Accordingly, we will not reverse voir dire restrictions
unless that discretion is clearly abused. Gay v.
State, 2016 Ark. 433, at 5, 506 S.W.3d 851, 856. An
abuse of discretion occurs when the circuit court acts
arbitrarily or groundlessly. Id.
trial, defense counsel requested permission to employ the
"Colorado Method" of voir dire examination. This
method presupposes a guilty verdict, and then utilizes
increasingly specific hypotheticals to determine how likely a
prospective juror will vote for death. The circuit court
ruled that it would allow the use of general hypotheticals,
but that it would not allow specific hypotheticals, as they
would lead to "fact qualifying" potential jurors.
During a break in voir dire, the State objected to Reid's
use of a hypothetical involving a school shooting in Florida.
The circuit court sustained the State's objection and
cautioned Reid to only use general hypotheticals that were
relevant to the case. On appeal, Reid contends that this
restriction was improper.
dire is conducted to identify and eliminate unqualified
jurors; those who are not able to impartially follow the
court's instructions and evaluate the evidence.
Morgan v. Illinois, 504 U.S. 719, 729-30 (1992). As
noted above, how this is accomplished falls within the
court's discretion. Isom, 356 Ark. at 172, 148
S.W.3d at 268. The judge shall initiate voir dire by
identifying the parties and their respective counsel,
revealing any names of prospective witnesses, and briefly
outlining the nature of the case. Ark. R. Crim. P. 32.2(a)
(2019). But beyond these four requirements, counsel may only
ask additional questions "as the judge deems reasonable
and proper." Id.
Harmon v. State, the circuit court limited the use
of hypotheticals during voir dire that involved
"specific factual issues not involved in th[at]
case." 286 Ark. 184, 186, 690 S.W.2d 125, 126 (1985). On
appeal, we opined that this limitation was not an abuse of
discretion, reasoning that a defendant has never been
"in a position to present a venireman a totally
irrelevant hypothetical situation" during voir dire.
Id. (quoting Rector v. State, 280 Ark. 385,
398, 659 S.W.2d 168, 175 (1983)).
Reid was not entitled to unfettered examination through any
means desired. Isom, supra. Limiting the
use of emotionally charged hypotheticals-such as those
involving school shootings-was well within the circuit
court's broad discretion. The circuit court did not abuse
its discretion in limiting Reid's use of hypotheticals
during voir dire.
Strike for Cause
also claims that, because he could not conduct unrestricted
voir dire in the specific manner desired, he was compelled to
exhaust his preemptory strikes prematurely. As a result, he
contends that he was forced to accept Juror Phillips; a juror
that he argued should have been struck for cause. The proper
test for releasing prospective jurors for cause is whether
their views would prevent or substantially impair the
performance of their duties as jurors in accordance with
their instructions and oath. E.g., Gay,
2016 Ark.433, at 9, 506 S.W.3d at 858.
maintains that the court should have struck Juror Phillips
for cause because his religion taught the principle of
"an eye for an eye." Reid extensively questioned
Phillips on this point. Without waver, Phillips maintained
that, if "there are mitigating circumstances," he
would consider them before deciding the issue of death. More
directly, Reid asked Phillips whether he would automatically
impose the death penalty. Phillips responded that he would
"have to see the evidence." Additionally, Phillips
affirmatively stated that he could follow the law, that his
decision on death would be based on "how the trial
goes," rather than automatic, that he would consider
both mitigators and aggravators prior to reaching a decision,
and that he appreciated the option of mercy.
Reid argues on appeal that the voir dire procedure the
circuit court adopted prevented him from unearthing
Phillips's true bias, Reid made no such argument at
trial. Therefore, based on Juror Phillips's answers, we
hold that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in
concluding that Phillips could perform the duties of a juror
in accordance with the court's instructions and his oath.
The State's Opening Statement
next asserts that the circuit court erred in denying his
mistrial motion because the State's opening statement
referenced evidence that was not adduced at trial.
Specifically, the prosecution told the jury that, before Reid
shot Mary Ann a final time, "he said something . . . to
the effect he called her a bitch." Reid explained that
he did not object to the statement when it was made because
it was not yet apparent that the statement would not be
supported by the evidence. But at the close of the
State's case, Reid promptly moved for a mistrial.
is an extreme and drastic remedy that is appropriate only
when there has been error so prejudicial that justice cannot
be served by continuing with the trial or when the
fundamental fairness of the trial has been manifestly
affected. E.g., McClendon v. State, 2019
Ark. 88, at 6-7, 570 S.W.3d 450, 454. A circuit court has
wide discretion to grant or deny a motion for a mistrial, and
absent an abuse of that discretion, the decision will not be
disturbed on appeal. Id.
the State should not appeal to prejudices, pervert the
testimony, or make statements that cannot be proven during
opening, "it is not uncommon for an attorney to outline
in an opening statement what he or she anticipates the
testimony is going to be, and then, in view of developments
in the trial, decide not to produce that evidence."
Henry v. State, 337 Ark. 310, 319, 989 S.W.2d 894,
898 (1999). Indeed, where evidence is admissible, a party may
refer to it during opening statement. Ran ...