FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26CR-15-670],
HONORABLE JOHN HOMER WRIGHT, JUDGE
Proctor, Jr., P.A., by: Willard Proctor, Jr. and Dominique T.
King, Little Rock, for appellant.
Rutledge, Atty Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Asst Atty Gen.;
and Joseph Karl Luebke, Asst Atty 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 trials 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. Reids first shot
missed. But the second shot struck both Mary Ann and Heather,
Reids 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 Reids actions were
premeditated and deliberate. The States 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 Reids 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
Heathers 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 youre
going to shoot someone with a gun[,] make sure they die, like
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 Reids use
of a hypothetical involving a school shooting in Florida. The
circuit court sustained the States objection and cautioned
Reid to only use general hypotheticals that were relevant to
the case. On appeal, Reid contends that this restriction was
dire is conducted to identify and eliminate unqualified
jurors; those who are not able to impartially follow the
courts instructions and evaluate the evidence. Morgan v.
Illinois, 504 U.S. 719, 729-30, 112 S.Ct. 2222, 119
L.Ed.2d 492 (1992). As noted above, how this is accomplished
falls within the courts 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
courts broad discretion. The circuit court did not abuse its
discretion in limiting Reids use of hypotheticals during
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.
Although Reid argues on appeal that the voir dire procedure
the circuit court adopted prevented him from unearthing
Phillipss true bias, Reid made no such argument at trial.
Therefore, based on Juror Phillipss 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 courts instructions and his oath.
The States Opening Statement
next asserts that the circuit court erred in denying his
mistrial motion because the States 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 States
case, Reid promptly moved for a mistrial.
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. Rank ...