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Chumley v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

December 12, 2019

MARK EDWARD CHUMLEY APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72CR-15-2035-7] HONORABLE JOANNA TAYLOR, JUDGE

          David R. Raupp, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          RHONDA K. WOOD, Associate Justice

         A jury convicted Mark Chumley of capital murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Chumley's single argument on appeal is that the circuit court should have granted his directed-verdict motion because there was insufficient evidence that he was guilty of either capital or first-degree murder as felony murder during a rape or an attempted rape or intentional murder. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Chumley lived in Fayetteville with his girlfriend, Rebecca Lloyd, and her three children. John (Chris) and Tori Davis also resided with them. Allegations of sexual abuse and environmental neglect had been lodged against Rebecca. Investigators inquired into the allegations, which upset Chumley, who believed someone was trying to set him up for the sexual abuse of Rebecca's daughter. Chumley blamed Tori for the investigation.

         Chumley told Chris that Tori was cheating on him. Both men began hitting her with baseball bats. Later, Chumley called Christopher and Desire Treat to come over to the house. Christopher and Desire had a history of animosity toward Tori. When Christopher and Desire arrived, Chumley encouraged them also to strike Tori with baseball bats. While the four took turns beating Tori, Chumley repeatedly asked her about calling the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS). Chumley also questioned Tori about what she knew of his own daughter's rape. When Tori hesitated, Chumley would strike her across the knees with a bat. Anytime Chris or Christopher hesitated in striking Tori, Chumley would remind them of the things she had done to them.

         At some point, Tori fell off the porch. She was then dragged into the driveway, causing her pants to come off. Chumley instructed the others to retrieve a battery charger, and he attached the jumper cable clips to Tori's nipples. He then shocked her for several minutes. Chumley also told the others to shove a baseball bat inside her vagina. When Desire told Chumley that it "wasn't going to work," Chumley told Chris to retrieve some chainsaw oil from the house to use as a lubricant. He told Desire to pour the oil inside her and try to insert the bat again. Desire and Chumley again tried to insert the bat into Tori's vagina while the others held her down and kept her legs open.

         The group then carried Tori to another house on the property. Once inside, Chumley injected Tori with a white substance he took from a Mountain Dew bottle before leaving. Tori died from her injuries. Chumley then directed Chris and Christopher to burn the evidence. The following day, Chumley called 911. During the call, Chris got on the phone and told the operator that he had killed Tori because she was threatening to divorce him. Police who arrived on the scene thought Chumley was acting erratically and trying to prevent them from talking to his accomplices separately.

         The State pursued charges against Chumley, Chris, Christopher, and Desire. Chumley's accomplices all pleaded guilty and received term-of-years sentences and testified at Chumley's trial. The court instructed the jury under two types of capital murder and first-degree murder-felony murder with the underlying felony of rape or attempted rape and intentional murder. The jury convicted Chumley of capital murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment without parole.

         II. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Chumley argues that the circuit court should have granted his directed-verdict motion on the capital- and first-degree murder charges. He asserts that the State presented insufficient evidence that he committed felony murder during a rape or an attempted rape or intentional murder.

         We evaluate the denial of a directed-verdict motion as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Taylor v. State, 2010 Ark. 372, at 11, 372 S.W.3d 769, 776. In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we determine whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Id. Substantial evidence is evidence forceful enough to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id. We ...


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