William Joseph Lenox v. State of Arkansas

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May 19, 2004


[NO. CR-2002-339]




John Mauzy Pittman, Judge

The appellant in this criminal case was charged with kidnapping and capital murder. After a jury trial, he was convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping, and sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment. On appeal, appellant argues that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for kidnapping, and that the murder charge should not have been submitted to the jury because it was based on what appellant asserts to be uncorroborated accomplice testimony. We find no error, and we affirm.

We first address appellant's contention that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict on the charge of kidnapping. Pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-11-102(a)(4) and (5) (Repl. 1997), a person commits the offense of kidnapping if he restrains another person without his consent so as to interfere substantially with his liberty with the purpose of inflicting physical injury upon him or terrorizing him. A motion for a

directed verdict is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Britt v. State, 344 Ark. 13, 38 S.W.3d 363 (2001). The test for such motions is whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Barrett v. State, ___ Ark. ___, 119 S.W.3d 485 (2003). Substantial evidence is evidence of sufficient certainty and precision to compel a conclusion one way or another and pass beyond mere suspicion or conjecture. Id. On appeal, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the appellee and consider only the evidence that supports the verdict. Id.

Viewing the evidence in light of this standard, the record shows that Jeremie Bryant was angry with the victim because he believed that the victim was responsible for some break-ins. Bryant telephoned appellant on March 7, 2002, and asked appellant if appellant would help him "take care of some business" and "beat [the victim] up." Appellant agreed, and Bryant came to appellant's house, picked up appellant in his vehicle, and drove to a trailer park. Appellant was present and within five feet of Bryant when Bryant telephoned the victim from the trailer park. In the telephone call, Bryant asked the victim if he would like to earn some money helping him and a friend move some furniture. The victim, who needed money badly because he was out of work, agreed. Bryant told the victim that he and his friend would pick the victim up in front of a church. After completing the call, Bryant looked at those present and declared that "it was taken care of" and that they would "never see or hear from [the victim] again." Bryant and appellant immediately left the trailer park.

Appellant knew that they were not going anywhere to move furniture and make money, and asked Bryant what they would tell the victim if he asked what they were doing. Just after dark, Bryant and appellant arrived at the church. The victim was waiting and willingly entered the vehicle, seating himself between Bryant and appellant.

Bryant drove the trio toward the town of Light. Bryant, saying that he needed to urinate, stopped the vehicle at a secluded spot near the Cache River. All three men got out of the vehicle and walked down to the water. Appellant used the victim's cell phone to call Bryant's father to make the ruse about a moving job "sound convincing." Bryant and appellant then beat the victim for ten or fifteen minutes. Appellant struck the victim's head several times with his fists and kicked the victim in the side, the chest, and the shoulder. When the beating ended appellant kicked him, rolling the victim partially into the water. The victim was left there bloody and unconscious at the water's edge. Bryant and appellant each took some of the victim's belongings and left him by the river, where his body was later found. The victim's death was caused by a combination of blunt-force trauma and drowning.

In order to prove kidnapping, the State was required to show that appellant restrained the victim without consent so as to interfere substantially with his liberty with the purpose of inflicting physical injury upon him or terrorizing him. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-11-102(a)(4) and (5), supra. Appellant argues that there was no evidence to show that he restrained the victim. We do not agree. The language "restraint without consent" is statutorily defined as including restraint accomplished by physical force, threat, or deception. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-11-101(2) (Repl. 1997). Here, there is evidence from which the jury could properly find that appellant actively participated in the deception by which the victim was restrained, and we hold that the trial court did not err in denying appellant's motion for a directed verdict on the charge of kidnapping. See Fairchild v. State, 305 Ark. 406, 409, 808 S.W.2d 743, 745 (1991).

Next, appellant contends that the murder charge should not have been submitted to the jury because it was based on the uncorroborated testimony of the accomplice, Jeremie Bryant. We do not agree. Although it is true that the testimony of an accomplice must be corroborated before a defendant may be convicted of a felony, see, e.g., Holder v. State, ___ Ark. ___, 124 S.W.3d 439 (2003), corroboration in the present case was abundantly provided by three statements made by appellant to police in which he admitted his participation in the ruse and the beating.1


Stroud, C.J., and Griffen, J., agree.

1 These inculpatory statements by appellant were admitted into evidence at trial but were not mentioned in the abstract or argument, nor were they included in the addendum. We note that Ark. Rule Sup. Ct. 4-2(a)(8) requires that an appellant include in his addendum true copies of all relevant documents and exhibits essential to an understanding of the case.