Michael Hegwood v. State of Arkansas

Annotate this Case









February 4, 2004


[NO. CR 99-598-1]




Robert J. Gladwin, Judge

A Jefferson County jury found Michael Hegwood guilty of second-degree battery. He was sentenced to six years' probation, ordered to pay restitution in the amount of approximately $12,000, and was ordered to attend anger-management classes. On appeal to this court, appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict. We affirm.

Brenda Kay Hegwood (Sullivan) testified that she was married to appellant but that they were separated on June 27, 1999. Sullivan stated that she had gone to the Brown Derby with her brother and a girlfriend. While there, she met William "Bubba" Jones. Sullivan left with Jones around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and drove around until daylight. Following their excursion, Sullivan and Jones went to her house. Although appellant's vehicle was not parked in the driveway, appellant walked from behind a barn on Sullivan's property and approached the couple. According to Sullivan, appellant asked her if Jones was her boyfriend. She said nothing and went inside her house.

Jones testified that he introduced himself to appellant but that appellant did not say anything to him. Instead, appellant hit him several times and accused him of sleeping with Sullivan. Jones stated that, after being hit by appellant, he said to appellant, "Man, I'm fixin' to try to kill you." Jones denied striking appellant or grabbing his shirt.

Dr. William T. Mabrey, a specialist in diseases of the retina and vitreous, testified that he examined Jones following the incident and that Jones's injury was consistent with blunt trauma to the left eye. Although Dr. Mabrey performed surgery on Jones's eye, he stated that Jones is classified as legally blind in that eye and that his condition is not likely to improve.

Appellant took the stand in his own defense. He testified that, in introducing himself, Jones said, "My name is Bubba Jones, and I'll kick your scrawny ass." Appellant stated that Jones then grabbed him by the shirt, ripping it in the process, and that he hit Jones in self defense.

Appellant moved for a directed verdict at both the close of the State's case and at the close of all the evidence. The basis on which he sought a directed verdict was that the State had failed to prove that he had the purpose of causing physical injury to Jones. Appellant asserted that he was merely defending himself and that his action was justified.

In denying appellant's directed-verdict motion, the trial judge found that the State had made a prima facie case by establishing that appellant struck Jones. The judge reasoned that, even if appellant did so in self defense, appellant's intent was to generate enough pain or injury to cause Jones to let go of his shirt. The trial court, thus, allowed the case to go to the jury.

On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict. A motion for a directed verdict is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Farrelly v. State, 70 Ark. App. 158, 15 S.W.3d 699 (2000). When reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, the appellate court will affirm the conviction if there is substantial evidence to support it, when viewed in the light most favorable to the State. Id. Substantial evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, is evidence that is of sufficient force and character that it will, with reasonable certainty, compel a conclusion one way or another without resort to speculation or conjecture. Id.

A person commits battery in the second degree if, with the purpose of causing physical injury to another person, he causes serious physical injury to any person. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-13-202(a)(1) (Supp. 1999). A person acts purposely with respect to his conduct or a result thereof when it is his conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or to cause such a result. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-202(1) (Repl. 1997).

On appeal, appellant relies on Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-606 (Repl. 1997), entitled which provides in pertinent part that a person is justified in using physical force upon another person to defend himself unless he provokes the unlawful use of force against him or he is the initial aggressor. Appellant contends that he was justified in striking Jones, who grabbed his shirt and threatened to harm him. He maintains that there was no proof that he was the initial aggressor. Appellant asserts that, because Jones's testimony conflicted with his own testimony, the jury must have resorted to speculation or conjecture in arriving at its verdict. He refers to the testimony as a "swearing match."

A party cannot change the grounds for an objection or motion on appeal, but is bound by the scope and nature of the arguments made at trial. Gaines v. State, 340 Ark. 99, 8 S.W.3d 547 (2000). Whereas appellant argued at trial that he lacked the requisite mental state, he now seems to challenge the jury's credibility assessment. Appellant is essentially raising this argument for the first time on appeal, and we need not address it. See id. However, a person's intent or state of mind at the time of an offense is seldom apparent. Jones v. State, 72 Ark. App. 271, 35 S.W.3d 345 (2000). Since intent cannot ordinarily be proven by direct evidence, the jurors are allowed to draw upon their common knowledge and experience to infer intent from the circumstances. Id. Resolution of conflicts in testimony and assessment of the credibility of witnesses are the sole province of the jury. See Harris v. State, 72 Ark. App. 227, 35 S.W.3d 819 (2000). The jury is not required to believe any witness's testimony, especially that of the accused, since he is the person most interested in the outcome of the case. Id. The jury apparently gave more credence to Jones's version of events. Accordingly, we cannot say there was no substantial evidence to support appellant's conviction for second-degree battery.


Stroud, C.J., and Hart, J., agree.