Grover Wilson Porter v. State of Arkansas

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February 25, 2004



APPELLANT [CR 02-3496]





Karen R. Baker, Judge

Appellant, Grover Wilson Porter, was convicted of criminal attempt to commit capital murder, residential burglary, first-degree terroristic threatening, and criminal solicitation to commit capital murder in a bench trial in Pulaski County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to a total of 240 months' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction. His sentences were to run concurrently. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as to his convictions of residential burglary, attempt to commit capital murder, and criminal solicitation to commit capital murder.1 We affirm.

On August 28, 2002, appellant, wearing black face paint and a wig and carrying a clipboard, rang the doorbell of his former girlfriend, Sherry Ragan. After Ms. Ragan looked through the peephole, she opened the door to find appellant disguised as an African-American salesperson. She testified that the door flew open, and appellant pushed his way into the house, pinning Ragan up against the wall with his body. As he held a butcher knife to her chest, he whispered in her ear that he wanted "closure." Ragan suggested to appellant that they leave the house and go for a ride in his vehicle. With the knife to her back and her arm twisted around her back, appellant led her out of the house. Once outside, Ragan broke free from appellant and ran. She heard the knife fall on the concrete, and when she looked back, she saw appellant reaching for a gun from his pants leg. She kept running. She came upon a vehicle with a male driver that stopped to help her. The driver let her in the vehicle and as they did a U-turn in the road, a police patrol car approached. They flagged the officer down, and Ragan got into the officer's car. As she and the officer approached Ragan's home, they saw appellant walking down her street. The officer testified that appellant had black face paint on his face and was carrying a pair of gloves. Appellant attempted to hide in a bush along the side of the street when he saw the officer. The officer later found a Ruger semi-automatic pistol in the bush where appellant attempted to hide. Moreover, the clipboard and the knife were found in Ragan's driveway.

Appellant admitted in his testimony that he went to Ragan's home that day disguised as an African-American. He testified that he wanted to talk to her, but did not mean to scare her. He stated that he was afraid of her current boyfriend, so he took the gun and knife with him. He thought the disguise would provide him with a means of escape if her boyfriend happened to answer the door. He stated that when Ragan opened the door the two exchanged general greetings, and they shared a kiss. He stated that Ragan then asked to go outside so that the two of them could talk, and appellant said that once they got outside, she ran from him. As he started running after her, the gun slipped from his pants, and he bent over to pick it up. He stated that he chased her, but only for a short distance.

Other testimony showed that, while incarcerated, appellant approached the cellmate of Leodis Randall about the "trouble" with Ragan. Appellant later spoke to Randall directly about killing Ragan and gave him a description of her physical appearance, a description of where she lived and worked, and a description of the appropriate time of day to approach her. Randall testified that appellant offered to "bond him out" and give him an extra $5,000 if he "finished the job." Randall testified as to the seriousness of appellant's request. Appellant, on the other hand, testified that he did not approach Randall about killing Ragan. Instead, appellant asserted that Randall approached him about the situation because he needed the money to get out of jail.

At trial, appellant made a motion for a directed verdict at the close of the State's evidence. However, that motion was denied. He renewed his motion at the close of all the evidence, and the motion was again denied. At the conclusion of the trial, appellant was convicted on all charges. This appeal followed.

Our standard of review in cases challenging the sufficiency of the evidence is well-settled:

Motions for directed verdict are treated as challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence convicting him, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the state. Evidence is sufficient to support a conviction if the trier of fact can reach a conclusion without having to resort to speculation or conjecture. Substantial evidence is that which is forceful enough to compel reasonable minds to reach a conclusion one way or the other. Only evidence supporting the verdict will be considered. (citations omitted.)

Turner v. State, 64 Ark. App. 216, 984 S.W.2d 52 (1998) (citing Bailey v. State, 334 Ark.]43, 972 S.W.2d 239 (1998)).

First, appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of residential burglary. "A person commits residential burglary if he enters or remains unlawfully in a residential occupiable structure of another person with the purpose of committing therein any offense punishable by imprisonment." Ark. Code Ann. § 5-39-201(a)(1) (Repl. 1997). Appellant asserts that the State failed to prove that he had the requisite intent to commit a crime.

The crime of burglary can be complete even though the intention to commit a crime after unlawfully entering the structure is not consummated. Booker v. State, 335 Ark. 316, 984 S.W.2d 16 (1998). However, the facts must show circumstances of such probative force as to reasonably warrant the inference of the purpose on the part of the accused to commit an offense punishable by imprisonment, other than the entry itself. Id. (citing Washington v. State, 268 Ark. 1117, 599 S.W.2d 408 (Ark. App. 1980)). Purpose can be established by circumstantial evidence, but that evidence must be such that the requisite purpose can be reasonably inferred, and the evidence must be consistent with the guilt of the accused and inconsistent with any other reasonable conclusion. Id. A criminal defendant's intent or state of mind is rarely capable of proof by direct evidence and must usually be inferred from the circumstances of the crime. Williams v. State, 65 Ark. App. 176, 986 S.W.2d 123 (1999) (citing Chase v. State, 334 Ark. 274, 973 S.W.2d 791 (1998)).

The jury could have reasonably found that the purpose for appellant's entry into the victim's home was to commit murder. The testimony showed that on August 28, 2002, appellant in disguise pushed Ragan's door open, pushed her up against the wall with his body, and held a butcher knife to her chest. He whispered threatening remarks in her ear. After Ragan convinced him to let the two of them talk in the car while going for a drive, appellant led her outside the home with the knife to her back. Ragan managed to escape from appellant and ran down the street. The one time she looked back, she saw him pulling a gun from his pant's leg. He chased her with the gun. A helpful citizen flagged an officer down to help Ragan. The officer soon discovered appellant, with black face paint on, walking down the street. When appellant first saw the officer, he attempted to hide in a bush on the side of the street. The officer arrested appellant. Later, a Ruger semi-automatic pistol was found in the bush, and the clipboard and knife appellant had when he arrived at the victim's home were found in the driveway. Based on the foregoing, we hold that substantial evidence existed to support appellant's conviction of residential burglary.

Second, appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as to his attempt to commit capital murder conviction. Appellant asserts that because he did not have the requisite intent to commit burglary, his attempt to commit capital murder conviction must be reversed. Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-10-101(a)(1) (Repl. 1997) states that, "A person commits capital murder if: acting alone or with one (1) or more other persons, he or she commits or attempts to commit . . . burglary, § 5-39-201. . . and in the course of and in furtherance of the felony or in immediate flight therefrom, he or she or an accomplice causes the death of any person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life." As discussed above, we find that appellant possessed the requisite intent to commit residential burglary, affirming that conviction; thus, his argument must fail.

Third, appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as to his criminal solicitation conviction. A person solicits the commission of an offense if, with the purpose of promoting or facilitating the commission of a specific offense, he commands, urges, or requests another person to engage in specific conduct which would constitute that offense. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-3-301(a)(1) (Repl. 1997).

In this case, Leodis Randall testified that appellant approached him about killing Sherry Ragan, offering to "bond him out" and give him an extra $5,000 if he "finished the job." Appellant provided a physical description of Ragan, told him where she lived, where she worked, and what time of day would be best. Appellant testified that he never approached Randall about killing Ragan. Instead, Randall approached him about killing Ragan because Randall needed the money to get out of jail. Appellant asserts in his brief that, based on Randall's past criminal history and his previous visit to the State Psychiatric Hospital, Randall's testimony should have little credibility. However, resolution of conflicts in testimony and assessment of witness credibility is for the fact-finder. Slater v. State, 76 Ark. App. 365, 65 S.W.3d 481 (2002). We hold that sufficient evidence supports appellant's conviction for criminal solicitation to commit capital murder.

Based on the foregoing, we find that the trial court did not err in denying appellant's motion for a directed verdict and affirm each of appellant's convictions.

Pittman and Gladwin, JJ., agree.

1 Appellant does not challenge his conviction for first-degree terroristic threatening.