Isaac Dewayne Russell v. State of Arkansas

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CACR 05-241

October 26, 2005







David M. Glover, Judge

Appellant, Isaac Russell, was convicted in a bench trial of first-degree domestic battering. He was sentenced to twelve years in the Arkansas Department of Correction for this offense, and the sentence was enhanced by an additional four years because the offense was committed in the presence of a child, bringing the total sentence to sixteen years. On appeal, Russell's sole argument is that the trial court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict because the evidence was insufficient to establish that he acted purposely, the requisite mental state for domestic battering in the first degree. We affirm.

A motion for a directed verdict is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. George v. State, 356 Ark. 345, 151 S.W.3d 770 (2004). The test for determining the sufficiency of the evidence is whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence,

direct or circumstantial; substantial evidence is evidence forceful enough to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id. When reviewing a

challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, and only evidence supporting the verdict will be considered. Id.

At trial, the victim, Leslie Brock, testified that she and appellant had dated for about two years and had lived together, but that they had separated about one month before the incident. Brock said that on April 27, 2003, she was at church with her five children, where she was seated on the front row in the congregation. She testified that as the pastor began to preach, appellant came through the door, motioned to her, and asked her to come outside. She said that she was embarrassed that everyone was looking at her, so she finally got up and went outside to see what he wanted.

Brock said that when she got outside, appellant began accusing her of "messing around" with a person named Zack, and that appellant walked to his car and then back to where she was standing. She said that another woman from the congregation came outside and began pulling her back into the church, and that she went back into the church with the woman.

Brock testified that the next thing she knew, appellant was grabbing her collar and was wrestling her down to the ground, breaking her leg. Brock said that she did not know appellant had a gun until he pulled it out, and that her daughter was on appellant's back and one of her sons, Antoine, was in front of appellant telling appellant not to shoot his mama when she heard the gun go off. She testified that she saw appellant aim the gun at her leg and pull the trigger, shooting her in the knee. Brock testified that she has undergone nine surgeries on her leg as a result of the gunshot wound, that she can no longer stand on that leg for long periods of time without limping, and that she can "hardly work" because of her injuries.

Reverend Johnny Hill of the Christ Centered Fellowship Baptist Church testified that on Sunday, April 27, 2003, while he was in the pulpit preaching, he saw appellant come inside the church and make a motion toward Brock. After appellant motioned again, Brock got up and went outside. Reverend Hill said that he kept on preaching, but that his wife, Virginia, went outside to see what was happening. Reverend Hill said that Brock came back into the church after another parishioner went out and motioned for Brock to come back inside, which upset appellant. He testified that he saw appellant go to his truck and then follow Brock back into the building, wrestling Brock down to the floor on two occasions. Reverend Hill said that Brock tried to run around a corner to get away from appellant, but that appellant pulled out a gun and followed her, and that there was a gunshot. After that, Reverend Hill dismissed the church service and went to check on Brock, who was bleeding and appeared to be in a lot of pain. Reverend Hill said that after the gunshot, appellant came out, got into his yellow truck, and left.

Reverend Hill testified that he taped his sermons, and that on the tape from April 27, 2003, he could hear appellant's voice and that appellant was "gloating." Reverend Hill testified that you could not clearly hear what appellant was saying on the tape, but that appellant evidently "achieved what he wanted to do."

Virginia Hill, Reverend Hill's wife, testified that she saw appellant come into the church and motion for Brock, but that Brock did not leave. Mrs. Hill said that appellant then verbally asked Brock to come out, that she still did not go, and that appellant then asked Brock's youngest son, Ricardo, to come see him, but Brock told the child not to go. Ms. Hill testified that appellant left and then came back inside and told Brock to come outside again, which Brock did. Mrs. Hill said that when Brock left, two girls wentoutside as well, and that when one of them returned, you could hear an angry commotion outside. Mrs. Hill said that after Brock came back into the church, she saw appellant go around to the passenger's side of his truck, bend down, get a pistol, and put the gun down his pants in the small of his back; appellant then went into the church, made physical contact with Brock, and began pulling Brock. Mrs. Hill said that she ran to get some help at a police substation, heard a shot, and saw appellant walking from the area where she heard the gunshot. She said that when she saw appellant, he was nodding his head and saying something like "uh huh; now, yeah."

Antoine Harris, Brock's son, testified that after appellant called his mother outside, he, his sister, and his brother went outside. Antoine said that after his mother came back into the church, appellant followed her back inside; that he and appellant started wrestling; that appellant grabbed Brock by the legs; that he was trying to make appellant drop the gun but could not; and that when the gun went off, it was pointed at his mother's leg. Antoine said that he did not see appellant pull the trigger, but that after the gun went off, appellant just walked off.

At the close of the State's case, appellant moved for a directed verdict on the basis that the evidence did not show that there was a purposeful or intentional shot fired from the gun, but rather a reckless shot. The trial judge denied appellant's directed-verdict motion.

Appellant testified on his own behalf. He admitted that he went to the church to talk to Brock, that the conversation between them outside got heated, and that Brock went back into the church after a lady came out to get her. He said that he went into the church behind Brock because they were not finished talking and that they were going to finishtheir conversation. Appellant said that since he and Brock had broken up, there had been two attempts on his life, the second one that morning, and that was what he wanted to talk to her about. He said that there was a heated discussion in the back room, that he probably had his hands on Brock, but that he did not recall fighting with Antoine. He said he remembered that Antoine had his hands on him, and that he thought Antoine was trying to get the gun out of his hands. Appellant denied that he went back out to his vehicle to get the gun; rather, he said that he had the gun on him when he came to the church because someone had shot at him that morning. Appellant testified that he never took the gun out of his pants, but that it was falling out and he had just grabbed it. Appellant denied pulling the trigger or aiming the gun at Brock; he said that the gun just "went off." He said that he left after the gun went off because he panicked.

After appellant's testimony, he renewed his directed-verdict motion. This motion was again denied by the trial court.

A person commits the offense of first-degree domestic battering if, with the purpose of causing serious physical injury to a family or household member, he causes serious physical injury to a family or household member by means of a deadly weapon. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-26-303(a)(1)(A) (Supp. 2003). 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).

Intent or state of mind is seldom capable of proof by direct evidence and must usually be inferred from the circumstances of the crime. Taylor v. State, 77 Ark. App. 144, 72 S.W.3d 882 (2002). A presumption exists that a person intends the natural andprobable consequence of his acts. Id. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, there is sufficient evidence to support the finding that appellant purposely caused serious physical injury to Brock with a deadly weapon. Brock testified that she saw appellant aim the gun at her and pull the trigger. That testimony alone supports a finding that appellant purposely shot Brock.

Appellant argues that he offered an explanation for carrying the gun into the church and that, viewing the totality of the testimony, the trial court engaged in speculation and conjecture in finding that he acted with "purpose." However, our appellate courts do not look at the totality of the evidence when determining whether there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction; rather, we only look at the evidence supporting the verdict. In this case, there was sufficient evidence to support appellant's conviction for first-degree domestic battering.


Hart and Crabtree, JJ., agree.