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WILLIE NOBLE V. STATE OF ARKANSAS
Case Number: 2017 Ark. 142
Judge: RHONDA K. WOOD
Court: SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS
Plaintiff's Attorney: n
Brad Newman, Ass’t Att’y Gen
Defendant's Attorney: n
Ronald L. Davis
Description: A Pulaski County jury convicted the appellant, Willie Noble, of first-degree murder
and six counts of terroristic acts. It also found him guilty of using a firearm during the
commission of a felony on each count. He was sentenced to 240 months for first-degree
murder with an additional 120 months’ enhancement for use of a firearm to be served
consecutively. In addition, he was fined $1,000 for each of the six felony terroristic acts and
was sentenced to 36 months for each of the firearm enhancements to be served concurrently.
On appeal, Noble argues that the circuit court erred in not granting his motions for directed
verdict on all charges. We affirm Noble’s convictions.
In February 2014, several teenagers went to Noble’s home to play a prank on Noble’s
son by throwing toilet paper, leaves, and mayonnaise on his son’s car. Noble was alerted
by his dog barking, but by the time he looked outside and saw the toilet paper and leaves
on the car, the teenagers had left. However, they returned later that night with eggs to
throw at Noble’s house and at a neighbor’s house. This time, as the teenagers were leaving
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in their car, Noble came outside with a gun and began shooting in the direction of the
teenagers’ car. Noble fired multiple shots at the car, shattering the driver’s-side window,
cracking the windshield, and leaving several bullet holes in the vehicle. Adrian Broadway,
who was seated in the front passenger seat, was shot in the head and killed by one of Noble’s
The jury convicted Noble of first-degree murder and six terroristic acts. It also found
him guilty of using a firearm during the commission of a felony with regard to each count.
On appeal, Noble contends the circuit court erred by denying his motions for directed
verdict because the evidence did not demonstrate that his purpose in firing his weapon was
to cause property damage and because Broadway’s death was not caused “in furtherance of”
the terroristic acts as required by the felony-murder statute, Arkansas Code Annotated
section 5-10-102(a)(1) (Repl. 2013).
We treat a motion for directed verdict as a challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence. Kinsey v. State, 2016 Ark. 393, 503 S.W.3d 772. The test for determining the
sufficiency of the evidence is whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence. Id.
Substantial evidence is evidence that is of sufficient force and character that it will, with
reasonable certainty, compel a conclusion one way or the other, without resorting to
speculation or conjecture. Id. In reviewing a sufficiency challenge, we view the evidence
in the light most favorable to the State, considering only evidence that supports the verdict.
Noble contends the circuit court should have granted his directed-verdict motions
in regard to the terroristic acts. He argues there was insufficient evidence that he shot the
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vehicle occupied by the victim with the intent to cause property damage. He asserts that
the only testimony regarding his intent was the statement he gave to the police in which he
claimed that he shot with the purpose of scaring away the people in the car. However, the
jury was not required to accept his statement as true and was free to believe the testimony
of other witnesses. Indeed, a person’s state of mind at the time of a crime is seldom apparent
and ordinarily cannot be proven by direct evidence. Rollins v. State, 2009 Ark. 484, 347
S.W.3d 20. For this reason, members of the jury are allowed to draw upon their common
knowledge and experience to infer it from the circumstances. Id. Because of the difficulty
in ascertaining a person’s intent, a presumption exists that a person intends the natural and
probable consequences of his or her acts. Davis v. State, 2009 Ark. 478, 348 S.W.3d 553.
From the trial testimony, a jury could have concluded that Noble’s actions showed
that he shot the vehicle with the purpose of causing property damage. One of the teenagers
testified at trial that Noble pointed the gun and shot at the car four or five times. He did
not see Noble aim the gun toward the ground. Another teenager similarly stated that she
saw Noble aim and shoot the gun at the car. In addition, police officers testified to the
damage to the car as the result of the shooting, including a shattered driver’s-side window,
cracked windshield, and bullet holes in the driver’s-side door and in the rear quarter panel.
We hold that this evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s inference that Noble shot the
vehicle with the intent to cause property damage.
Next, Noble argues that under the circumstances of this case, he did not shoot and
kill Broadway in furtherance of the commission of the terroristic acts. The felony murder
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A person commits murder in the first degree if, acting alone or with one or more other persons, the person commits or attempts to commit a felony and, in the course of and in furtherance of the felony or in immediate flight from the felony, the person or an accomplice causes the death of any person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.
Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-102(a)(1).
Noble argues that in order for the State to prove that he caused Broadway’s death
“in the course of and in furtherance of” committing a terroristic act, it must demonstrate
that the murder was done to facilitate the terroristic act. Noble cites Parker v. State, 292
Ark. 421, 731 S.W.2d 756 (1987), and Craig v. State, 70 Ark. App. 71, 14 S.W.3d 893
(2000), in support of this argument. He contends that Parker stands for the proposition that
the language “in the course of and in furtherance of” requires that the death facilitated the
felony. This is simply a misinterpretation of Parker. In Parker, the defendant was convicted
of the felony murder of James Warren and Sandra Warren. 292 Ark. 421, 731 S.W.2d 756.
Parker drove to the home of James Warren, his ex-wife’s father, and as Warren and his
daughter were getting into their vehicle, Parker began shooting at them. Id. He ultimately
chased Warren into his home where he killed him and his wife, Sandra Warren. Id. The
court reversed because the felony-murder statute could not be read to encompass the facts,
which clearly showed that Parker entered the Warren house, which was the felony, with
the sole purpose to commit murder. Id. at 425, 731 S.W.2d at 758. The court explained,
For the phrase “in the course of and in furtherance of the felony” to have any meaning, the burglary must have an independent objective which the murder facilitates. In this instance, the burglary and murder have the same objective. That objective, the intent to kill, is what makes the underlying act of entry into the home a burglary. The burglary was actually no more than one step toward the commission of the murder and was not to facilitate the murder.
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Id. at 427, 731 S.W.2d at 759 (emphasis added). Thus, the felony-murder statute does not
include a fact pattern where “in the course of and in furtherance of” a murder, one commits
a felony and thus can be charged with felony murder. Those were the facts in Parker. The
burglary and the murder had the same objective: to kill. The killings could not be in
furtherance of a burglary because the burglary was only a means of achieving the murders.
Likewise, in Craig v. State, the defendant, after a series of disagreements and
arguments with Jake McKinnon, beat him so severely that he died. 70 Ark. App. 71, 14
S.W.3d 893 (2000). Craig was convicted of first-degree felony murder. Id. The court of
appeals noted that the trial evidence showed that Craig “assaulted, beat, and kicked Jake
McKinnon in furtherance of the homicide, not in furtherance of committing an
independent felony.” Id. at 79, 14 S.W.3d at 899. Accordingly, Parker and Craig establish
that in order to be convicted of felony murder, the defendant must have an intent or
objective to commit the underlying felony as opposed to the primary goal of murder.
Looking at the plain language of the statute, “a person commits murder in the first
degree if, . . . in the course of and in furtherance of the felony [terroristic act] . . . , the
person . . . cause[s] the death of any person . . . .” Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-102(a)(1). Here,
after reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, we conclude that there
was substantial evidence that Noble “in the course of and in furtherance of” committing
the terroristic acts of shooting at an occupied vehicle with the intent to cause property
damage, caused the death of Broadway. Thus, unlike Parker and Craig, the death occurred
“in the course of and in furtherance of” the felony, as opposed to the felony occurring “in
the course of and in furtherance of” the murder. Noble had an independent objective to
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commit terroristic acts, and his intent related to the acts of terrorism, not to murder. See
Perry v. State, 371 Ark. 170, 177–78, 264 S.W.3d 498, 503(2007) (“[T]he culpable intent
or mens rea relates to the crime of the underlying felony . . . and not to the murder itself.)