LITTLE ROCK — A Fulton County man lost his appeal for a third murder trial Thursday in part because the state Supreme Court rejected his argument that a police detective should have been allowed to testify at his second trial as an expert on shooting people.
Richard T. Gordon of Viola was convicted of first-degree murder in Stone County Circuit Court and sentenced to life plus 15 years in prison last year at the end of is second trial in the 2009 shooting death of Joe Clifton.
Gordon’s case was moved from Fulton County after a jury there deadlocked in his first trial.
In appealing his conviction to the state Supreme Court, Gordon argued that Stone County Circuit Judge Timothy Weaver erred by not allowing a Little Rock police detective to testify as an expert on shooting people.
At his second trial, Gordon maintained he shot Clifton in self-defense. He said Clifton was sitting in the cab of his truck and had a rifle next to him. Gordon, who was carrying a pistol, said he fired at Clifton only after the victim “brought the rifle up.” He said he had no place to retreat and the only way to protect himself was by firing at Clifton.
However, witnesses testified Gordon and Clifton had been arguing over the location of a gate and that after the shooting, Clifton’s rifle was still lodged between the seat and the center console of the truck where he always kept it.
Gordon’s wife testified that he told her Clifton had begged him not to shoot him.
The defense also called Allen Quattlebaum, a Little Rock homicide detective, to testify and Gordon’s lawyer asked him if he had ever shot anyone. When the detective said he had, the attorney asked the officer, “based on your training and experience, will you tell us what happens to a person or what a person experiences when they are in the process or when they’re shooting someone?”
When prosecutors objected, Gordon’s attorney argued that the detective’s testimony as an expert would help explain to the jury how someone reacts when trained in how to use a weapon.
“When you start shooting someone you have tunnel vision … you revert to your training … and (it) is common not to hear the sound of the weapon discharging or to know how many shots were fired,” Gordon’s attorney argued.
The judge denied the defense request, ruling that Gordon had failed to show some reasonable basis demonstrating why the officer had the requisite knowledge to testify as an expert on the issue.
The high court also rejected Gordon’s argument Thursday in unanimously affirming his conviction.
“Gordon did not proffer anything that would have shown some reasonable basis demonstrating that (the officer) was qualified to testify as an expert on what a person experiences when he or she shoots another person,” Chief Justice Jim Hanna wrote in the court’s opinion.
The court also rejected Gordon’s argument that the trial judge should not have allowed into evidence information about a jailhouse fight he was involved in while jailed in Izard County. It said Gordon did not object to the use of the evidence during his trial and thus failed to preserve the issue for appeal.
Also Thursday, the high court affirmed the capital murder and aggravated assault convictions of Reginald Arnold in Pulaski County.
Arnold was sentenced to life in prison in December in the 2010 shooting death of Jose Martinez-Lopez. The state Supreme Court rejected his argument on appeal that Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen erred in refusing to hear post-trial testimony from a juror in support of Arnold’s motion for a new trial.
After Arnold’s trial, a juror sent a letter to the judge saying she might have misunderstood the instructions for capital murder and doubted whether she had followed the instructions correctly.
Griffen ruled that the letter “does not reference any extraneous prejudicial information that may have been brought improperly to the juror’s attention or any outside influence that may have been brought to bear upon her or any other juror.”
The Supreme Court affirmed the judge’s decision in a unanimous ruling Thursday.