932 S.W.2d 312 (Ark. 1996), 96-605, Peeler v. State

Docket Nº:CR 96-605.
Citation:932 S.W.2d 312, 326 Ark. 423
Opinion Judge:[17] The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Newbern, Justice.
Party Name:John Christopher PEELER, Appellant, v. STATE of Arkansas, Appellee.
Attorney:[14] William C. McArthur, for appellant. [15] Winston Bryant, Att'y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Asst. Att'y Gen., [326 Ark Page 425] [16] for appellee.
Case Date:October 28, 1996
Court:Supreme Court of Arkansas
 
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Page 312

932 S.W.2d 312 (Ark. 1996)

326 Ark. 423

John Christopher PEELER, Appellant,

v.

STATE of Arkansas, Appellee.

No. CR 96-605.

Supreme Court of Arkansas.

October 28, 1996.

Page 313

[326 Ark. 424] William C. McArthur, Little Rock, for appellant.

Winston Bryant, Attorney General, Little Rock, [326 Ark. 425] for appellee.

NEWBERN, Justice.

John Christopher Peeler was convicted of capital murder for having killed Chris Cummings. Mr. Peeler was referred to at the trial as "Chris Peeler." Chris Cummings disappeared in 1992. Amy Blankenship was Mr. Peeler's fifteen-year-old girlfriend at that time. She became Amy Peeler when she married Mr. Peeler on her sixteenth birthday in 1993. At Chris Peeler's trial, which took place in 1996, Amy Peeler testified about her role in kidnapping Mr. Cummings prior to the murder. Mr. Peeler contends that, as Amy Peeler was his alleged accomplice, corroborating evidence sufficient to demonstrate that the crime was committed and that he was connected with it was required and that it was not forthcoming. His second point is that the Trial Court erred in refusing his request for a mistrial when a witness testified he thought Mr. Peeler was "guilty." We hold the evidence corroborating Ms. Peeler's testimony was sufficient and that any prejudice resulting from the testimony which gave rise to the mistrial motion was not such as to require reversal. We affirm the judgment in which Mr. Peeler was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

On the evening of December 19, 1992, Chris Cummings, a tenth-grade student, told his parents that he was going to watch a movie with "Amy" and that he would be back later. Chris did not return. The next day his parents instigated a search and notified police authorities. His picture was circulated on flyers and on milk cartons to no avail. Investigators recovered neither his body nor any physical evidence that could reveal what happened to him.

In December 1994, the police received a call from a friend of Amy Peeler who said Amy had revealed that her husband, Chris Peeler, killed Chris Cummings because Cummings had raped her. The police arrested Amy Peeler, and she gave them a statement, repeated at Chris Peeler's trial, implicating her husband in the murder of Chris Cummings.

Mr. Peeler was arrested and charged with kidnapping and capital murder. The State waived the death penalty, and the case proceeded to trial. Chris Cummings's father testified that on the evening of Saturday, December 19, 1992, Chris Cummings was given permission to go out to watch a movie with a girl named Amy who had called their home that evening. He stated that Chris [326 Ark. 426] Cummings had not previously run away and had always returned home within fifteen minutes of his...

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