A man who received a life sentence for the 2015 murder of Jesse Hamilton at Raceway is entitled to a new trial due to testimony about previous incidents that was improperly admitted into the trial, ruled the Arkansas Supreme Court last week.
According to the opinion, Stanton and Hamilton got into a fight at the Raceway on State Line Ave. when Stanton pulled out a gun and shot and killed Hamilton.
Stanton was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder and 15 years in prison for employing a firearm to commit murder.
On cross-examination, the State asked Stanton whether he is a peaceful and law abiding citizen. Stanton’s counsel objected, asserting that Stanton had not testified regarding his peacefulness. The court concluded that the State could “go forward now that [Stanton’s] character has been placed into issue.”
During the State’s cross-examination, Stanton testified that eight years ago he had pulled a gun to stop a threat. He testified that a man had approached him at his office in a threatening manner, that he got in his vehicle and left his office, and that the man followed him to his home and tried to drive him off the road. Stanton testified that when he arrived home, he pulled his gun, and the man left. The State further asked Stanton if he had ever hit a woman in the head. Stanton testified that he had slapped a woman before, which bloodied her nose. He testified that he struck her because she had “herpes on the corner of her mouth” and had spit in his face.
The Supreme Court said it was improper for the circuit court to allow the State to present testimony regarding Stanton’s character for lack of peacefulness because there was no testimony on that characteristic for the State to rebut. The court said the defense was based on a claim that the shooting was justified and that he did not say during direct examination that he was peaceful.