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KRYSTAL V. PEER v. STATE OF ARKANSAS
Case Number: 2020 Ark. App. 181
Judge: BART F. VIRDEN
Court: ARKANSAS COURT OF APPEALS
Plaintiff's Attorney: Rachel Kemp, Sr. Ass’t Att’y Gen
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Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-97-101 (Repl. 2016) provides that criminal
prosecutions in which a jury sits as the trier of fact are bifurcated into a guilt-innocence
1Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 4-2(a)(8) provides that an appellant’s addendum
shall contain true and legible copies of the non-transcript documents in the record on
appeal that are essential for the appellate court to confirm its jurisdiction, to understand
the case, and to decide the issues on appeal. Not a single page of appellant’s addendum is
phase and a penalty phase. Helms v. State, 92 Ark. App. 79, 211 S.W.3d 53 (2005). A trial
court’s decision to admit evidence in the penalty phase of a trial is reviewed for an abuse of
discretion. Id. The abuse-of-discretion standard is a high threshold that does not simply
require error in the trial court’s decision, but requires that the trial court act
improvidently, thoughtlessly, or without due consideration. Boykins v. State, 2013 Ark.
App. 463. Nor will we reverse absent a showing of prejudice. Id. The admissibility of proof
in the penalty phase of a jury trial is governed by the Arkansas Rules of Evidence; however,
pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-97-103, certain evidence is admissible at the penalty
phase that would not have been admissible at the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. Helms,
Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-97-103 provides that evidence relevant to
sentencing by either the court or a jury may include prior convictions of the defendant—
both felony and misdemeanor. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-97-103(2). The jury may be advised as
to the nature of the previous convictions, the date and place thereof, the sentence received,
and the date of release from confinement or supervision from all prior offenses. Id.
Relevant evidence under this section may also include evidence of the defendant’s
character and of aggravating circumstances. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-97-103(5) & (6); see
Helms, supra (holding that, in a residential-burglary and theft case, evidence that Helms was
out on bond when he was accused, but not yet convicted, of forgery was admissible in that
it provided proof of his character).
“Relevant evidence” means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of
any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less
probable than it would be without the evidence. Ark. R. Evid. 401. Relevant evidence is
generally admissible. Ark. R. Evid. 402. Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its
probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Ark. R. Evid.
403. Evidence offered by the State is often likely to be prejudicial to the accused, but the
evidence should not be excluded unless the accused can show that it lacks probative value
in view of the risk of unfair prejudice. Chunestudy v. State, 2012 Ark. 222, 408 S.W.3d 55.
II. Penalty Phase
At sentencing, the State sought to introduce three exhibits comprising Peer’s prior
convictions. Exhibits 5 and 6 referred to felony convictions, while exhibit 4 was a
sentencing order on two misdemeanor offenses (third-degree battery and criminal
mischief). The following colloquy occurred:
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Objection to 5 and 6, Your Honor. No objection to 4.
It’s a judgment on a misdemeanor.
[PROSECUTOR]: It’s still admissible.
THE COURT: The issue is whether it’s relevant to a sentencing
decision I would assume. And your position is it is
because they’re both A misdemeanors?
[PROSECUTOR]: Yes, sir, Your Honor. And that they’re violent offenses
and so—or at least the one battery in the third is—is a
violent offense. So the jury can take that into
2This is an accurate reflection of the record.
It also shows a very lengthy period of criminal activity in
which she’s been involved in. I think that was her first
case. Then she had another drug—drug paraphernalia or
drug fraud case where she received probation. If you
look at the judgment in State’s Exhibit 5, that was
subsequently revoked, and she received a five-year
sentence. She then got out in 2017, committed a new
offense in State’s Exhibit 6, for which she received
probation that she’s currently on probation for right
THE COURT: Very well. [Exhibits] 5 and 6 will be admitted without
objection. [Exhibit] 4, I find that there is some
relevance to the sentencing issue, and it will be
admitted over the objection that Mr. Robinson has
Anything else before we—I assume you still want to call
. . . .
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: I have an objection to the misdemeanor. He wants it in
there because it’s about violence.
THE COURT: Right.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: There’s nothing about violence in this case. There may
have been violence in some of her other cases. In fact,
THE COURT: Well, I would agree with you in that regard. But it’s
still, I think, relevant evidence in a sentencing decision,
and that’s the reason I’m letting it in.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Very well, Your Honor.
In his closing argument, the prosecutor told the jury about Peer’s 2006
misdemeanor convictions for third-degree battery and criminal mischief and said that she
had received probation for both offenses. He then went on to say that Peer’s next offense
was a felony committed while she was on probation for the 2006 convictions.
Peer argues that the trial court expressly premised its ruling on relevance. When she
“renewed” her objection, she contrasted the violent nature of third-degree battery with the
absence of evidence of violence in her trial for delivery of a controlled substance. She
asserts that, instead of undertaking a Rule 403 analysis, the trial court simply repeated its
previous ruling on relevance. Peer relies on Peebles v. State, 2019 Ark. App. 483, 588
S.W.3d 555, in which this court reversed the appellant’s conviction for second-degree
sexual assault because the trial court erred in overruling the appellant’s objection to
evidence without conducting a Rule 403 analysis and finding only that the evidence was
Peebles is distinguishable in that the trial court misapplied the law in commenting
from the bench that Rule 403 was inapplicable in the penalty phase. Peebles is also
distinguishable in that counsel objected, specifically arguing that the probative value of the
evidence was outweighed by the prejudice under Rule 403. Here, Peer did not cite Rule
403 and did not request or refer to any balancing analysis. While it is true that objections
need not cite specific rules to be sufficient, this court has made clear that a specific
objection is necessary in order to preserve an issue for appeal. Gilliland v. State, 2010 Ark.
135, 361 S.W.3d 279. To preserve an argument for appeal, there must be an objection to
the trial court that is sufficient to apprise it of the particular error alleged, and the appellate
court will not address arguments raised for the first time on appeal. Id. Peer’s argument is
We conclude that Peer’s objection at the penalty phase was only to the
misdemeanor conviction’s relevance. To the extent Peer’s objection could be construed as
one pertaining to Rule 403, it was Peer’s burden to obtain a ruling from the trial court on
that basis. Baumann v. State, 2018 Ark. App. 564, 566 S.W.3d 494; Dolson v. State, 2018
Ark. App. 440, 558 S.W.3d 899 (recognizing that Dolson’s failure to obtain a ruling
rendered his argument not preserved for review).
In any event, Peer cannot—and does not even attempt to—demonstrate prejudice. In
general, a defendant who is sentenced within the statutory range, and short of the
maximum sentence, cannot establish prejudice from the admission of evidence at the
penalty phase. Shreck v. State, 2016 Ark. App. 374, 499 S.W.3d 677; Holley v. State, 2014
Ark. App. 557, 444 S.W.3d 884. Peer was convicted as a habitual offender of a Class D
felony, which is punishable by imprisonment of not more than twelve years. Ark. Code
Ann. § 5-4-501(a)(2)(E) (Supp. 2019). Peer received only a nine-year sentence, so she
cannot show prejudice from admission of the evidence.
Outcome: Accordingly, we affirm Peer’sconviction for delivery of a controlled substance.