The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld the capital murder conviction of 24-year-old Richard Ingram who was sentenced last December in Jackson County Circuit Court for beating his 23-month-old son to death.
According to a slip opinion from the Arkansas Supreme Court, Ingram, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, appealed on the assertion that the circuit court committed an error by removing a juror without justification. According to the documents, Circuit Court Judge Harold Erwin told jurors, "During any recess or adjournment you must not talk to any one of the attorneys, parties, or witnesses about anything. You should not even pass the time of day with them in the courthouse or anywhere else. I say this not because I think you would discuss the case with them but simply because it is not proper for you to be seen talking with one side or another. In other words it is important that you be and appear to be impartial at all times during the trial of this cause. . . . I again remind you not to discuss this case or talk at all with any attorneys, parties, or witnesses in this case." Based on the their opinion, the Supreme Court felt that the dismissed juror did just that. According to the documents, during the trial Sheriff David Lucas informed the circuit court that he had twice seen one the jurors speaking to the family of Ingram, three of whom had been named as potential witnesses. The circuit court interviewed the juror in question, according to the documents, who told them that she was talking to a coworker who was sitting on the same bench as the potential witnesses. She says that she mentioned something about coffee and one of the potential witnesses informed her where to get coffee. The court also interviewed the potential witnesses who told them that the juror had indeed asked about coffee, but another stated the the juror might have spoken to them during a recess, just to say hello. According to the documents, the circuit court first decided not to replace the juror, but after thinking if over further during a lunch break, decided to replace the juror with an alternate. The document states, "Ingram asserts that the circuit court erred in removing the juror without justification. He contends that there was no indication from the statements of the potential witnesses and the statements of the juror that anything improper had taken place, and that chosen jurors should remain impaneled unless impropriety or bias is demonstrated. Despite Ingram’s assertions to the contrary, the circuit court had a clear justification for removing the juror. The circuit court instructed the jurors not to speak with any of the 'parties, attorneys, or witnesses.' The juror did just that. The circuit court was also troubled by the variances in the statements of the juror and the potential witnesses." The Supreme Court's opinion was that "the circuit court clearly considered the matter carefully and made the decision to remove the juror because they were troubled by the inconsistency between the juror's statement and statements of the prospective witnesses. Therefore, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion."