Sellers v. State

In Sellers v. State, 295 Ark. 489, 749 S.W.2d 669 (1988), the supreme court reversed and remanded John Sellers's conviction for capital-felony murder in connection with the death of William Byrd, an elderly man who lived alone and who was known to carry large sums of money on his person. Sellers and an associate had been drinking and decided to rob Byrd. The associate obtained an axe handle, and the two men went to Byrd's house late at night. Although Sellers professed that their plan was for him to hit Byrd with his fist, he knew his associate had procured the axe handle. The evidence showed that Byrd had been killed in a brutal beating with a blunt instrument. Writing for the court in Sellers, Justice Newbern quoted from the court's opinion in Parker, supra, and rejected the State's argument that Sellers was distinguishable from Parker because Sellers's intent on entering Byrd's house was to assault and batter him rather than to murder him. "While we can appreciate the state's argument that intent to commit assault and battery differs from intent to commit murder, we cannot find a way to say that the murder facilitated the burglary if the assault and battery were the underlying offenses. We cannot say that the murder facilitated the assault and battery as it was the very culmination of them. It was, therefore, error to have permitted the jury to find Sellers guilty of capital murder on the basis that it was committed in the course of burglary because the jury was not allowed to consider the robbery or any purpose for the entry of Mr. Byrd's home independent of the acts which resulted in his death." (Id. at 493, 749 S.W.2d at 671.)