The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Vadarian Meadows. Meadows was convicted of Capital Felony Murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Today at the Supreme Court there was a familiar principle argument being heard. Appellant asked the Court to overrule countless opinions holding that the Capital Felony Murder and Felony Murder in the First Degree statutes are identical with respect to Robbery; therefore, they are void for vagueness.
The Court has rejected this argument over and over because looking at the two statutes independently they are not vague. Each statute spells out exactly what is prohibited. Appellant’s argument avoided this issue entirely. Appellant repeatedly harped on the fact that one of the jurors contacted defense counsel after deliberations and stated that the jury felt like it had to select Capital as opposed to First Degree. This is true. The jury is not allowed to consider a lesser-included until it has acquitted of a greater charge. If the two charges are the same then a defendant can never theoretically get convicted of the identical lesser. However, this does not mean they are vague. They are simply overlapping and the prosecuting attorneys in Arkansas may seek either at their discretion.
Regardless, the case has a few holes. Appellant failed to preserve the issue by filing a motion prior to trial on the issue of vagueness. Appellant also cannot use the jury deliberations to support his argument because Rule 606 prevents a court from inquiring into the deliberations to protect the sanctity of deliberations. Therefore, ultimately this challenge will fail.
In other news, the Arkansas Supreme Court overruled a multi-million dollar verdict against Yanmar, Inc. on the basis of insufficient evidence and lack of personal jurisdiction. The opinion was well-written and kudos go to Appellant’s attorneys for a great job at oral argument.