A man convicted of killing a woman and burning her apartment in Ouachita County will get a new trial after the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that it could not adequately review his case due to missing records.
The unanimous decision by the high court's seven justices determined that the "records deficiencies remain palpable" after attempts came up short to reconstruct missing jury instructions, juror notes and details of bench conferences from the murder-and-arson trial of Eric Thrower.
Thrower, 30, is serving a life sentence at the East Arkansas Regional Unit for the 2016 murder of Erika Batton in Camden.
According to court records and news archives, Thrower was implicated in the slaying by his sister and friends, who said that Thrower had identified Batton as a "snitch" against one of his friends and gone into a rage.
Thrower's sister, Francine Cobb, testified that she had seen Thrower enter Batton's apartment, where she heard a "horrible gut-wrenching scream" before Thrower returned with blood spatters on his clothes.
Investigators determined that Batton's apartment was set on fire after she was assaulted. A bloody shoe print outside the apartment the same size as Thrower's feet was the only physical evidence linking him to the crime, according to court records.
Still, the majority opinion by Justice Rhonda Wood on Thursday stated that there was sufficient evidence to support Thrower's convictions for first-degree murder and arson.
According to Wood's opinion, attempts were made to reconstruct missing records regarding 14 bench conferences and two court recesses. However, the attorneys for both sides of the case could only agree on what happened during five bench conferences.
Further confusion arose when the circuit judge, Robin Carroll, recalled agreeing to include in instructions to the jury information about possible lesser charges, only to later find a transcript that did not mention such instructions.
"The issue is weightier than merely whether Thrower prevails in arguing he was entitled to lesser-included jury instructions," Wood wrote. "The ultimate issue is whether the record is sufficiently complete for this court to conduct a thorough appellate review."
Metro on 09/14/2018
Print Headline: Arkansas Supreme Court orders new trial for convicted killer