Appeals Court sends Moody appeal back for more information

The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday sent back an appeal filed by Olivia Moody of her second-degree murder conviction, saying the appeal failed to include some information the court needed.

Appeals Court Judge Brandon J. Harrison said in the ruling that the appeal paperwork did not contain a copy of the written jury instructions and those were needed “to make an informed decision in this case.”

After a trial last year, Moody was sentenced to 30 years in prison after a jury found her guilty in the June 26, 2011, shooting death of Vanessa Bearden, 21, who was shot in the parking lot of the Sunset Village Apartments at 2611 W. 34th Ave. and was taken to Jefferson Regional Medical Center where she was pronounced dad of a gunshot wound to the back.

Moody was originally charged with first-degree murder but the jury chose to convict her of a lesser charge.

The appeal, filed by Pine Bluff Attorney Gene McKissic, included five separate points arguing that Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis erred during the trial.

Those alleged errors were:

• Permitting the state to cross-examine Moody about a Facebook post;

• Admitting text messages from her cell phone;

• Limiting cross-examination of a state witness in violation of her Sixth Amendment rights;

• Abusing its discretion because it failed to submit her proffered instruction to the jury;

• Denied her directed-verdict motion because the state failed to negate her justification defense.

The appeal indicated that written instructions were sent to the jury when they began deliberating, and a handwritten note entered into the trial record indicated the jury asked three questions, which Dennis answered by telling them they had to refer to the jury instructions.

In his defense of Moody, McKissic said that the shooting of Bearden was in self-defense after a group of several women, including Bearden, followed Moody after she left her apartment and reportedly started a fight with her.

In his closing argument, McKissic described the group as “a pack of hyenas,” and said “they stalked her, ran her down, and group tackled her.

“They knocked her down, put her in a ditch and hit and kicked her,” McKissic said.

Deputy Prosecutor Bryan Achorn — who, with Deputy Prosecutor Jill Reed, represented the state — said in his closing argument that the shooting was “not self-defense.

“She (Moody) went looking for a fight and a girl got dead,” Achorn said.

The Appeals Court gave McKissic 30 days to file the requested additional information and then seven days after that to file a supplemental appeal.