Appeals Court upholds Grant County conviction

The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday agreed with a Grant County judge who refused to give a jury instructions on a lesser charge during a trial last year.

Derek Van Mullins, 28, was convicted of breaking or entering and theft of property last year in Grant County Circuit Court, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Mullins appealed the conviction, contending that Judge Chris Williams was wrong when he did not instruct the jury on a charge of criminal trespass as a lesser charge of breaking or entering during his trial.

Appeals Court Judge Larry D. Vaught said in the ruling that “there was no rational basis” for the instruction on criminal trespass.

During the trial, Mullins denied that he was the person who broke into the victim’s car in 2011 and took her jewelry and credit card, and the purse of another person, challenging witness identification of the person who broke into the vehicle having tattoos on both arms.

Mullins showed the jury that he had tattoos only on his right arm, and also offered testimony from a witness who said Mullins was working a construction job when the break-in occurred.

Mullins’ mother also testified that she had given Mullins the jewelry before the date the victim saw Mullins in her car.

Vaught said that because Mullins completely denied breaking into the vehicle, Williams did not abuse his discretion when he refused to issue the lesser jury instruction.

Mullins is serving his sentence at the Pine Bluff Unit and according to the Department of Corrections website, will be eligible to apply for parole in December 2015.