Tate murder conviction upheld by appeals court

The Arkansas Court of Appeals rejected claims Wednesday by an Ashley County man that there was not enough evidence to support his conviction for first-degree murder.

Tyrone Tate, 22, of Crossett, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for first-degree murder, and an additional 15 years for using a firearm during the commission of the crime. Those sentences were to run consecutively. He will be eligible to apply for parole in 2049.

Testimony during his trial in Ashley County Circuit Court indicated the victim, Amanda Kelly, was shot in the back of the head while driving an automobile in which Tate was a passenger, and was reportedly sitting behind Kelly.

Another passenger in the car, Adam Brooks, testified that he heard a gunshot from his left side and “saw fire come from the gun.” Brooks was sitting in the back seat with Tate.

Issac Patton, who was sitting in the front seat, also testified and said a “shot went off” in his left ear, the car ran into a ditch, and when he tried to get out of the vehicle, saw Tate “pointing a gun” at him.

Tate also reportedly told Patton the shooting was accidental.

Also testifying was Johnny Mack Jones Jr., a cellmate of Tate’s in the Ashley County jail, who said Tate told him he shot Kelly and that he was “paid $500.”

The state medical examiner testified that the gunshot wound to Kelly was on the back, right and upper part of Kelly’s head and that stipple marks indicated that the gun was very close to the head.

On appeal, Tate argued that the witness testimony was not credible because it required the jury to “resort to speculation and conjecture.”

Appeals Court Judge Rita Gruber said in the court ruling that “the jury is free to believe all or part of any of the witnesses’ testimony and may resolve questions of conflicting testimony and inconsistent evidence.”

“In the instant case, the jury believed the testimony of eyewitnesses and the testimony of these witnesses was not inherently improbable, physically impossible, or so clearly unbelievable that reasonable minds could not differ thereon,” Gruber said. “We will not second guess the jury’s credibility determination.”