Jury finds Brown guilty of mur­der

Ju­rors opt for sec­ond-de­gree con­vic­tion; sen­tenc­ing to­day

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - RON WOOD

FAYET­TEVILLE — A Wash­ing­ton County jury found Rashad San­ton Brown guilty of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, which is a lesser of­fense than he was charged with for killing Cedric Oliver.

Brown, 19, killed Cedric Oliver, 19, of Spring­dale at a party Dec. 12, 2015, at 811 W. Peachtree Drive. He was 17 when the stab­bing oc­curred and he was orig­i­nally charged with first-de­gree mur­der.

A sen­tenc­ing hear­ing and for­mal sen­tenc­ing is set for to­day. Brown faces six to 30 years in prison, fines of up to $15,000 or both.

The jury went out just af­ter 3 p.m. and re­turned about 5:30 p.m. with a ver­dict. In ad­di­tion to first- de­gree mur­der, ju­rors were able to con­sider the lesser in­cluded of­fenses of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, man­slaugh­ter or neg­li­gent homi­cide.

The two had an ar­gu­ment at the party that es­ca­lated into a fight. Brown stabbed Oliver in the heart, ac­cord­ing to a med­i­cal ex­am­iner who tes­ti­fied Tues­day.

Po­lice found Oliver col­lapsed in the front yard and he was pro­nounced dead at Wash­ing­ton Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter a short time later. Brown ran from the stab­bing scene but turned him­self into po­lice later that day.

Brown said the two were friends and the stab­bing was ac­ci­den­tal. Brown told ju­rors he thought some of Oliver’s friends were go­ing to jump into the fight and at­tack him and he pan­icked. Brown said some­one hit him in the back of the head. He pulled out a knife and opened it to scare the crowd back and Oliver ran into the blade.

“I didn’t try to stab him. I was pan­icked, I was dazed, I thought I was go­ing to get jumped,” Brown said. “I popped it open and he was right there. He just started spin­ning.”

Brown broke down sob­bing and laid his head on the wit­ness stand as he told the jury his ver­sion of events.

“I didn’t have any in­ten­tions of hurt­ing him, I just wanted to get away,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to fight. I knew he wasn’t a fighter, I’m not a fighter and I just wanted to squash the sit­u­a­tion.”

That story didn’t square with other wit­nesses, who said Brown ran some 10 feet to­ward Oliver and plunged the knife into his chest with both hands.

One of the big­gest ques­tions dur­ing the trial was what started the fight. Brown said some of his friends told him Oliver and one of Oliver’s friends were up­set with over an ar­gu­ment Brown had with Oliver’s friend while play­ing bas­ket­ball. Brown said he was try­ing to talk to Oliver to find out why he was up­set.

“It was re­ally a he-said-she-said that started it,” Brown said. “I re­ally didn’t want to fight. I didn’t know what the is­sue was.”

Brown said Oliver stepped on his shoes at the party and punched him first while they were in­side. Brown said he didn’t try to punch Oliver dur­ing the mul­ti­ple scuf­fles.

“I didn’t throw no punches,” Brown said. “I just grabbed him.”

Brian Lamb, deputy prose­cu­tor, told ju­rors the case hinged on Brown’s in­tent.

“What did he do? He pulled a knife from his pocket. He charged across a dis­tance be­tween him­self and Cedric af­ter they had been sep­a­rated and he pushed a knife into his heart. Those were his ac­tions,” Lamb said. “Are those ac­tions enough to de­ter­mine what was in his mind? You bet they are, that’s pur­pose. That is act­ing with pur­pose.”

Lamb asked ju­rors to look at how Brown acted.

“When you con­ceal the knife and you push it into his chest and you bang him into the back of the car, that is act­ing with pur­pose,” Lamb said. “That is mur­der in the first de­gree.”

Lamb said no one else had a weapon and no­body threat­ened to kill Brown. Brown fled, threw the knife away, stashed his car and avoided po­lice.

Paul Younger, Brown’s at­tor­ney, said Oliver’s friends or some­one in­ter­vened in the fight caus­ing Brown to fear for his life. Younger said the state failed to show req­ui­site in­tent to kill.

“In this case the fa­tal wound was in­flicted dur­ing a fight and it’s dis­puted whether or not the wound was in­flicted in­ten­tion­ally,” Younger said. “It’s just un­likely that a sin­gle stab wound lo­cated in the per­fect spot in the chest where there was no bone or any­thing to get in the way and go straight to the heart, that that was an in­ten­tional act. It’s un­for­tu­nate that in this case the pocket knife went in that one spot and went di­rectly into Cedric’s heart.”

Brown

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