BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed a decision made by a Polk County jury in the case of Daniel Stover, age 28, who was convicted and sentenced in April 2016 of one count of Rape (an enhanced sentence of life without parole), two counts of First Degree Sexual Assault (an enhanced sentence of two terms of life), one count of Second Degree Sexual Assault (twenty years), and one count of Sexual Grooming of a Minor (six years). For those charges, as well as a previous sexual offense conviction, Stover was deemed a habitual offender and all sentences are to run consecutively.
Stover appealed the decision, arguing that Polk County Circuit Court erred by allowing the State to request enhanced punishment based on conduct that occurred prior to the conviction that was used for enhancement purposes.
The habitual offender enhanced penalty on the charges was due to a previous conviction of Sexual Assault in the First Degree for which Stover was already serving a five year sentence in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
In the official Slip Opinion of the Supreme Court of Arkansas, it states: Prior to trial, Stover objected to the enhanced sentencing ranges on the first-degree sexual-assault and rape charges. He argued that the alleged sexual misconduct giving rise to the charges in this case occurred prior to his September 16, 2015 conviction for first-degree sexual assault, an offense to which he had pled guilty on June 8, 2015… Stover asserted that it would violate his due-process rights to subject him to an increased range of punishment for conduct that occurred before the September 2015 conviction.
When Stover’s lawyer presented the argument in Polk County Circuit Court during the trial, the court denied the objection. In the same Slip Opinion, it states: The circuit court denied Stover’s objection, noting that the habitual-offender statute makes no such distinction based on a timeline of the conduct underlying the offenses. Specifically, he contends that his due process rights were violated by allowing an “ex post facto application of the enhancement,” resulting in a punishment that he had no notice of at the time the offenses in this case were committed.
However, Supreme Court Associate Justice Courtney Goodson explains in the opinion that because Stover only brought up his due process rights during the original trial, and not an ex post facto, he can not now bring up the latter on appeal. “As the State explains, the passage of an ex post facto law is a separate concept from a circuit court’s application of a law without sufficient notice for due-process purposes. An appellant may not change the grounds for his argument on appeal and is instead limited to the scope and nature of the objections presented at trial,” states Goodson.
Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner, who prosecuted the case in Polk County said, “I am delighted the Supreme Court affirmed the jury’s verdict and kept this dangerous sexual predator behind bars. Holding sexual predators accountable is a high priority for our team, especially those offenders who repeatedly victimize children.”
Stover, whose victims included a child “thirteen years of age or younger,” on his loss of appeal, will remain in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.