LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Arkansas' Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal filed by a Randolph County man sentenced to four life terms for the brutal deaths of a Dalton family 15 years ago.
Billy Dale Green, 57, said Circuit Judge Harold S. Erwin should have declared a mistrial at least three times when jurors heard incriminating statements they were later told to ignore. Green also complained the cumulative effect of the errors influenced the jury.
But in a split decision Thursday, justices upheld Green's four capital-murder convictions and a separate kidnapping count that netted him 40 years in prison.
Green's lawyers did not return a telephone call left at their offices Thursday seeking comment.
One of Green's sons, Chad Green, was sentenced to life in prison after a separate trial. Billy Green said his son committed the slayings but that he only helped cover them up.
Billy Green had been sentenced to death for the killings, but justices set aside his verdict in 2006 after learning a prosecutor didn't share the transcript of an interview in which Chad Green told a different story.
Lisa Elliott and her son, Gregory, 6, were found beaten and stabbed July 30, 1998, while her husband, Greg, and their daughter, Felicia, 8, were missing. Carl Elliott's body was found two days later in the Eleven Point River, while Felicia Elliott's remains were found Sept. 7, 2000, in Mud Creek about a half-mile from where Billy Green lived.
Billy Green's family members testified that he left the night of the Elliotts' deaths, saying he had to "clean up a mess" created by Chad Green.
At his trial, Billy Green's ex-wife Mary Green said he left wearing a trench coat that she never saw again, but while being cross-examined she said she had not been "free to tell the truth" to police.
The defense believed the remark implied to jurors that Mary Green was under Billy Green's control and asked for a mistrial, but the Supreme Court said that because the defense lawyer had asked the question, and because it was a legitimate answer, they wouldn't set aside the verdict. Erwin told jurors to disregard the comment.
Another woman testified that she had traded "sex for drugs" from Billy Green when she was 15. Erwin also told jurors to disregard the remark.
And Billy Green also wanted a mistrial based on his belief that prosecutors tried to violate his right to remain silent when they questioned him on the stand. The court said prosecutors didn't.
Also in the appeal, Billy Green complained that testimony from a jailhouse informant wasn't backed up by other witnesses. The informant, Phillip Shockey, told jurors that Billy Green had said behind bars that he and Chad Green kept Felicia Elliott alive and raped her over the course of two days before Billy Green took her into a creek and slit her throat.
"Shockey testified that Billy explained the murders as follows: everyone thought the Elliott murders were about drugs but it was actually about Chad 'messing' with Felicia and that Carl and Lisa Elliott knew about it," the court wrote. He said Chad Green agreed to meet Carl Elliott to talk, then shot Elliott before killing Lisa and Gregory Elliott.
Three judges said they couldn't agree that Billy Green committed or was an accomplice to the killings of Carl, Lisa and Gregory Elliott but supported findings about Felicia Elliott's death.