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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Frank Wayne Beck returned to work after a vacation in March 2003 and was told by his employer, Phillip Clark, that the business had been broken into while Beck was gone. Clark also told Beck that he suspected Beck was involved in the break-in. Though Beck denied any involvement, Clark nonetheless tied Beck to a chair and began to physically assault him, trying to get a confession. Clark hit Beck with a lead pipe and a sledgehammer, had Beck bitten by a dog, threatened Beck with a shotgun, threatened Beck with a needle Beck believed was filled with battery acid and burned Beck with a cutting torch. Beck did not confess to anything, and Clark eventually agreed to let him go on the condition that he not tell anyone what Clark had done, or else Clark would kill Beck’s wife and children. Clark had one of his accomplices help Beck shower and get clean clothes. Beck was then released, but because he could not walk, he crawled to his truck and drove home. He called police when he got home, and later sought medical attention, which revealed that he suffered from multiple fractures to his right leg, broken bones in his hands and burns on his arms. Clark was convicted of aggravated kidnapping. At the punishment phase, Clark argued that he voluntarily released Beck in a safe place, which would downgrade his felony from the first degree to the second degree, and asked the jury for an affirmative finding. The jury did not make such a finding and sentenced Clark to jail for 50 years. Clark raises three issues on appeal: 1. whether, during punishment, the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support the jury’s rejection of Clark’s affirmative defense that he voluntarily released Beck in a safe place; 2. whether the trial court erred in overruling Clark’s request to include definitions of “voluntarily” and “safe place” in the jury charge; and 3. whether the trial court erred in overruling Clark’s objection to the states closing argument, which focused on the fact that Beck had been tortured and that there was no help at the site. HOLDING:Affirmed. In assessing whether Clark released Beck in a safe place, the court reviews the surrounding circumstances of the release, such as: 1. the remoteness of the location; 2. the proximity of authorities or persons who could aid or assist; 3. the time of day; 4. climatic conditions; 5. Beck’s condition; 6. the character of the location or surrounding neighborhood; and 7. Beck’s familiarity with the location or surrounding neighborhood. The evidence reflects that Beck was threatened, beaten, burned and unable to walk or stand. The jury was also informed that Beck’s injuries consisted of burns to his arm, multiple fractures to his leg and broken bones in both hands. The testimony does not show that anyone else was present at Clark’s business except Beck, Clark and Clark’s accomplices; hence, there was no evidence of anyone being outside the building, in the parking lot or nearby to help Beck. Therefore, the evidence was legally sufficient to support the jury’s rejection of Clark’s affirmative defense, the court finds. The evidence was factually sufficient, too. While Beck was released during the day in an area he was familiar with, and no one followed him to make good on the threat to kill Beck’s family, the court also notes that Beck was unable to walk due to his injuries, the dog that had bitten Beck and the accomplices who had beaten him were unaccounted for, and there was no immediate aid for Beck to get home. As to the second issue, the court notes that Clark had not demonstrated that “safe place” may be defined differently in different contexts, or how the definition he proposed was any different from common usage. Consequently, Clark has not shown that the trial court was required to give “safe place” a technical, legal definition. Similarly, Clark cannot show that the jury was unable to deliberate without a definition of “voluntarily” or that such a definition was necessary for a fair understanding of the evidence. The court finds that Clark’s argument over the state’s closing argument is based on a presumption that “safe place” had not been adequately defined. Clark’s proposed definition of the term said, “a release occurring in a place and manner realistically conveying to the victim that he is freed from captivity and is in circumstances and surroundings wherein aid is readily available.” The court reiterates that the jury was allowed to consider what the ordinary meaning of “safe place” was. The state’s closing argument merely directed the jury to various factors it could consider in making its determination of whether Clark released Beck to a “safe place.” OPINION:Mackey K. Hancock, J.; Quinn, C.J., Campbell and Hancock, JJ.

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