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Hooks v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

June 4, 2015


Editorial Note:

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.


Pamela Hooks, Pro se, appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.




In 2010, John Davis collapsed during a physical altercation with Pamela Hooks and died later that same day. In 2012, Hooks was charged with first-degree murder in the death. At trial, a primary issue was Davis's ill health, which included a preexisting heart condition involving severe blockage of a main artery.

The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Davis testified that he had sustained sixty-eight separate injuries--cuts, scratches, and multiple superficial stab wounds, some of which were consistent with defensive injuries. Scissors that were recovered from the scene of the struggle were stained with the blood of both Davis and Hooks. The pathologist further testified that, while Davis's injuries in themselves were not life threatening in a healthy person, he classified the manner of death as homicide caused by complications of cardiac arrest brought on by the physical struggle with Hooks and arterial sclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Hooks testified that Davis had attacked and injured her and that she had fought back with some broken glass and a piece of broken plate as she tried to free herself from his grasp. She also testified that she and Davis had an open sexual relationship that sometimes turned violent and that she had entered a plea of nolo contendere in 2008 to domestic battering arising from a prior fight with Davis in which Davis sustained serious multiple lacerations to his face. There was also proof presented that Hooks had entered pleas of guilty in the following cases, in all of which Davis was the victim: in 1991, first-degree battery and second-degree battery; in 1995, aggravated assault; in 1996, second-degree battery; in 2003, domestic battering.

After hearing all the testimony, the jury found Hooks guilty of the lesser-included offense of second-degree murder, and she was sentenced as a habitual offender to 564 months' imprisonment. The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that, considering the record as a whole and applicable precedent, substantial evidence supported the jury's finding that Hooks acted with the purpose to seriously injure Davis. The substantial evidence noted by the court included the use of scissors, which can be used as a deadly weapon, and the cumulative number of injuries inflicted to vital portions of the victim's anatomy that give rise to the inference that serious harm was intended. The court of appeals also noted that the jury was not required to believe Hooks's account of the fight in which she acted in self-defense. Hooks v. State, 2013 Ark.App. 728, 431 S.W.3d 333.

After the judgment was affirmed, Hooks timely filed in the trial court a verified, pro se petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2012). The trial court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing, and Hooks brings this appeal.

Hooks raised a number of issues in her petition for Rule 37.1 relief. On appeal, she raises only some of the issues argued below. Those claims argued below, but not in this appeal are considered abandoned. Carter v. State, 2015 Ark. 166, S.W.3d .

Hooks first urges this court to reverse the trial court's order on the ground that a hearing should have been held on her claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Rule 37.3 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure requires an evidentiary hearing in a postconviction proceeding unless the petition and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief. See Beverage v. State, 2015 Ark. 112, S.W.3d . If the files and the record conclusively show that the petitioner is not entitled to relief, the trial court is required to make written findings to that effect, " specifying any parts of the files, or records that are relied upon to sustain the court's findings." Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.3(a) (2012). The trial ...

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