FROM THE CRITTENDEN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. CR-2014-591]
HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Valerie Glover Fortner,
Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellant.
Butler Bernard, Jr., for appellee.
W. BRILL, CHIEF JUSTICE
the State of Arkansas, appeals an order of the Crittenden
County Circuit Court dismissing the charges of capital murder
and felon in possession of a firearm against appellee Robert
Canada as a result of the delay in prosecution. For reversal,
the State argues that the circuit court abused its discretion
by granting Canada's motion to dismiss. Pursuant to
Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 1-2(a)(8) (2015), we have
jurisdiction because we are required by law to hear this
appeal. See Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 3(c) (2015). We
31, 2000, Derrick Price died in Crittenden County as a result
of a homicide. On August 3, 2000, a West Memphis district
judge signed Canada's arrest warrant for the Crittenden
County homicide, and on August 11, 2000, a West Memphis
police officer faxed the warrant to two county sheriffs in
Tennessee where Canada remained incarcerated for separate
charges of aggravated robbery and attempted first-degree
murder. The West Memphis Police Department believed that it
placed a detainer on Canada by sending his 2000 arrest
warrant to the two jurisdictions in Tennessee. The West
Memphis Police Department inquired about Canada's
incarceration status in August 2000 and in May 2001.
remained in jail in Tennessee, pleaded guilty to aggravated
robbery on September 12, 2001, and received a fifteen-year
sentence. The Tennessee Department of Correction released
Canada in November 2011. Subsequently, Canada pleaded guilty
to a forgery charge in Craighead County and was later
released from the Arkansas Department of Correction.
17, 2014, Canada was arrested again for residential burglary
in Crittenden County. At that time, his warrant for the 2000
capital-murder charge had not been documented in either the
Arkansas Crime Information Center or the National Crime
Information Center system. On June 18, 2014, fourteen years
after the Price homicide, Canada was arrested in Arkansas for
the capital-murder charge. Subsequently, on June 20, 2014,
the State filed a felony information charging Canada with
capital murder for Price's death and felon in possession
of a firearm with an offense date of May 31, 2000, for both
offenses. Canada then filed a motion in limine, arguing that
the two charges related to two separate offenses and could
not be tried together, that the two charges were separated in
time by approximately fourteen years, that the capital-murder
charge must be dismissed, that the "pre-arrest delay
ha[d] resulted in actual prejudice to the defendant, and that
these actions had violated his constitutional rights under
the U.S. and Arkansas Constitutions."
September 3, 2015, the circuit court held a hearing on
Canada's motion in limine, heard arguments and testimony,
and dismissed the felony information. At the hearing,
Canada's attorney represented to the court that
"Missouri has a hold on him so that's not
prejudicing him at all by sitting here until the 18th [when
the court planned to sign the dismissal order]." The
circuit court later entered a sentencing order dismissing
both charges. The State timely filed its notice of appeal. On
appeal, the State argues that the circuit court abused its
discretion by granting Canada's motion to dismiss and
that the fourteen-year delay in prosecution did not violate
his due-process rights.
we address the merits of the State's arguments, we must
determine whether this is a proper State appeal. Pursuant to
Rule 3(c), the State's right to an appeal is limited.
State v. Brashers, 2015 Ark. 236, 463 S.W.3d 710.
This court has consistently held that there is a significant
difference between appeals brought by criminal defendants and
those brought on behalf of the State. Id. The former
is a matter of right, whereas the latter is neither a matter
of right, nor derived from the Constitution, but rather is
only granted pursuant to the confines of Rule 3. Id.
We accept appeals by the State when our holding would be
important to the correct and uniform administration of the
criminal law. Id. As a matter of practice, this
court has only taken appeals "which are narrow in scope
and involve the interpretation of law." State v.
Banks, 322 Ark. 344, 345, 909 S.W.2d 634, 635 (1995).
court does not permit State appeals merely to demonstrate
that the trial court erred. State v. Sprenger, 2016
Ark. 177, 490 S.W.3d 314. We dismiss those appeals that do
not present an issue of interpretation of the criminal rules
with widespread ramifications and those appeals in which the
resolution of the issue turns on the facts unique to the case
or involves a mixed question of law and fact. Id.
When an appeal merely raises an issue of the application, not
an interpretation, of a criminal rule or statutory provision,
we deem it to not involve the correct and uniform
administration of the criminal law and thus not within the
ambit of permissible State appeals under Rule 3. Id.
State claims that the instant appeal involves "prejudice
to the State and [should be] taken in the interest of the
correct and uniform administration of the criminal law."
The State frames the issue on appeal as "whether the
circuit court abused its discretion by [granting the motion
to dismiss and] holding that a 14-year delay between an
arrest warrant being issued and served prejudiced the
Appellee in violation of his rights to the due process of
issue presented in the State's appeal does not involve an
interpretation of the law but instead requires an application
of the law to the particular facts and circumstances of this
case. From the bench at the September 3, 2015 motion in
limine hearing, the circuit court ruled as follows:
The court, under the facts and circumstances - unique
facts and circumstances of this case - finds that Mr.
Canada's due-process rights under both the Arkansas
Constitution and the United States Constitution has been
violated in this case, based on this stale warrant issue
and the extreme lapse of time between the original arrest
warrant being issued and the homicide occurring and not being
arrested on it for 14 years. I can go on, the facts are
pretty replete that Mr. Canada had multiple contacts with
law-enforcement in Arkansas and with correctional facilities
in Arkansas and yet, probably his own words is what got him
charged in this case at this time. So, I'm finding -
I'm not faulting the State intentionally but I think
there is prejudice to Mr. Canada by not invoking the
Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act and if this goes up on
appeal, it appears that he might have some defense witness
issues too. So, I'm going to rule that, again, Mr.
Canada's due process rights have been violated, if not
speedy trial, under the constitutional mandates and order
that the capital murder charge against Mr. Canada be
(Emphasis added.) Further, in its sentencing order dated
September 21, 2015, the circuit court noted that the
"[a]ttached transcript [of the hearing] is incorporated
by reference." Based on this language in both the bench
ruling and the sentencing order, the circuit court clearly
based its dismissal on the unique facts and circumstances of
the case before it. Thus, we hold that the State's appeal
does not require the interpretation of law or ...