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Newman v. Cottrell

Supreme Court of Arkansas

December 1, 2016




          Julie Brain, for petitioner.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          KAREN R. BAKER, Associate Justice

         On January 28, 2016, petitioner, Rickey Dale Newman filed a motion to dismiss for violation of right to speedy trial with the circuit court. On March 10, 2016, the circuit court denied the motion. Newman now seeks a writ of certiorari vacating the circuit court's order.

         A procedural history of Newman's case is necessary to an understanding of Newman's petition for writ of certiorari. On June 10, 2002, Newman, was convicted in the Crawford County Circuit Court of one count of Capital Murder and sentenced to death. On January 16, 2014, we vacated Newman's conviction and sentence and remanded the case to the circuit court for a new trial on the grounds that Newman was not competent to stand trial in 2002. Newman v. State, 2014 Ark. 7, at 29. The mandate issued on February 5, 2014. On February 28, 2014, in response to the mandate, the circuit court issued an order suspending proceedings and committing Newman to the custody of the director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services "for detention, care, and treatment until restoration of fitness to proceed."

         Newman was transported for the assessment, but on the advice of his counsel, Newman refused to cooperate. On April 21, 2014, Dr. Mark Peacock, Ph.D., of the Arkansas State Hospital filed a report with the circuit court. In this report, Peacock stated he could not assess "the true extent of Mr. Newman's knowledge of the adjudicative process and his capacity to provide effective assistance to his attorney" but that Newman's "conversations with staff and his conduct since admission [had] not raised suspicion that his lack of cooperation with restoration or evaluation efforts is based in any substantially impairing mental disease or mental defect." Peacock further opined that Newman's refusal to cooperate with the mental examination was a "knowing and voluntary" act and "any ongoing efforts to forcibly treat or 'restore' [Newman's] adjudicative fitness [would] only serve to create a potentially unsafe or openly defiant situation" that would not serve the interests of any party.

         On June 5, 2014, Newman filed a request to disqualify the prosecuting attorney and his office. On August 27, 2014, the circuit court granted the motion and appointed a special prosecutor. The circuit court rescheduled the trial for October 27, 2014; however, the special prosecutor requested a continuance. The circuit court rescheduled the trial for April 6, 2015.

         On October 10, 2014, the special prosecutor filed a motion seeking a fitness examination of Newman. This motion was based on the previous judicial findings of Newman's incompetence and the content of a letter, written by Newman, without the knowledge of his counsel, and addressed to the court, in which Newman stated that he did not feel his circumstances regarding competency had changed since it was determined he was incompetent to stand trial in 2002. In the letter, Newman also maintained that he is innocent but requested the death penalty remain an option because "'death is [his] only peace.'" On November 6, 2014, the circuit court granted the motion, and allowed a private psychiatrist not practicing with the Arkansas State Hospital, Bradley C. Diner, M.D., to examine Newman. On December 29, 2014, Newman filed a motion to disqualify the special prosecutor.

         On February 26, 2015, Diner filed a report with the circuit court in which stated he was unable to fully assess Newman's fitness based on records alone but that he believed Newman's behavior was deliberate. He ultimately recommended that Newman be sent back to the Arkansas State Hospital for assessment:

I am of the belief that Newman suffers from both mental disease and defect.
I am not, however, certain that his psychiatric conditions have rendered him incompetent. Specifically, I am not of the opinion that Newman's repeated request for the death penalty is indicative of suicidal ideation or intent and that his "suicidality" impedes his ability to make rational, self-protective decisions. Rather, I believe Newman has learned to use this behavior as a way to prolong the proceedings, tie the court's hands, and ultimately prolong his life.
Secondly, I am uncertain that his psychiatric condition precludes his ability to consult his attorney. . . . He has learned that his behavior confounds and complicates his case, thus prolonging action and simultaneously giving him power and control. This very behavior is indicative of understanding factually the charges against him and gives insight into his awareness of the consequences. There is even some indication that he knows he should be discussing his actions with his attorney (by virtue of stating repeatedly, "She doesn't ...

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