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Brown v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas

December 14, 2016

WILLIAM LAMAR BROWN, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35CR-13-197-2] HONORABLE ROBERT H. WYATT, JR., JUDGE

         REVERSED AND REMANDED

          Robinson & Zakrzewski, P.A., by: Luke Zakrzewski, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kent G. Holt, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge

         William Lamar Brown was convicted by a Jefferson County jury of kidnapping (two counts), second-degree battery, and second-degree escape. He was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for each kidnapping conviction, six years' imprisonment for the battery conviction, and five years' imprisonment for the escape conviction.[1] Brown appeals the sentencing order, arguing that the circuit court abused its discretion in excluding lay-witness testimony concerning his history of mental disease, which he claims is relevant to the issue of his culpable mental state. We agree and reverse and remand.

         On April 3, 2013, the State filed an information alleging that on February 21, 2013, Brown committed second-degree escape, two counts of first-degree false imprisonment, two counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, second-degree battery, two counts of aggravated assault, and threatening a fire or bombing. After several amendments, the third amended information charged Brown with second-degree escape, two counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, second-degree battery, and two counts of kidnapping.

         On April 5, 2013, the State moved that Brown be committed to determine whether he lacked capacity, due to mental disease or defect, at the time of the alleged occurrence to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law or to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and to determine whether he lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist effectively in his own defense. The circuit court granted the State's motion, and a forensic evaluation was conducted by Dr. William A. Cochran of Southeast Arkansas Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., on May 16, 2013.

         Dr. Cochran reported that Brown suffered from psychotic disorder and antisocial-personality disorder; had been off his medication; and had been very disruptive during the evaluation and often "rambled incoherently." Dr. Cochran opined that Brown lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and the capacity to effectively assist in his own defense. Due to Brown's condition at the evaluation, Dr. Cochran was unable to determine whether, at the time of the offenses, Brown had the capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to form the culpable mental state required to be convicted of the offenses for which he had been charged.

         The circuit court, on June 19, 2013, entered an order that suspended the criminal proceedings against Brown and that committed him to the Arkansas State Hospital until his competency to stand trial could be restored. While committed, Brown received treatment for his mental disease, and in August 2013, he was able to participate in an evaluation by Ben Hendrickson, a psychology intern at the Arkansas State Hospital.[2] Hendrickson concluded that, at the time of his evaluation, Brown suffered from mental disease, schizophrenia, yet he had the capacity to understand the criminal proceedings against him and assist in his defense. Hendrickson also opined that Brown, at the time of the offenses, suffered from mental disease, yet he had the capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and to form the requisite culpable mental state to be convicted of the offenses for which he had been charged.

         On March 5, 2014, Brown filed a motion for completion of the forensic evaluation. The circuit court granted the motion, and Dr. Cochran reevaluated Brown on May 29, 2014. Dr. Cochran reached the same conclusions as Hendrickson.

         A fourth and final forensic evaluation was conducted at the Arkansas State Hospital on June 4, 2015, by Dr. Peacock and Kaley Raskin, a postdoctoral fellow in forensic psychology. They concluded that, at the time of their evaluation, Brown suffered from mental disease-schizophrenia, multiple episodes, currently in partial remission-and he had the capacity to understand the criminal proceedings against him and assist in his defense. Dr. Peacock and Raskin also opined that Brown, at the time of the offenses, suffered from mental disease but that he had the capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and to form the requisite culpable mental state to be convicted of the offenses for which he had been charged.

         At a December 2015 competency hearing, Dr. Peacock reiterated the opinions in his June 2015 report and testified that Brown was competent to stand trial. The circuit court found Brown competent to stand trial.

         At trial, the State presented multiple witnesses who testified that on February 21, 2013, Brown entered Comprehensive Care, a walk-in medical clinic, and was ushered into an examination room, where a nurse, Phyllis Martin, and a nurse practitioner, Karen McPherson, planned to treat him for a groin abscess. When in the exam room, Brown brandished a gun and explosives, pointed the gun at the women, and ordered McPherson to call the front desk and ask that they not be bothered. For approximately forty-five minutes, the women were trapped in the exam room with Brown, during which time he made multiple threats to kill the women, he beat Martin, and he cut off McPherson's hair. Eventually, the police entered the room and took Brown into custody. The officers determined that the gun was a toy ...


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