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Hamilton v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

September 13, 2017

LONNIE HENRY HAMILTON, JR. APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE LAFAYETTE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NOS. 37CR-15-38, 37CR-15-40] HONORABLE BRENT HALTOM, JUDGE

          Phillip A. McGough, P.A., by: Phillip A. McGough, for appellant.

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

          OPINION

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge.

         Appellant Lonnie Henry Hamilton was convicted in a jury trial of aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated assault, and he was sentenced as a habitual offender to a total of eighty-five years in prison. Mr. Hamilton's convictions arose from the robbery of Farmers Bank & Trust (the bank) in Lewisville, Arkansas, on the afternoon of May 22, 2015. On appeal, Mr. Hamilton argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his custodial statement, erred in denying his motion for a second mental evaluation, and erred in denying his motion for directed verdict. We find no error and affirm.

         On the day of the robbery, a man entered the bank disguised with a scarf over his face and armed with a handgun. He pointed the gun at one of the tellers and demanded money. While the teller was loading money into a bag, the perpetrator pointed the gun at a nearby bank customer demanding that he put his hands up. During this confrontation, the robber fired a shot. The teller handed over the money bag, and the robber took the bag and left the bank. When the perpetrator reached his car he saw a man who appeared to be trying to read his license plate, and the perpetrator fired a shot in the man's direction. The robber then drove off with the money.

         On the following day, the police stopped a car matching the description of the car used in the robbery. The car was being driven by Mr. Hamilton's mother, and she gave the police permission to search her vehicle. During the search of the car, the police found a spent shell casing in the back seat that had been fired from the same gun as the shell casing recovered from the bank. Appellant's mother told the police that Mr. Hamilton had been driving her car on the previous day during the time frame of the robbery.

         Four days after the robbery, Mr. Hamilton went to the police station and turned himself in. Mr. Hamilton signed a waiver-of-rights form and agreed to give a statement. At the outset of the interview Mr. Hamilton was asked why he was there, and he replied that he had robbed the bank. Mr. Hamilton then went into detail about the bank robbery. He stated that he was driving his mother's car and fired his gun out the window to make sure it worked. Mr. Hamilton then proceeded to the bank, parked the car, entered the bank, and robbed the bank teller at gunpoint. He told the police that he fired a shot in the air after a bank customer refused to put his hands up. He also told the police that, after he fled the bank with the money, he fired a warning shot in the direction of a man in a truck who appeared to be trying to look at his license plate. Mr. Hamilton stated that after he committed the robbery he threw the gun in a river and abandoned the scarf and other items of clothing on a road. Mr. Hamilton indicated that he robbed the bank to buy drugs, that he had been doing drugs since committing the robbery, but that he had run out of money.

         After being charged with the crimes, Mr. Hamilton requested and was given a mental evaluation, which was administered at the state hospital by Dr. Samuel J. House. Dr. House based his forensic report on an interview and mental-status examination of Mr. Hamilton, as well as Mr. Hamilton's mental-health-treatment records and the statement he gave to the police. Dr. House diagnosed Mr. Hamilton with antisocial personality disorder, mild alcohol-use disorder, and severe cannabis- and cocaine-use disorder. However, Dr. House concluded that at the time of the alleged offenses Mr. Hamilton did not have a mental disease or defect that would have rendered him incapable of purposeful conduct, that he did not lack the capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct, and that he did not lack the capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. Dr. House further determined that Mr. Hamilton had the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and the capacity to effectively assist his attorney in his own defense.

         Prior to trial, Mr. Hamilton filed a motion to suppress the statement he made to the police. In his motion, he alleged that due to his mental-health conditions he did not understand his rights and did not make a knowledgeable waiver. Mr. Hamilton also alleged that his constitutional rights were violated because he requested an attorney and the interview proceeded without an attorney being present.

         At the pretrial suppression hearing, Officer John Rhone testified that he interviewed Mr. Hamilton after reading him his Miranda rights. Mr. Hamilton indicated that he understood his rights and he signed a Miranda-rights form, initialing each of his rights and confirming that he understood them. According to Officer Rhone, Mr. Hamilton never indicated that he wanted a lawyer or asked to stop the interview. Officer Rhone testified that during the interview Mr. Hamilton seemed cognizant and aware, and that he described in coherent detail what had happened on the day of the bank robbery. Sheriff Obie Simms also took part in the interview, and he testified that Mr. Hamilton was very coherent and spoke in complete sentences. Sheriff Simms indicated that there was never any request for a lawyer communicated to him, and that he did not remember Mr. Hamilton requesting to do the interview on another day so he could get some sleep.

         Mr. Hamilton testified that, while he was in the sheriff's office prior to the interview, he told the sheriff he wanted an attorney. Mr. Hamilton further testified that he was "high and tired, " having not slept in several days, and that he told the sheriff he wanted to postpone the interview until the next day. Mr. Hamilton acknowledged that he signed the Miranda-rights form and that, during the interview itself, he never requested an attorney or complained about being high or needing sleep. Mr. Hamilton testified that he understood what was being asked in the interview and that he competently answered their questions the best he could. At the conclusion of the suppression hearing, the trial court denied Mr. Hamilton's motion to suppress his statement.

         The case proceeded to a jury trial, and during jury selection Mr. Hamilton's counsel requested a second mental evaluation. Appellant's counsel advised the trial court that Mr. Hamilton had stated that he wanted to die, that he had taken a large quantity of his mental-health medications in an attempt to kill himself, and that he had somehow cut his wrists in front of the jury panel. Mr. Hamilton was transported by ambulance to the hospital. The trial court took testimony from the jail administrator, Theardis Early, who had transported Mr. Hamilton to trial that day. Mr. Early testified that Mr. Hamilton appeared fine before trial and was talking with his attorney. Mr. Early stated that, after Mr. Hamilton was taken to the hospital, the deputies observed that he was coherent and talking and it appeared that there were no major issues. The trial court ordered a recess.

         When court resumed, Mr. Hamilton's counsel renewed his motion for a second mental evaluation on the grounds that Mr. Hamilton stated he wanted to die and would not assist in his defense. The trial court then took testimony from a jailer, Jimmy Clark, who testified that he had been at the hospital with appellant and that Mr. Hamilton was communicating with the hospital staff. Mr. Hamilton was released from the hospital. Mr. Early advised the trial court that, after returning from the hospital, Mr. Hamilton told Mr. Early that he wanted to continue with the trial, but would not participate and would let his attorney represent him. The trial court denied the motion for a second mental evaluation, noting that after Mr. Hamilton was taken to the hospital he was released without the need for significant treatment. The ...


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