FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 17CR-01-109]
HONORABLE FLOYD G. ROGERS, JUDGE
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway,
Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellant.
Brain, for appellee.
A. WOMACK, Associate Justice
State of Arkansas appeals an order from the Crawford County
Circuit Court granting Newman's motion to suppress two
statements he made on March 1 and March 7, 2001. The State
argues that the circuit court erred because it did not
consider the totality of the circumstances and only
considered his mental incompetency when making its ruling. We
dismiss the appeal as improper under our rules.
previously reversed the circuit court's denial of
Newman's petition for a writ of error coram nobis and
remanded the case for a new trial. Newman v. State,
2014 Ark. 7. Thereafter, Newman filed a motion to suppress a
series of statements he made from March 2, 2001, to May 9,
2002, due to his mental incompetency; Newman attached the
interrogation transcript of the recorded statement he gave on
March 2, 2001, to his motion. During the March 2 interrogation
Newman revealed to the interrogating officers that he
suffered from numerous mental illnesses and was receiving
treatment and taking medication to address the deficiencies.
The officers continued their interrogation, and after
questioning from the officers, Newman eventually made oral
and written statements confessing to the murder of Marie
Cholette. In his motion to suppress his statements, Newman
argued that the officers unlawfully exploited his mental
condition to obtain the confession.
circuit court conducted three evidentiary hearings regarding
Newman's competency where it took testimony from three
medical experts regarding Newman's mental incompetency.
After considering all the testimony and evidence presented,
the court made an oral ruling on January 23, 2017, that the
statements from March 1 and March 7 would be suppressed based
on the case law and evidence that had been
presented. The court entered a written order that
encompassed its oral ruling and stated:
[T]he court is holding that, based upon Mr. Newman's
condition at the time, he made [the] statements, he suffered
a mental disease and mental deficits wherein he could not
give a knowing or voluntary consent or statement, because of
his mental condition. The statements he made were due to
interrogation which to most would be reasonable to the
ordinary individual, however to Mr. Newman's own mental
condition, it was not.
State timely appealed the court's order. The only issues
the State asks us to decide on appeal are whether the court
erred when it determined that Newman could not knowingly
waive his Miranda rights or voluntarily confess due
to his mental condition.
first address whether this is a proper State appeal under our
rules because it is a matter of subject-matter jurisdiction.
State v. Grey, 319 Ark. 356, 358, 891 S.W.2d 376,
377 (1995). While criminal defendants may appeal their
convictions as a matter of right, the State must bring its
appeals per our rules of Criminal Appellate Procedure.
See, e.g., State v. Jenkins, 2011 Ark. 2.
As a matter of practice, this court reviews only State
appeals that are narrow in scope and involve the
interpretation of law, not its application. Id.;
State v. Sprenger, 2016 Ark. 177, at 4, 490 S.W.3d
314, 316; State v. Myers, 2012 Ark. 453, at 4-5. We
will not entertain a State appeal unless the correct and
uniform administration of the criminal law requires review by
the court. Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 3(d).
also not accept an appeal by the State when the circuit court
has acted within its discretion after making an evidentiary
decision based on the particular facts of the case or even a
mixed question of law and fact, as those appeals do not
require interpretation of our criminal rules with widespread
ramifications. State v. Nichols, 364 Ark. 1, 4, 216
S.W.3d 114, 116-17 (2005); see also State v.
Brashers, 2015 Ark. 236, at 5-6, 463 S.W.3d 710, 713-
14; State v. Threadgill, 2011 Ark. 91, 382 S.W.3d
657. We do not entertain State appeals just to show that the
trial court erred. Nichols, 364 Ark. at 4, 216
S.W.3d at 116-17.
State argues that its appeal solely revolves around the
circuit court's improper interpretation of our case law
and not its application to the facts because it made its
ruling based on Newman's mental incompetency and not the
totality of the circumstances. The State relies on our
decisions in State v. Harmon, 353 Ark. 568, 113
S.W.3d 75 (2003), and State v. Harris, 372 Ark. 492,
277 S.W.3d 568 (2008), as support for its argument. In
Harmon we allowed the State to appeal an adverse
suppression ruling when the court applied an erroneous
interpretation of our case law to the facts, and specifically
noted so in its order. Harmon, 353 Ark. at 572, 113
S.W.3d at 77. We therefore held that it was a proper
State appeal because it would require us to interpret our
constitution and criminal rules.
Harmon, there is no clear indication that the
circuit court relied on an erroneous interpretation of a
criminal rule when it made its decision. The State's
argument that the court focused only on Newman's mental
condition and not the totality of the circumstances is
undermined by the court's consideration of the
officer's interrogation techniques as applied to Newman.
Even if the court was incorrect in its factual analysis, we
do not accept State appeals to prove that point. This is
clearly a mixed question of fact and law because it would
require us to review the record to determine what the circuit
court considered when it made its ruling. See
Nichols, 364 Ark. at 4, 216 S.W.3d at 116-17
(State's attempt to frame question as interpretation did
not change the fact that resolution of the issue turned on
the facts). The circuit court made an evidentiary ...