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Cage v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

October 12, 2017



          Joseph C. Self, for appellant.

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

          JOHN DAN KEMP, Chief Justice

         Appellant George Kennedy Cage appeals an order of the Jefferson County Circuit Court convicting him of capital murder and first-degree murder and sentencing him to two consecutive life terms. For reversal, Cage argues that the circuit court erred in finding him competent to stand trial and in refusing to instruct the jury on a mental disease or defect. Pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 1-2(a)(2) (2016), we have jurisdiction because the jury imposed a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. We affirm.

         I. Facts

         On January 19, 2013, at approximately 2:40 p.m., police officers were dispatched to a Pine Bluff residence because of a domestic disturbance. The dispatching operator advised that the caller, later identified as Cage, stated that he had "shot" his wife. The officers arrived at the scene and took Cage into custody. Deputy David Walker placed Cage in the patrol car, and Cage stated that he did not mean to kill his wife, whom he identified as Mendi Bell. Investigator Randy Jackson met with Cage at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Criminal Investigation Division where the investigator advised him of his Miranda rights. Cage waived those rights in writing and agreed to give a statement.

         During the interview, Cage stated that he had been playing a video game that day while his stepson, William Dykes, repaired some speakers in a car outside. Dykes walked inside the residence and began playing the video game with Cage. According to Cage, a character in the video game used a racial slur. Cage, who is an African American, told Dykes, a white male, not to use any racial slurs in the streets because he could get hurt or killed. At that time, Cage's wife, a white female, walked into the room and told him not to speak to her son in that manner. Cage told Bell, who was pregnant with his child, that she would have problems because their baby was biracial. Cage claimed that he tried to counsel Dykes, who had used racial slurs in the past. Cage stated that the discussion with his wife became heated, and he called his aunt to purchase a bus ticket so he could leave. Cage walked into the kitchen. Bell followed and called Cage a "no good sorry motherfucker" and stated that he "had not done anything to contribute around the house." Cage claimed that he "snapped, " grabbed a kitchen knife, turned toward Bell, and began stabbing her in the face, neck, and back as she ran out the door. Bell asked Dykes to take her to the hospital, and Cage helped Bell get into the vehicle. Cage stated that he returned to the residence, grabbed his handgun, and called the sheriff's dispatch number. During the call, he stated, "I just killed my wife. I'm sorry. . . . I just started stabbing her. I stabbed her. . . . I did not mean to hurt her."

         That afternoon, on January 19, 2013, Investigator Kaleisha Wise interviewed Dykes at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. Dykes stated that he witnessed Cage stab his mother as she exited the front door. He stated that his mother fell to the ground, stood up, and began bleeding profusely. According to Dykes, Cage went into the residence, retrieved Bell's cell phone and keys, tossed them to Dykes, and told him to call 911. When Dykes attempted to get some towels, he realized that Cage had locked the door to the residence. Dykes called his sister, Elizabeth Jackson, who then called 911. Bell and her unborn fetus later died as a result of her stab wounds.

         On February 26, 2013, the State filed an amended felony information charging Cage with capital murder of his unborn child and first-degree murder of his wife. Subsequently, on July 31, 2013, Cage filed a motion for commitment to the Arkansas State Hospital to determine whether, as a result of mental disease or defect, he lacked capacity at the time of the offense. The circuit court granted Cage's motion and ordered him to be committed to the Arkansas State Hospital for a period not to exceed thirty days, ordered a medical opinion on Cage's ability to form a culpable mental state, and requested that the results of the testing be provided to the circuit court. In January 2014, Dr. Mark M. Peacock evaluated Cage and found that Cage suffered from schizophrenia and was unfit to proceed to trial; that he did not have the capacity to understand the proceedings against him; and that he lacked the capacity to assist fully and effectively in his defense. Dr. Peacock did not opine on Cage's mental state when he committed the offense. The State responded, and the circuit court entered a not-fit-to-proceed commitment order and committed Cage to the custody of the Arkansas Department of Human Services for detention, care, and treatment until restoration of fitness to proceed. At the state hospital, Cage received medication and therapy for schizophrenia. Later that year, on November 5, 2014, Cage underwent a second evaluation by Dr. Jason Beaman, who found Cage fit to proceed to trial. Dr. Beaman found that, after having received medication and therapy at the state hospital, Cage possessed the ability to understand the proceedings against him, possessed the ability to assist in his defense, and accepted responsibility for his actions. Cage was discharged from the state hospital in December 2014.

         The State then filed a motion for determination of Cage's fitness to proceed to trial, which the circuit court granted. On February 29, 2016, per the circuit court's order, Dr. Peacock performed an evaluation to determine Cage's competency. He stated that he had previously attempted to evaluate Cage, who presented with poor grooming and hygiene, but Cage refused to participate. Dr. Peacock noted that Cage had been receiving intramuscular injections of haloperidol, and his discharge documents from his previous hospitalization at the state hospital "indicated psychiatric stability." Dr. Peacock stated that Cage's "ongoing medication regimen and compliance would support the likelihood of psychiatric stability across time." Dr. Peacock opined that Cage's "refusal to cooperate with the evaluation was deliberate and not a result of substantially impairing mental disease or mental defect." He further noted that Cage had "been described as cooperative with his haloperidol injections . . . and simply appeared unwilling to talk with me." Dr. Peacock concluded that Cage was fit to proceed to trial. On July 6, 2016, the circuit court held a competency hearing. On July 18, 2016, the circuit court entered an order denying Cage's motion, finding that "[h]aving considered the evidence submitted to the court, the court is of the opinion that [Cage] is fit to proceed to trial."

         The case proceeded to a jury trial after the circuit court denied Cage's request for a bench trial. After the State's case-in-chief, the defense called Dr. Jason Beaman, by way of video deposition, who testified that he found Cage fit to proceed to trial and that he did not suffer from a mental disease or defect at the time of the offense. Dr. Beaman testified that he diagnosed Cage with antisocial personality disorder but that "it could be" schizophrenia if he was "not willing to speak to anyone." He also stated that Cage's diagnosis of schizophrenia had been treated and that he did not display certain symptoms anymore. The jury found Cage guilty of capital murder of an unborn person and first-degree murder of Bell and sentenced him to life imprisonment without parole for capital murder and life imprisonment for first-degree murder. Cage now brings his appeal.

         II. Competence to Stand Trial

         For the first point on appeal, Cage argues that the circuit court erred in finding that he was competent to stand trial. Specifically, Cage points to his counsel's testimony at a pretrial hearing that Cage was not able to assist in the preparation of his defense; that Cage did not understand why he was at the hearing; ...

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