FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35CR-13-107]
HONORABLE BERLIN C. JONES, JUDGE AFFIRMED.
C. Self, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
DAN KEMP, Chief Justice
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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."
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
Competence to Stand Trial
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; ...