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Randolph v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

December 13, 2017



          Willard Proctor, Jr., P.A., by: Willard Proctor, Jr., for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kathryn Henry, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          Whiteaker and Vaught, JJ., agree.


         Appellant Tyrone Randolph appeals the Pulaski County Circuit Court's denial of his motion to transfer his case to the juvenile division of circuit court. Randolph was charged in relation to an armed robbery of the Bank of America branch on Cantrell Road in Little Rock on the afternoon of January 6, 2016, during which the branch manager was shot. Randolph was facing charges of aggravated robbery, theft by force, and first-degree battery. His attorney asked that the matter be transferred to the juvenile division. After a hearing on the matter, the trial court denied the motion, and this appeal resulted. We affirm.

         At the hearing in October 2016, a bank teller (Shunda Canada) testified that a man wearing a mask entered the bank and pointed a shotgun directly in front of her station, demanding money. Canada screamed, and another teller gave the robber $2, 947, putting it in a plastic bag. The robber began to walk out of the bank, slowed down, made eye contact with the branch manager (Sam Lewis), and shot him with a sawed-off shotgun. Lewis was turning toward his office when he was shot in his right index finger and shoulder, and he testified that he thought that, had he not turned at that moment, the shotgun blast would have killed him.[1] The robbery was captured on the bank's surveillance cameras.

         At the time the bank was being robbed, a woman in the area called the police, reporting that she had seen a man in a clown mask enter the bank and flee in a car that she was able to describe. The car belonged to Randolph's mother. That day, the police located Randolph, searched the house where he lived, and found the sawed-off .20 gauge Mossberg shotgun, several live rounds of ammunition, a spent round of ammunition, $2, 436 cash in a purse, a mask, a hood, and a hacksaw. Store receipts showed that the gun and hacksaw had been purchased the day before the robbery.

         Randolph was almost seventeen years old at the time of the robbery.[2] He admitted that he robbed the bank and that he had thought about committing the robbery for several days. Randolph explained that his girlfriend[3] had told him that she was pregnant, he did not have a job, he was not in school, and the robbery would get him money to support his family. Randolph's older brother Antonio Griffin was in jail for aggravated robbery. Randolph testified that he had been with his girlfriend when they went to Wal-Mart to purchase the gun, and he had his stepfather purchase the bullets and one of the two hacksaws he used to saw off the shotgun. He said that he later learned that his girlfriend had lied to him about being pregnant. Randolph expressed regret for his actions, especially his having shot the bank manager, although he claimed that he did not remember pulling the trigger.

         His girlfriend (Jasha Howard) admitted buying the gun and that she was the driver of the getaway car. Additional evidence revealed that Randolph had completed only the ninth grade, that he was a poor student, and that he had had a difficult upbringing. Forensic mental-evaluation reports were entered into evidence, indicating that Randolph's primary diagnosis was conduct disorder and stating that he was competent to stand trial. Inmate-behavior-assessment forms dated in September and October 2016 recited that he was pleasant and cooperative in jail; that he wanted to help others by telling them not to make the same mistakes he had; and that he wanted to change his lifestyle, go back to school, and "do something with his life." Randolph's great uncle, grandmother, mother, and a family friend testified on his behalf, stating that he is a good person who needs a second chance.

         The trial court rendered its findings at the conclusion of the hearing, reciting each of the ten statutory factors it considered and the evidence or lack of evidence as to each factor. A written order was filed on November 1, 2016, to reflect the trial court's findings on each statutory factor. The trial court found that the offenses were serious and committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner; that the offenses were against both person and property; that Randolph helped to plan this robbery and was the sole person who executed the plan; that he had no prior juvenile adjudications; that after considering his sophistication and maturity as determined by his home environment, emotional attitude, pattern of living, and desire to be treated as an adult, Randolph was immature and unsophisticated; that he was age sixteen at the time of the crimes and presently age seventeen; that there were facilities and programs available through the juvenile system but that those were not likely to rehabilitate Randolph prior to his twenty-first birthday[4]; that he acted along with another individual in the commission of the crimes; that other written reports and materials relating to his mental, physical, educational, and social history were considered, specifically including a rereading of the forensic mental-health evaluations; and that he had "an abysmal home life." In closing, the trial court found that the case would remain in the adult division of circuit court and that Randolph did not present clear and convincing evidence to have the case transferred to the juvenile division. This appeal followed.

         Randolph argues on appeal that the trial court clearly erred in denying his motion to transfer the case to the juvenile division, challenging two of the ten statutory factors. He contends in particular that (1) the trial court found that the offenses charged here were serious but clearly erred in failing to make written findings on whether the protection of society required prosecution in the criminal division of circuit court; and (2) the trial court clearly erred in finding that, although there were resources available to Randolph in the juvenile division, those resources were unlikely to rehabilitate the juvenile before his twenty-first birthday.

         Arkansas law on this topic is well settled. It is within a prosecuting attorney's discretion to charge a juvenile in either the juvenile or criminal division of circuit court if a juvenile is at least sixteen years old when he or she allegedly engages in conduct that, if committed by an adult, would be a felony. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(c)(1) (Repl. 2015). On motion of the court or any party, the court in which the charges have been filed shall conduct a transfer hearing to determine whether to transfer the case to another division of circuit court. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(e). The moving party bears the burden of proving that the case should be transferred. Flowers v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 468, 528 S.W.3d 851; Z.T. v. State, 2015 Ark.App. 282. The court shall order the case transferred to another division of circuit court only upon a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the case should be transferred. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(h)(2). Clear and convincing evidence is the degree of proof that will produce in the trier of fact a firm conviction as to the allegation sought to be established. R.W.G. v. State, 2014 Ark.App. 545, 444 S.W.3d 376. We will not reverse a trial court's determination of whether to transfer a case unless that decision is clearly erroneous. Id. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Id.

         Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-318(g) sets forth the factors the trial court must consider and make written findings on at ...

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