FROM THE PRAIRIE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 59N-CR-2012-28]
HONORABLE THOMAS HUGHES, JUDGE
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kathryn Henry, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
JOSEPHINE LINKER HART, Associate Justice
State of Arkansas appeals from the grant of a motion to
dismiss first-degree-murder charges against Frederick David
Owens, Jr. Owens had asserted, and the State conceded, that
Owens had not been brought to trial within the time specified
by Rule 28.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure. On
appeal, the State argues that the Amechanical"
application of Rules 28.1 and 30.1 of the Arkansas Rules of
Criminal Procedure in resolving speedy-trial issues does not
comport with a more Aflexible" approach required by
Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972).
September 6, 2012, the State charged Owens with the
first-degree murder of Donovan France Buck in Prairie County
Circuit Court. Owens had been arrested on September 1, 2012,
the night of the murder. On October 15, 2012, defense counsel
moved for a continuance until the following term, which
resulted in a trial date of March 19, 2013. On August 5,
2015, the State wrote a letter to defense counsel seeking
cooperation in securing a trial date. A jury trial was then
set for February 8-10, 2016. However, because the medical
examiner was not available to testify on those dates, the
deputy prosecutor successfully moved on January 12, 2016,
without objection from Owens, for a continuance until the
next available trial date. A three-day trial was eventually
scheduled for April 27-29, 2016.
days before trial, Owens filed a “Motion to Dismiss Sua
Sponte, "arguing that his right to speedy trial under
the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Sixth
Amendment to the United States Constitution had been
violated. In its response, the State acknowledged that,
excluding for speedy-trial purposes the 154 days resulting
from Owens's continuance request, his one-year
speedy-trial deadline ran on February 2, 2014. Nonetheless,
the State argued that the circuit court should not rely on
the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure; rather, it should
apply a four-factor balancing test that considers the length
of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's
assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant.
circuit court rejected the State's argument, finding that
the speedy-trial rules as stated in the Arkansas Rules of
Criminal Procedure had not been followed, and dismissed the
charge against Owens.
appeal, the State again argues that the circuit court's
“mechanical" application of Rules 28.1 and 30.1 of
the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure in resolving
speedy-trial issues did not comport with a more flexible
approach recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States
in Barker v. Wingo. Further, the State contends that
the circuit court effectively rewarded Owens for his
eleventh-hour invocation of our speedy-trial rules, which is
“flatly inconsistent" with our decision in
Jolly v. State, 358 Ark. 180, 189 S.W.3d 40 (2004),
is “unnecessary to protect"Owens's
constitutional right to a speedy trial.
threshold matter, we must first determine whether the State
may appeal the circuit court's ruling. State v.
Johnson, 374 Ark. 100, 286 S.W.3d 129 (2008). The
State's right to appeal is limited to the provisions of
Ark. R.App. P.-Crim. 3, which provides that we will accept
such appeals only for Athe correct and uniform administration
of the criminal law."The correct and uniform
administration of justice is at issue only when the question
presented is solely a question of law and does not turn on
the facts in the case appealed.
supra. Furthermore, we will only review appeals
taken by the State which are narrow in scope and involve the
interpretation of law and which present an issue of
interpretation of the criminal rules or statutes with
widespread ramifications. State v. Nichols, 364 Ark.
1, 216 S.W.3d 114 (2005).
several times considered-and- rejected-appeals by the Sate of
Arkansas in which it urged us to review cases dismissed
pursuant to our speedy-trial rules. See Johnson, 374
Ark. 100, 286 S.W.3d 129 (dismissing appeal where the issue
involved the circuit court's reason for disallowing
excludable time); State v. Edwards, 310 Ark. 516,
838 S.W.2d 356 (1998) (dismissing appeal because review
depended upon an application of the rule to the facts and not
on interpretation of the rule); State v. Tipton, 300
Ark. 211, 779 S.W.2d 138 (1989) (dismissing appeal because
challenge to disallowing excludable time did not involve the
correct and uniform administration of the criminal law). In
each of these cases, the fact-intensive nature of
speedy-trial jurisprudence militated against this court
accepting an appeal by the State.
likewise conclude that the instant appeal should be
dismissed. While purporting to raise purely an issue of law,
the legal issue cannot be separated by the unique facts of
the case before us. Accordingly, this is not a proper State
appeal. Edwards, supra.Moreover, we note
that contrary to the State's assertions, Arkansas's
speedy-trial jurisprudence does not offend the requirements
set forth by the Wingo Court, which dictates only
that a trial court conduct an Aad hoc"determination of
whether a defendant's right to a speedy trial had been
violated. Stephens v. State, 295 Ark. 541, 750
S.W.2d 52 (1988). Accordingly, we dismiss this case as not a
proper State appeal.