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Parks v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

January 31, 2018



          Laura Avery, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Ashley Argo Priest, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          DAVID M. GLOVER, Judge

         In January 2016, appellant Dionte Parks was charged in the Sebastian County Circuit Court with one count of murder in the first degree, two counts of aggravated robbery, and one count of kidnapping, all Class Y felonies. In March 2016, Parks filed a motion to transfer his case to the juvenile division. After a hearing on the motion, the circuit court denied the request to transfer. Parks appeals this denial, arguing it was clearly erroneous. We affirm.

         The following extensive evidence was adduced at the hearing. On January 23, 2016, two masked men entered Kaleb Watson's home while Watson and Bailey Smith were inside. The men bound Watson with a shoestring and began to gather items, including Watson's cell phone and wallet. Watson escaped his bindings and attacked one of the men, who shot him several times. The two men then fled the scene. Watson died as a result of his injuries.

         On January 24, the Fort Smith Police Department received an anonymous tip that someone wanted to come forward with possible information on the case. Parks and his mother, LaRhonda Marable, came to the police station later that afternoon. During an interview, Parks told Detective Anthony Parkinson that brothers Shakur and James Sharp stopped by his house on January 23, showed him a gun they had stolen earlier that day, and told him they wanted to "hit a lick." Parks said the Sharps asked for a bag, which Parks provided to them, and some rope or string. Parks gave them a shoelace from one of his shoes. Parks later saw the Sharps outside and went to talk to them; they told him they were going to rob Kaleb Watson, and they wanted him to knock on the front door, run off, and then go in the back door with them. Parks said he did not want to do it, but Shakur pulled out the gun; although Shakur never threatened Parks, Parks decided to go along with the plan. However, after knocking on the front door, instead of going to Watson's back door, Parks ran home. Parks stated he heard about eight gunshots and then saw both Sharp brothers running from Watson's house. Parks also stated that prior to entering Watson's house, James had taken a compound bow out of Watson's truck and had given it to Parks, who took it to his house and hid it in a closet. Pursuant to a warrant, Detective Parkinson recovered the stolen bow and the pair of running shoes from which Parks had removed the shoelace he had given to the Sharp brothers.

         Detective Parkinson also obtained a statement from Shakur Sharp during transport back to Fort Smith from Little Rock (where he had fled after Watson was shot). Shakur confessed he had gone into Watson's home; he said Parks was supposed to knock on the front door and then come to the back door and go inside, but Parks did not do that, so James went inside with him; and James tied Watson up with the shoelace provided by Parks. According to Shakur, Watson removed his restraint and rushed Shakur; Shakur stated the gun went off and kept going off. Shakur said James ran out the back door and he followed him; the only items he took were Watson's wallet and cell phone. Shakur asserted it was Parks who told him there were guns, money, and maybe marijuana in Watson's house, and it would be a "good place to hit a lick."

         After arriving in Fort Smith, Shakur gave a second statement. He stated Parks was the one who told them about Watson's house-that there were thousands of dollars, guns, some weed, and a .380 handgun in the house-and it had been Parks who took the bow out of Watson's truck and took it back to his house and hid it. Shakur then provided the details of the robbery and shooting for a second time.

         Detective Parkinson and Detective Williams picked Parks up from school on January 28, 2016, on a probation violation and a theft-of-property warrant. Parks agreed to speak with Detective Parkinson again about the Watson case. Parks stated that on January 23, Darrion Carter told him he wanted to "hit a lick, " and Parks told Carter about Watson's home. The Sharp brothers then came to his house wanting to "hit a lick" and asking what was inside Watson's house; Parks told them about a PlayStation 3, guns, money, and bows and arrows. After the interview, Detective Parkinson arrested Parks on first-degree murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and his outstanding warrants. Detective Parkinson acknowledged that Parks came in and gave statements that provided him with some leads in the investigation.

         Detective Troy Williams testified he obtained a statement from James Sharp while transporting him from Little Rock back to Fort Smith. James told him he had stolen a gun from a car earlier in the day on January 23. He claimed Parks messaged Darrion about hitting a lick; Darrion declined, but the Sharp brothers went to Parks's house to discuss it. James reiterated that Parks had taken the bow out of Watson's truck and had taken it to his house. The remainder of his statement matched Shakur's statement about what happened inside Watson's house.

         Scott Tanner, the Juvenile Ombudsman, testified there were several lock-down facilities available for juveniles, but the rooms were not locked at night, although the capacity existed if necessary. Tanner explained there was no guarantee Parks would be placed in a particular facility; the Department of Youth Services (DYS) would determine where to place him. Tanner admitted there were five or six escapes each year, but the juveniles were usually caught within hours; in his opinion, DYS was the most serious delinquency disposition a juvenile court could order, although none of the programs were wholly successful. Factors Tanner believed were necessary for rehabilitation to be successful included inmate intelligence and the capacity to understand and respond to cognitive behavior therapy; family and community support; and the ability to acknowledge wrongdoing.

         Kevin Moore, Parks's probation officer, testified Parks was receptive to issues on which he advised him, although Parks would stand up for himself when he felt he needed to do so. He believed Parks's father, although a convicted felon, was a good example for Parks and wanted to teach Parks to be a good man.

         Several people testified about Parks's educational struggles, his need for mental-health services due to unresolved behavioral and emotional problems, and his medication. While Parks had difficulty in school, there was testimony he was receptive to help and was a good-natured student. However, Parks had several behavioral issues at school. Parks ...

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