FROM THE WOODRUFF COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 74CR-13-44]
HONORABLE RICHARD L. PROCTOR, JUDGE
M. "Robby" Golden, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kathryn Henry, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE.
Woodruff County jury found appellant Aaron Dewayne Watson
guilty of theft of property in excess of $25, 000 and
commercial burglary. He was sentenced by the jury to six
years in prison for each offense with the sentences to run
consecutively. On appeal, appellant argues that the circuit
court erred by failing to suspend court proceedings and order
a mental evaluation to determine his fitness to proceed at
trial. We reverse and remand.
31, 2013, the State charged appellant with theft of property
in violation of Ark. Code Ann. § 5-36-193 and commercial
burglary in violation of Ark. Code Ann. § 5-39-201, both
of which were alleged to have occurred on April 22, 2013.
Appellant's first trial resulted in a mistrial. The
second trial was held in March 2016. The sentencing order was
filed on March 2, 2016, and appellant filed a timely notice
of appeal on April 1, 2016.
arguments on appeal relate only to his requests for a mental
evaluation and the circuit court's denial of the
requests. The circuit court entered two orders denying his
motion for mental evaluation. In the first order entered
January 22, 2015, the court denied the motion and found that
appellant was competent to proceed to trial. The second order
entered on July 17, 2015, denied the motion and also stated
that appellant was competent to proceed to trial. Both orders
indicate that appellant was represented by counsel; however,
the second order was prepared by Teresa Bloodman, who was
permitted to withdraw as indicated by an order entered on
January 22, 2015, and was entered at a time when appellant
the record on appeal was lodged, appellant's subsequent
counsel filed a motion to be relieved and Robert Golden was
appointed by this court to represent appellant. Golden filed
a motion to remand to settle the record "with regard to
the requests and denials of appellant's motion for a
mental evaluation." The motion provided that the record
contained two orders denying appellant's motions for
mental evaluations; the record did not contain any written
motions for mental evaluations or a transcript of any hearing
where a motion was made orally; the circuit clerk searched
for any written filings that may have been left out of the
record on appeal, and none were found; and Golden contacted
Alvin Simes, previous counsel for appellant, along with
Teresa Bloodman, who informed him that his memory was that
the request for mental evaluation was made during a telephone
conference with the court and it was not on the record. We
granted appellant's motion to remand to settle the
remand, the trial court held a hearing on August 29, 2017.
Appellant, Golden, and the prosecutor John Bell were present
at the hearing. Golden stated that when the second trial was
set to begin on December 15, 2014, appellant was represented
by Bloodman and Simes. Golden indicated that he spoke to
Simes, who provided a copy of a motion filed December 11,
2014. This motion, entitled "Notice Pursuant to Ark.
Code Ann. § 5-2-304 and Motion for Evaluation, "
was introduced at the hearing. Golden stated that he assumed
this was the motion the court denied when it signed the order
January 3, 2015. The order was filed on January 22, 2015. The
court permitted Bloodman and Simes to be relieved as counsel
on January 3, 2015, as indicated by the order entered January
remand hearing, the circuit court recalled a telephone
conversation with appellant. Appellant was sworn under oath
and the following colloquy took place:
The Court: Sorry to have to put you under oath, but since
we're going to be, and you're not the attorney, we
need to talk to you.
That's the way I recall it, that Mr. Simes filed
something and this was, I was in my office and I received a
telephone call, as I recall.
Defendant Watson: Sir, I sir ---
The Court: And you did not want a mental evaluation, at ...