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Robertson v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

February 6, 2019

ALTON ROBERTSON, JR. APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26CR-17-10] HONORABLE MARCIA HEARNSBERGER, JUDGE.

          The Graham Law Firm, by: James Lucas Graham, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Karen Virginia Wallace, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee

          MIKE MURPHY, Judge.

         Appellant Alton Ray Robertson, Jr., was convicted of residential burglary and sentenced to 60 years' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction. His sole argument on appeal is that his right to a speedy trial was violated. We conclude that it was, and we reverse and dismiss his conviction.

         Robertson was arrested on November 18, 2016, and was subsequently charged with residential burglary and aggravated assault. He was on parole at the time of his arrest and was later found to have ultimately violated the terms of his parole, so he remained in the State's custody from the time of his arrest through his jury trial on March 27, 2018, 494 days.

         On February 28, 2018, pursuant to Rule 28.1(c) of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure, Robertson filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that his right to a speedy trial had been violated due to the State's failure to bring him to trial within twelve months of the date of his arrest. The motion was denied, and Robertson was convicted of residential burglary and acquitted on the aggravated-assault charge. Robertson appeals, specifically arguing that a particular order continuing his case, which was entered by the court on its own motion, did not comply with Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 28.3(b) and was therefore insufficient to toll the running of time for speedy-trial calculations.

         Under Rule 28.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure, a defendant must be brought to trial within twelve months unless there are periods of delay that are excluded under Rule 28.3. Ark. R. Crim. P. 28.1(c); Yarbrough v. State, 370 Ark. 31, 33-34, 257 S.W.3d 50, 53 (2007). If the defendant is not brought to trial within the requisite time, the defendant is entitled to have the charges dismissed with an absolute bar to prosecution. Ark. R. Crim. P. 30.1; Yarbrough, supra. Once a defendant establishes a prima facie case of a speedy-trial violation, i.e., that his trial took place outside the speedy-trial period, the State bears the burden of showing that the delay was the result of the defendant's conduct or was otherwise justified. Id.

         In the case before us, Robertson was arrested on November 18, 2016. On February 28, 2018, he filed a motion to dismiss for violation of his speedy-trial rights based on a scheduled trial date of March 20, 2018. We have held that the filing of a speedy-trial motion tolls the running of the time for a speedy trial under our rules. Id. The time period between the arrest and the filing of the motion is 468 days.

         Here, the State concedes that Robertson made a prima facie showing of a speedy-trial violation and that the burden shifted to the State to show that the delay was the result of the defendant's conduct or was otherwise justified. Thus, we must determine whether the circuit court correctly excluded the challenged time periods from its speedy-trial calculations.

         Robertson does not contest the exclusion of 28 days from February 7 to March 7, 2017, and another exclusion of 70 days from June 13 to August 22, 2017, as both delays were due to continuances he had requested. When 98 days are excluded from the 468-day period, 370 days remain.

         Robertson had a trial set for Monday, October 23, 2017. That same day, the trial court entered an order continuing the trial until March 20, 2018. The order noted that a five-day jury trial was scheduled to begin October 23, 2017, and it stated that the time from October 23, 2017, until March 20, 2018, was excluded by the trial court for speedy-trial-calculation purposes. The order notes that it was distributed to Robertson's counsel. The trial court entered a second order continuing the trial to March 27, 2018. This order did not state that the time was excluded for speedy-trial purposes, and Robertson does not contend that it should be excluded from the speedy-trial calculation, except insofar as the speedy-trial time was tolled when Robertson filed his motion to dismiss for speedy-trial violations on February 28, 2018. Thus, this appeal raises the question of whether the 128-day period from the filing of the trial court's order on October 23, 2017, to the filing of Robertson's speedy trial motion on February 28, 2018, is rightly excluded from the speedy-trial calculation.

         Robertson argues that it is not, because both the order and the docket entry failed to satisfy the requirements for exclusion found in Rule 28.3(b) of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure. ...


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