PAUL SUCHEY, JR. APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT
[NO. 16JCR-13-1109] HONORABLE BRENT DAVIS, JUDGE.
Lambert, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
F. VIRDEN, JUDGE
Suchey, Jr., was convicted in the Craighead County Circuit
Court of first-degree battery and was sentenced to
thirty-five years' imprisonment. This court upheld his
conviction in Suchey v. State, 2016 Ark.App. 225,
490 S.W.3d 320. Suchey filed a Rule 37 petition alleging
ineffective assistance of counsel, and after a hearing, the
court denied his petition. Suchey appeals the trial
court's denial of his petition. We affirm.
trial, the following relevant testimony was offered. Britney
Hockett was living with Suchey, who is now her ex-husband,
and their infant son, L.S., at her parents' home. Because
Suchey is disabled, he cared for L.S. while Hockett worked
two jobs. On the morning of September 2, 2013, Hockett was
scheduled to work from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Hockett said
that when she awoke around 7:30 a.m., L.S. was "his
normal self" and that she left for work around 8:30 a.m.
Her parents left that morning around 10:30 a.m. Hockett's
mother, Debbie, said that she thought L.S. seemed
"fine" when she returned home briefly around 2:00
p.m. According to Hockett's sister, Dana Johnson, L.S.
was "very happy and giggling" when she saw him
around 2:00 p.m. Debbie came home again around 4:00 p.m. to
prepare supper, and she left shortly afterward.
Hockett arrived home around 6:20 p.m., Suchey told her that a
barking dog had wakened L.S. from his nap, which caused him
to become "fussy." Hockett could not comfort the
baby, who continued to cry. When Johnson stopped by around
7:00 p.m., L.S. was crying and moaning, and Johnson offered
to hold him. Unlike Hockett, Johnson held the baby such that
the right side of his head was not pressed against her arm,
and L.S. calmed down. It was then that Johnson commented that
L.S.'s head seemed "deformed." On closer
inspection, Johnson said it looked as though L.S. had
"an egg-shaped tumor" on the right side of his
drove L.S. to the hospital by herself because Suchey had
insisted on following them in his own vehicle. Hockett
testified that she and her family were crying and "all
panicked" but that Suchey sat playing a game on his
phone. Hockett testified that she was told by the doctor that
L.S. had one of the worst skull fractures he had seen and
that it looked like L.S. had been struck in the head with a
baseball bat. Debbie recalled that when the doctor was
speaking, Suchey never looked at him or at L.S. Debbie
testified that she asked Suchey whether he had done something
to the baby and that Suchey only looked at her but said
Robinson, a patrolman with the Jonesboro Police Department,
was dispatched to the hospital with a report of possible
child abuse. Robinson said that he could not get much
information from Hockett and the grandmother because they
were crying. Suchey, on the other hand, did not show much
emotion. Suchey first told Robinson that he did not know what
had happened to the baby. He then said that while he was
bouncing the baby on his knees, the baby slipped and hit his
head on Suchey's knee. Next, Suchey said that as he was
carrying the baby down the hallway, his legs just "gave
out," he lost his balance, and the baby's head hit a
door frame. Robinson said that Suchey quickly changed the
subject to his disability. Sergeant Brad Rossman, who was
also with the Jonesboro Police Department, testified that he
had been informed by doctors that L.S.'s injury was
caused by blunt-force trauma and that he told Suchey the baby
could not have been hurt in the manners he had described to
Robinson. According to Rossman, Suchey said, "That's
my story[,] and I'm sticking to it."
Mickey Deal, an emergency-room physician at St. Bernard's
Medical Center in Jonesboro, described feeling fluid and
moving bones when he touched L.S.'s head and diagnosed a
depressed skull fracture. During direct examination, Dr. Deal
stated that the parietal plates in an infant's skull are
not easy to break and that a break results from a substantial
impact. He further stated that such injuries were generally
caused by being struck with objects like a hammer, a baseball
bat, or steel-toed boots; however, on cross-examination, he
acknowledged that falls against hard objects such as bricks
or door frames could cause such injuries. Dr. Deal said that
skull fractures like L.S.'s are potentially life
threatening and that surgery is generally considered. Dr.
Deal determined that L.S. needed to see a neurosurgeon
immediately, so the baby was airlifted to Memphis.
Karen Lakin, a physician at Le Bonheur Children's
Hospital in Memphis, who is board certified in both general
pediatrics and child-abuse pediatrics, and an assistant
professor of pediatrics at the University of Tennessee,
testified that a 3-D CT image of L.S.'s head showed a
large crack all the way across his skull, separation, and
some depression, which she diagnosed as a complex skull
fracture. Dr. Lakin stated that it took a lot of concentrated
force to cause that injury. Dr. Lakin said that such
fractures are caused by significant blows to the head
resulting from, for example, a car accident, a fall from a
balcony, or being struck with a baseball bat, a hammer, or a
brick. According to Dr. Lakin, L.S. also suffered subdural
bleeding, the pain from which she described as "the
worst headache" one could ever have. She further stated
that the subdural bleeding in connection with the complex
fracture was "a very serious injury" and that such
trauma to a three-month-old infant is "certainly life
threatening." When asked how such trauma could threaten
a baby's life, Dr. Lakin said that any major impact or
trauma to the brain that results in a fracture is "a
significant injury," which increased the risk for
complications that may not be apparent until later in life.
Dr. Lakin noted that treating infants can be difficult
because they cannot say what happened, how much the injury
hurts, and how long the pain lasts. On cross-examination, Dr.
Lakin explained that the amount of force that caused the
injury could not be quantified and that she could not
determine whether the force was accidentally or intentionally
convicted Suchey of first-degree battery, a Class Y felony.
During the sentencing phase, Suchey stated to the jury,
"I still don't know if it was actually me that hurt
my son. If it was, I'm sincerely sorry about it."
Suchey was sentenced to thirty-five years' imprisonment.
Rule 37 petition, Suchey asserted that counsel was
ineffective for the following reasons: (1) counsel pressured
Suchey not to take the stand in his defense; thus, the
decision was not made knowingly, voluntarily, or
intelligently and resulted in prejudice; (2) counsel
failed to present testimony or evidence to support
Suchey's defense. Specifically, Suchey alleges that
counsel did not present testimony or evidence to rebut
medical-expert testimony regarding the cause of L.S.'s
head injury, and counsel did not investigate or present
evidence regarding the medication Suchey was taking at the
time of L.S.'s injuries that caused him to have a
"flat" and unemotional demeanor.
requested and was granted a hearing. A summary of the
relevant testimony at the Rule 37 hearing follows. Dr.
Douglas Holland, a family physician with experience in
cardiac life support, advanced-trauma life support, and
pediatric life support and helicopter service, disputed that
the two-millimeter depression in L.S.'s skull was a
serious injury because infants' skulls are
"flexible" and that the brain is protected by the
flexibility of the skull. Dr. Holland agreed with Dr.
Lakin's testimony that L.S.'s medical chart showed
that he had bleeding under the fracture. Dr. Holland stated
that he did not interpret L.S.'s injuries as
intentionally inflicted, that Dr. Deal unnecessarily upset
L.S.'s family by "overinterpreting" L.S.'s