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Perkins v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

September 19, 2019

Corey D. PERKINS, Appellant
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

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         Knutson Law Firm by: Gregg A. Knutson, for appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.


         RHONDA K. WOOD, Associate Justice

          Appellant Corey Perkins was convicted of first-degree battery, a terroristic act, and possession of a firearm by certain persons. Perkins argues that his convictions must be reversed and the charges dismissed because his right to a speedy trial was violated. Alternatively, he asserts that his case must be reversed and remanded for a new trial because the circuit court improperly limited his cross-examination of the victim. We affirm Perkins’s convictions, but remand with instructions to correct the sentencing order.

          I. Brief Facts

          On the night of November 8, 2016, Corey Perkins shot Wilber Johnson. The bullet went through Johnson’s right hand and left forearm, resulting in lasting, disabling injuries. Little Rock police officers arrested Perkins on December 29, 2016. Following his arrest, Perkins was transported and held in the Arkansas Department of Correction in connection with a separate criminal proceeding.

          On July 27, 2017, defense counsel requested an Act 3 mental evaluation to determine Perkins’s fitness to stand trial. The court granted the motion. Due to repeated transportation complications, Perkins’s evaluation was not completed until March 28, 2018. The evaluation concluded that Perkins was fit to stand trial. On April 6, 2018, the report was filed with the court, and on July 26, 2018, Perkins’s bench trial began. Perkins was convicted and sentenced. He now appeals.

          II. Speedy Trial

         As an initial matter, the State contends that Perkins did not preserve his specific speedy-trial argument for appeal. Perkins’s counsel filed a motion for release under Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 28.1(a) and on appeal argues Rule 28.1(b). Although the State recognizes that Perkins also filed a written, pro se speedy-trial motion under Rule 28.1(b), it argues that he failed to obtain a ruling from the circuit court. That is incorrect.

          On December 11, 2017, the court conducted a hearing to report on the status of the Act 3 evaluation. Perkins, against the advice of his counsel, orally argued the points advanced in his written, pro se speedy-trial motion. The circuit court entertained his motion, gave a reasoned explanation in response, and expressly "denie[d] the motion made by Mr. Perkins." The speedy-trial issue is therefore preserved on appeal.

          We conduct a de novo review to determine whether specific periods of time are excludable under our speedy-trial rules. Carter v. State, 2016 Ark. 152, at 3, 484 S.W.3d 673, 674. Once a defendant establishes that his trial took place outside the speedy-trial period, the State bears the

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burden of showing that the delay was the result of the defendant’s conduct or otherwise justified. Id. Perkins contends the State failed to bring him to trial within twelve months of the date of his arrest, as required by Rule 28.1(b) of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure. Pursuant to Rule 28.2(a), Perkins’s speedy-trial clock began to run on December 29, 2016. Ark. R. Crim. P. 28.2(a) (2019). His bench trial began 574 days later, on July 26, 2018. This satisfies a prima facia showing of a speedy-trial violation.

          The State must establish that at least 209 days were excludable from the speedy-trial calculation. To meet this burden, the State points to the delay attributable to the defendant’s request for an Act 3 mental evaluation. Specifically, the State contends that the time between the court orally ordering the Act 3 evaluation and the report’s filing date is excludable.

         Rule 28.3(a) of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure expressly provides that the period of delay resulting from an examination of the defendant’s competency shall be excluded in computing the time for trial. Ark. R. Crim. P. 28.3(a) (2019). When tolling time for a mental evaluation, we have consistently stated that time is excluded from the "date the exam is ordered to the report’s file date." Davis v. State, 375 Ark. 368, 373, 291 S.W.3d 164, 168 (2009). We have equally maintained that an oral order announced from the bench does not become effective until reduced to writing and filed. E.g., Zimmerman v. Circuit Court of Miller Cty., 2018 Ark. 264, at 5, 555 S.W.3d 406, 409. Accordingly, we exclude the time from the circuit court’s written order that was entered on September 6, 2017, until and the resulting evaluation was filed on April 6, 2018. In other words, 212 days are excludable as a result of Perkins’s request for a mental evaluation. Therefore, Perkins was brought to trial within 365 days.

         Perkins asserts that because he was not personally responsible for missing his various Act 3 appointments, the State must further justify the delays. In Brawley v. State, we considered and rejected this very argument. 306 Ark. 609, 613, 816 S.W.2d 598, 601 (1991) (reasoning that "[t]he literal language of Rule 28.3(a) states simply that the period required by a competency examination is excluded"). Because the State established that at least 209 days were excludable, the circuit court did not err in denying Perkins’s motion to dismiss.

          III. Cross-Examination

          Perkins also argues that his case must be reversed and remanded for a new trial because the circuit court abused its discretion in limiting his cross-examination of the victim, Wilber Johnson. The circuit court enjoys wide latitude to impose reasonable limitations during cross-examination of matters that are slightly relevant. Gordon v. State, 326 Ark. 90, 94, 931 S.W.2d 91, 93 (1996). The decision to admit or exclude evidence is within the sound discretion of the circuit court, and we will not reverse that decision absent a manifest abuse of discretion. E.g., Scamardo v. State, 2013 Ark. 163, at 7, 426 S.W.3d 900, 904.

          Specifically, Perkins contends the circuit court erred in not allowing him to ask six questions during Johnson’s cross-examination. Immediately prior to the questions, Perkins attempted to admit several pages of Johnson’s UAMS medical records as defense exhibits. The circuit court ruled that the proffered reports were irrelevant because they did not make it more or less likely that a battery occurred. Nevertheless, Perkins engaged the court in the following colloquy:

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[THE DEFENSE]: Your Honor, can I ask questions from these reports summarized and see what his response is?

THE COURT: Well, let’s see what the question is.
[THE DEFENSE]: I’m going to ask him if on the night that he was brought in or a few days later on the 11th he accused the UAMS of stealing his keys and his money. That’s the first one.
[THE STATE]: No, Your Honor. There is an objection to relevance.
THE COURT: What is the objection? Relevancy?
[THE STATE]: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Sustained.
[THE DEFENSE]: [No.] 7 is the question I wanted to ask him about his psychiatric history, you know.
[THE STATE]: Objection, relevance.
THE COURT: Let’s hear what the question is. What’s your question?
[THE DEFENSE]: You allegedly had a psychiatry - history of psychiatry. Can you tell us what that’s all about?
[THE STATE]: Object.

THE COURT: Sustained.

[THE DEFENSE]: No. 8, you were incoherent when you went in. And obviously, I put that to the fact he was incoherent in the hospital. How could he ...

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