FROM THE DREW COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 22CR-18-30] HONORABLE
SAM POPE, JUDGE
Walthall Law Firm, P.A., by: Cecilia Ashcraft, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Michael Zangari, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
DAN KEMP, CHIEF JUSTICE
Emmitt Riley was found guilty by a Drew County Circuit Court
jury of first-degree murder with a firearm and tampering with
physical evidence and was sentenced to life imprisonment on
the murder conviction. Pursuant to Anders v.
California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), and Rule 4-3(k) (2018)
of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Arkansas, appellant
Emmitt Riley's counsel, Cecilia Ashcraft, has submitted a
no-merit brief and a motion to withdraw as counsel asserting
that this appeal is without merit. The motion to withdraw is
accompanied by an abstract and addendum purporting to include
all adverse rulings and a brief explaining that nothing in
the record supports an appeal. In accordance with Rule
4-3(k)(2), this court's clerk furnished Riley with a copy
of counsel's brief and notified him of his right to file
pro se points for reversal within thirty days. Riley has
chosen not to do so. We hold that counsel's no-merit
brief does not comply with Anders and Rule 4-3(k).
We order rebriefing and deny without prejudice counsel's
motion to withdraw.
4-3(k), which is based on Anders, sets forth the
framework for constitutionally permissible no-merit briefs.
Her v. State, 2015 Ark. 91, 457 S.W.3d 659. Rule
4-3(k)(1) requires that the argument section of a no-merit
brief contain "a list of all rulings adverse to the
defendant made by the circuit court on all objections . . .
with an explanation as to why each . . . is not a
meritorious ground for reversal." Ark. Sup. Ct. R.
4-3(k)(1) (emphasis added). We cannot affirm an
appellant's conviction and allow an attorney to withdraw
without adequate discussion as to why a particular ruling by
the circuit court should not be a meritorious ground for
reversal. Sartin v. State, 2010 Ark. 16, 362 S.W.3d
877 (per curiam). If a no-merit brief fails to address all
the adverse rulings, we will send it back for rebriefing.
Id., 362 S.W.3d 877. This court has previously
ordered rebriefing in life-imprisonment cases. See,
e.g., Her, 2015 Ark. 91, 457 S.W.3d 659;
Thompson v. State, 2014 Ark. 79 (per curiam);
Dewberry v. State, 341 Ark. 170, 15 S.W.3d 671
(2000); Skiver v. State, 330 Ark. 432, 954 S.W.2d
913 (1997) (per curiam).
review of the record demonstrates that one adverse ruling in
the argument section of the brief was not adequately
discussed by counsel. At trial, during redirect examination,
Riley's son, Emmitt Riley, Jr., testified. During his
testimony, the following colloquy occurred:
Defense Counsel: Is there anything that you forgot to mention
that's coming to your mind right now?
Riley Jr Well, I don't want to get interrupted when I
speak because I know I might speak, but all of these people
that has came [sic] up here and testified, I know them
personally. I'm from here just like they from here
Prosecutor: Objection, relevance, Your Honor.
The Court: Sustained.
Defense Counsel: You can step down. Call Emmitt Riley.
abstracted this specific adverse ruling in the brief but
failed to include a full discussion of the circuit
court's adverse ruling. The circuit court sustained the
State's objection based on relevancy, but counsel does
not address the relevancy ruling at all. Counsel merely cited
Rule 611 of the Arkansas Rules of Evidence on the methods of
interrogating witnesses and provided a conclusory sentence
that the "trial court's ruling was within its
is strongly encouraged to review Anders, 386 U.S.
738, and Rule 4-3(k) for the requirements of a no-merit brief
and to determine whether there remains any meritorious
argument on appeal. Counsel has fifteen days from the date of
this opinion to file a substituted brief that complies with
the rules. See Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 4-2 (2018). After
counsel has filed the substituted brief, our clerk will
forward counsel's motion and brief to appellant, and he
will have thirty ...