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Brooks v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

December 11, 2019

Maxxi L. BROOKS, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

Page 390

          APPEAL FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT [NO. 16JCR-17-616], HONORABLE PAMELA HONEYCUTT, JUDGE

          Terry Goodwin Jones, for appellant.

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

         OPINION

         N. MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge

Page 391

          Following a jury trial, appellant Maxxi L. Brooks was convicted in the Craighead County Circuit Court of committing a fraudulent insurance act and attempted theft of property. On appeal, she argues that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying her motion for a continuance. We affirm.

          Appellant’s jury trial was originally scheduled for August 2017. On defense motions for continuances, the trial was rescheduled for December 2017, then April 2018, and then August 2018. On August 20, 2018, the defense filed another motion for a continuance arguing that a defense witness would not be able to testify until after resolution of his charges in federal court in November 2018. Appellant’s attorney also argued that he needed more time to prepare for trial due to obligations in another case set for trial at the same time. The circuit court granted the motion and reset the trial for December 17, 2018.

          On December 6, 2018, appellant’s attorney filed another motion for a continuance arguing that the defense witness was not willing to testify until after his sentencing in federal court in February 2019. On December 13, 2018, appellant filed a pro se motion for a continuance citing the unavailability of her witness and requesting time to raise money to hire an unnamed lawyer who she said was willing to take her case once she could make a payment. A hearing on the motions was held on December 17. The circuit court stated that it had already continued the case for appellant to hire a lawyer and she had not done so. Noting that the case had been pending for more than a year, the court ruled that it was not going to continue the case again for this reason.

         Regarding the defense witness, appellant’s counsel argued that the witness had informed him that he would not testify in appellant’s trial before his sentencing in his federal case. The State argued that the witness’s federal case was a drug case that had nothing to do with appellant’s case, and there was no reason why he could not testify before his sentencing. The court agreed with the State and noted that the case had been continued for this witness before with the assurance that he would be available for this trial date. Accordingly, the court denied the motions for a continuance, and appellant’s jury trial was held the following day.[1] She was convicted on both counts and sentenced to one year imprisonment.

          On appeal, appellant argues that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying her motions for a continuance to secure the witness and obtain new counsel. She argues that her motions did not come at the last minute before trial, that there was no showing by the State that a continuance would hinder its case, and that denying the continuance did hinder her case.

         We review a denial of a motion for continuance under an abuse-of-discretion standard, and an appellant must demonstrate that the circuit court’s abuse of its discretion resulted in prejudice amounting to a denial of justice. Creed v. State, 372 Ark. 221, 273 S.W.3d 494 (2008). Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 27.3 provides that a court shall grant a continuance "only upon a showing of good cause and only for so long as is necessary, taking into account not only the request or consent of the prosecuting attorney or defense counsel, but also the public interest in prompt disposition of the case."

         In deciding whether to grant a continuance to secure a ...


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