Arkansas circuit judge's ruling ends unruly murder suspect's turn as own lawyer

Posted: June 13, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Parnell Robert May, 41, of North Little Rock

Parnell May, the North Little Rock murder suspect who's been repeatedly removed from court for his disruptive tirades against authorities, can no longer represent himself, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson said Tuesday.

The judge warned May, 43, at a three-hour hearing on Friday that he was considering barring the defendant from further acting as his own lawyer after May's angry ranting and raving repeatedly sidetracked an effort to review the 85 handwritten motions he has filed since his first trial ended in January, when he raged out of control in front of a jury and refused to calm down.

The state Public Defender Commission will take over May's case and hire an attorney for him, the agency's executive director, Gregg Parrish, told the judge. Parrish said the deputy defenders in Little Rock who normally would be called on to represent May have conflicts of interest that require the commission to pay for private counsel.

Last week, May alternately yelled and begged the judge not to "force" a lawyer on him, saying he would never accept anyone who did not love him as much as he loved himself.

His reaction to the judge's pronouncement Tuesday was muted. He did not complain about being barred from representing himself, but he did start to complain that he's being subjected to double jeopardy because prosecutors have upgraded the original first-degree murder charge to capital murder. They are now seeking a life sentence.

"Is that constitutional?" May asked Parrish. "I'm very concerned about the double jeopardy. That's charging me twice for the same thing."

May is accused of beating his 41-year-old girlfriend to death shortly before Christmas in 2016. The half-naked body of Ann Marie Mireles was found on the front steps of the North Little Rock home that she and May had moved into three days earlier.

Mireles had been hit so hard her liver had been ripped apart and her teeth had been driven through her lips. She'd been beaten so badly that the medical examiner could not count all of her injuries because of the overlapping cuts and bruises.

May was carrying Mireles' cellphone, which had pictures of her from inside the home. Sheriff's deputies also found her blood on his shoes.

Court records show that May has killed before, and his insistence on representing himself could leave him open to having to answer questions about his 1991 manslaughter conviction in Louisiana for the fatal stabbing of his older sister's boyfriend.

He had been charged with second-degree murder in that case, but jurors found him guilty of the lesser manslaughter charge in an 11-1 verdict after about three hours of deliberations. He was sentenced to six years in prison in February 1992.

Records from St. Landry Parish show that May killed Raymond Bell, 34, of Opelousas, La., in a late-night encounter in Bell's home in April 1991, about a month before May's 16th birthday.

Court records show that May was arrested after showing up later that same night at an Opelousas hospital with knife wounds. Bell had been stabbed in the chest.

May made incriminating statements to police when he was arrested, but at trial he denied killing Bell and testified that he'd been intimidated into making those statements by the real killer, a neighbor of Bell's who was a drug dealer. The neighbor was also one of the prosecution witnesses.

Court records did not state a motive but show that May had been sleeping in a car in front of Bell's home and that the man did not want the boy at his house.

May told police he lived in Houston with his parents. Records did not show how long he had been in Opelousas. Both Bell and May's sister were married to other people at the time.

In the hours ahead of the fatal altercation between the teen and Bell, May had been telling neighbors that he wanted to kill someone and was looking for a gun or a knife to do it.

Bell and May's sister, Diane Shilow, 29 at the time, were later heard arguing inside the trailer by a neighbor, although the neighbor could not make out details of the quarrel.

Sometime later, Shilow walked out of the house and got a knife out of the car where May had been sleeping. She gave him the weapon, put her arm around him and spoke to him before they both went back in the trailer. Neighbors then heard Bell and May fighting.

Shilow told police she had removed the knife from the car and given it to May to take into the house because she was drunk and afraid she would fall on it.

Shilow stood trial with her brother and also was convicted of manslaughter. She received a one-year prison sentence.

Metro on 06/13/2018