The attorney for former death row inmate Rickey Dale Newman has asked a judge for an Oct. 11 hearing to dismiss the 16-year-old murder case against her client.
Julie Brain of Philadelphia made the request Monday to Crawford County Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell after special prosecutor Ron Fields wrote Cottrell that he would be prepared to file statements and motions in Newman's case by the end of next week.
Brain's letter to Cottrell said she expected the Arkansas Supreme Court to issue a mandate Oct. 10 on its ruling Sept. 21 rejecting Fields' appeal of Cottrell's order that barred Fields from using at Newman's first-degree murder trial confessions he made after his arrest in 2001.
Cottrell ruled the confessions were inadmissible because the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Newman was mentally incompetent at the time and could not knowingly waive his Miranda rights.
Also on Sept. 21 Cottrell wrote a letter to Fields instructing him to advise him within 10 days whether he planned to continue prosecuting the murder charge against Newman, given the state Supreme Court's ruling.
Fields responded Monday that he was preparing "written statements and motions" to file by Oct. 13 barring revisions to the opinion before the mandate is issued or other actions by the Arkansas attorney general's office, which handled the appeal.
Brain wrote to Cottrell that Fields' response ignored Cottrell's instructions and "is the latest in a long line of attempts by the state to delay the resolution of the case by any means necessary."
Newman, 60, was convicted of capital murder and condemned to death in a one-day trial in June 2002 in the mutilation slaying of 46-year-old fellow transient Marie Cholette at a transient camp on the west end of Van Buren.
Brain told Cottrell in her letter Monday that the confessions were "the only meaningful evidence" against Newman. Brain had argued in earlier motions there was no other evidence linking Newman to Cholette's death.
The only evidence that put Newman and Cholette together was a surveillance video of the two at a Fort Smith liquor store on the last day Cholette was seen alive.
"It would be grossly unjust to require Mr. Newman to remain incarcerated for even one single day beyond the issuance of the mandate so that the state can file unspecified 'written statements and motions,'" she wrote.
In the state Supreme Court's 2014 opinion, the court threw out Newman's conviction and death sentence and ordered him back to circuit court in Crawford County to be restored to competence and retried.
Acting as his own attorney, Newman told jurors he killed Cholette and wanted the death penalty. He successfully waived his appeals and was scheduled to be executed July 26, 2005. Brain and another attorney persuaded Newman to seek a stay, which Newman agreed to four days before his execution date.
A federal judge granted the stay after evidence was presented questioning Newman's mental competence and he, through Brain, took up his appeals.
State Desk on 10/04/2017
Print Headline: Hearing to dismiss murder case urged