Arkansas Denies Insanity Acquittee Appeal

Hughes v. State of Arkansas, 2011 Ark. 147; 2011 Ark. LEXIS 134 (April 7, 2011)

The Arkansas Supreme Court has held that a defendant who was acquitted of a criminal offense as a result of mental disease or defect and committed to a mental health facility could not appeal his acquittal because the Court only has jurisdiction to hear appeals of criminal “convictions.” The defendant in this case was charged with the offense of terroristic threatening by threatening to cause death or serious physical injury to the congregation of Harvest Time Tabernacle Church. Upon questioning by police, the defendant threatened to kill himself, asked for a gun and cried like a baby. The prosecution moved the trial court for an evaluation of the defendant’s competency to stand trial, which the court ordered. Upon receipt of the evaluation report, the defendant moved to exclude the evaluation. The trial court denied the motion and proceeded to hear evidence on the underlying charge. After hearing the evidence, the trial judge found the defendant had committed the offense but suffered from a mental disease or defect and did not have the capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. He therefore acquitted the defendant, but committed him to a mental health facility. The defendant appealed on the grounds that the court erred by finding he committed the offense of terroristic threatening and by compelling him to use the affirmative defense of mental disease or defect, thereby depriving him of his constitutional right of trial by jury.

Found in DMHL Volume 30 Issue 4