A Conway man accused in the 2016 shooting death of Robert Lee Givens is set to stand trial in September.
Sammie Lee Thomas Jr., 40, is currently charged with capital murder and possession of firearms by certain persons in connection to the Sept. 9, 2016, shooting death of 66-year-old Givens. Thomas, who is currently being held without bond in the county jail, is now set to have a three-day jury trial in the case against him.
Earlier this week, an official order was signed by Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson Jr. denying a previous request by the defense to suppress evidence obtained by searching Thomas' phone records.
Clawson stated that Thomas "erodes his right to privacy in the use of the phone" because the cell phone in question was provided to Thomas under another woman's phone plane.
Thomas' defense attorney, J. Blake Hendrix, previously argued that the search warrant Conway Police Department Sgt. Melissa Smith requested did not specify her search to information pertaining to a homicide.
"The seizure was restricted to information generated between midnight of September 8, 2016, through the end of the day of September 14, 2016," the request to suppress reads. "The warrant did not limit the seizure to evidence of the homicide or, in fact, to any offenses at all."
According to information provided in the original search warrant affidavit, a woman named Jana Kelly informed detectives that Thomas has a phone through her phone plan and showed where she had tracked his whereabouts on the night Givens was murdered.
The defense also said it felt the information provided in the search warrant affidavit was too broad and did not warrant a judge's approval to search AT&T phone records.
Clawson disagreed and denied the defense's request to suppress the evidence obtained off Thomas' phone.
"As to the allegation that the affidavit lacked probable cause to believe the AT&T data contained incriminating information, Ms. Kelly's cell phone data as to the Defendant's location was incorporated into the affidavit for search, and along with all other facts set out gave rise to sufficient probable cause to issue the warrant," Clawson's order reads. "The Court finds that the time frame of the warrant was not overbroad; the dates of September 8-, 2016, began on the date of the homicide and ended the day the Defendant was arrested. This accounts for the time that could lead to incriminating or exculpatory information regarding his whereabouts during the time of these events."
During a pretrial hearing in Thomas' case on Thursday, the defense and prosecutors agreed on setting a trial regarding the aforementioned charges. The three-day trial is set to begin Sept. 25.
Thomas was charged with capital murder after an investigation by Conway police placed him at the scene of the Sept. 9, 2016, shooting death of Givens.
Givens was shot to death around 1 a.m. Sept. 9 near the intersection of Donaghey Avenue and Independence Street after meeting his daughter in the area to fix a flat tire on her vehicle. He was driving his daughter back to her vehicle after purchasing Fix-a-flat when an SUV behind them began flashing its headlights. Witnesses said a black male was driving the tan-colored SUV with a white woman in the passenger seat.
Givens’ daughter said that when her dad pulled over, he and Thomas exchanged words. According to the police report, Thomas told her father something to the effect of “I thought your were someone else.”
Thomas allegedly shot Givens one time after Givens tried to drive away.
According to the probable cause affidavit, the woman who was with Thomas said he was looking for his girlfriend and mistakenly thought Givens’ daughter was his girlfriend riding around with another man.
Thomas faces additional charges — third-degree battery with the purpose of injury and first-degree false imprisonment — following a 911 call to the Holiday Inn Express later that night.
When police arrived, they found a woman with a swollen left cheek and left ear who “was crying and her hands were shaking,” according to an affidavit.
The woman, who was Givens’ girlfriend, told police a friend had rented the room “to hide her away from” Thomas.