A Faulkner County judge is reviewing testimony and documents entered as evidence Thursday in circuit court to determine if a 49-year-old man accused of murder is fit to proceed with trial.
Douglas Honley Bivens is charged with capital murder, attempted capital murder and two counts of aggravated assault on a family or household member following a Jan. 2, 2017, incident where Bivens's mother mother was found shot to death and his father suffered a gunshot wound in the arm.
The Arkansas State Hospital deemed Bivens fit to proceed with trial earlier this year. However, attorneys Gina Reynolds and Teri Chambers, who represent Bivens in this criminal matter, sought two experts' opinions in 2017 regarding Bivens's mental state and argue that based on those opinions, the 49-year-old suspect is not fit to proceed with trial.
Following consultation and further evaluation by experts Brittani Baldwin Gracey and Jason Beaman, the defense met with prosecutors before Faulkner County Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson Jr. for a separate fitness to proceed hearing. Before calling these experts to the stand to testify on Bivens's behalf, Reynolds first called one of the Faulkner County Detention Center jailers and another inmate who was previously housed in the same cell as Bivens.
Reynolds said she wanted jailer Joshua Harris and inmate Anthony Fowlkes to testify on Bivens's behalf because they have recently observed Bivens's obscure behavior since his incarceration at the county jail.
Harris and Fowlkes both said Bivens preferred to keep to himself, noting he was also known to talk to himself daily.
One thing Fowlkes said that stood out to him was that while Bivens was not known for keeping good hygiene habits, he would listen to correction officers he saw as authority figures and would agree to shower when they instructed him to do so.
As expert witness Baldwin Gracey took to the stand, Reynolds questioned her as to whether Bivens's poor hygiene habits had any correlation to having a mental illness.
Baldwin Gracey said it was not uncommon for one with a mental illness to exhibit poor hygiene habits, noting that Bivens suffers from Schizophrenia and also had a "disheveled" appearance during his evaluation with her.
"He appeared disheveled ... which is very consistent with someone with a mental illness," she said, noting Bivens "under report[ed] his symptoms" during her evaluation.
Bivens's health history showed he began showing signs of Schizophrenia at age 19.
Baldwin Gracey said she did not believe Bivens was fit to proceed with trial, stating he performed poorly on almost every exam and had an acute Schizophenic episode during her evaluation with her.
Along with Baldwin Gracey's testimony that Bivens showed psychomotor agitation during her consultation with him, he also showed signs of twitching and the inability to sit still as he sat in court Thursday. Throughout the day, Bivens fidgeted with his handcuffs and gazed about the courtroom as he sat calmly next to Reynolds and Chambers.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Carol Crews argued Bivens was fit to stand before a jury as she pointed out he understood the actions leading up to the charges against him were wrong and also understood the roles of each member of the court — his attorney, the prosecutor and the judge.
Despite a concern Beaman said he had regarding the possibility of Bivens acting out in court while having a Schizophrenic episode during a trial, Crews said she did not see this being an issue, noting Bivens has appeared in court nine times regarding the allegations against him and sat calmly in court for a full day Thursday and never acted out.
Beaman also said he did not believe Bivens was capable of aiding his attorneys in defending him throughout his criminal proceedings because Bivens showed to have difficulty recalling events and other short-term memory issues during his evaluation.
Crews again argued against this statement and referenced Bivens's interrogation following his arrest to back up her statement.
Although he reportedly began questioning Faulkner County Sheriff's Office deputies about the Klu Klux Klan during his interrogation, Crews said Bivens was able to coherently speak with deputies about events leading up to the Jan. 2, 2017, shooting.
Anthony Lawrence, who evaluated Bivens at the Arkansas State Hospital, testified on the prosecution's behalf.
He said that while Bivens showed to suffer from Schizophrenia, he also showed understanding of the charges against him and knew the roles of each member of the court. Lawrence also said Bivens showed to have better hygiene during his January 2018 evaluation at the state hospital and was able to answer questions asked of him regarding his criminal circumstances.
Bivens, who has pleaded not guilty to the aforementioned charges, was arrested Jan. 2, 2017, after sheriff's office deputies responded to a shots fired call and found Bivens’s mother, 71-year-old Janette Bivens, dead in the yard at 55 New Home Road, which is just outside of Guy city limits.
According to a search warrant, the sheriff’s office responded to a 911 call around 2:35 p.m. Jan. 2 “from a juvenile that [said] her uncle shot her ‘nana and grandpa.’”
“When Deputies arrived at 2:48 p.m. they found Douglas Honley Bivens walking up from the rear of the home with a shotgun that he placed on the trunk of a vehicle,” the search warrant affidavit reads. “Douglas Honley Bivens told Sgt. Darrell Freeman that he had just shot his mother and told him where her body was.”
FCSO found Janette by her vehicle with an apparent gunshot wound to her face.
Douglas’s father, 73-year-old Don Bivens, was taken to Conway Regional Medical Center after authorities found him inside the home with a gunshot wound in his arm.
Two juveniles who were at the home during the incident were put in the family’s custody on the scene.
According to the felony information filed in Bivens’s case, he was charged with two counts of aggravated assault for “manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, purposefully engage in conduct that created a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to a family or household member, [and] display a firearm in the manner that created a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to a family or household member.”
Judge Clawson said he wanted time to review the testimony given during Thursday's motion hearing, as well as time to read over Bivens's recent evaluation records by Baldwin Gracey, Beaman and Lawrence. Clawson said he will make a ruling regarding Bivens's ability to stand trial by Aug. 6.