A Conway man accused in the 2016 shooting death of Robert Lee Givens is asking that other allegations regarding false imprisonment and domestic battery not be used against him in trial.
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 is also charged in a separate incident where he is accused of false imprisonment, domestic battery and criminal mischief. Both cases were filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court on Sept. 16, 2016.
J. Blake Hendrix, who represents Thomas, filed a motion in limine Wednesday, requesting the details of Thomas' false imprisonment case not be mentioned during his upcoming capital murder trial.
"Thomas is charged with the capital murder of Robert Givens on September 9, 2016. The state alleges that Thomas, in a fit of rage after a roadside-altercation moments before, pulled alongside Givens' vehicle and shot him. But included in the discovery material are allegations that Thomas committed acts of violence both before and after the homicide on [Sept. 9]," the motion reads in part. "For instance, the discovery contains allegations that Thomas falsely imprisoned and committed domestic battery against [a woman] by detaining her in a hotel room and beating her on September 15, 2016, six days after the homicide, and, in a separate incident on [Sept. 15], committed criminal mischief by throwing a flashlight through [the woman's] car window int he parking lot of the county jail."
The motion also references an allegation where Thomas is accused of hitting another woman in the face, "but it's not clear whether this was before or after the homicide."
Because these alleged crimes are unrelated, Hendrix argues the information should not be brought up during Thomas' jury trial, which is set to begin Sept. 25.
"Regardless, these incidents are not relevant to the capital murder charge and are inadmissibly prejudicial," Hendrix wrote.
As he defended his client, Hendrix further argued against allowing these other alleged incidents to be used as evidence during the capital murder trial, adding that Rule 404 of the Arkansas Rules of Evidence state the evidence of a person's character or character trait is not admissible in court regarding an attempt to prove the defendant "acted in conformity therewith on a particular occasion."
Earlier this year, Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson Jr. struck down the defense's request to suppress evidence obtained by searching Thomas' phone records.
Hendrix had argued that the search warrant the Conway Police department 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.”
Thomas is currently scheduled to appear in Faulkner County Circuit Court for a pretrial hearing regarding the capital murder charge against him at 9 a.m. Sept. 7. His three-day jury trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 25.
Online records show 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.