A Faulkner County rape suspect who reportedly escaped Arkansas State Hospital custody last month will stand trial in January.
James Michael Barrett, 34, of Greenbrier was charged in August 2015 with rape, a Class Y felony. He was scheduled to stand trial in July. However, his defense attorney requested he undergo a second criminal responsibility evaluation at the State Hospital. During a hearing held Monday morning in Faulkner County Circuit Court, a new trial in this 2015 was scheduled.
Carol Crews, chief deputy prosecutor, expressed her frustrations with this case before Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson Jr. on Monday, noting she previously argued against allowing the defendant be allowed a second evaluation and that after Barrett was OK'd to receive a second examination, he fled to Tennessee.
A jury trial in Barrett’s case was scheduled to begin on July 11. Two days before the scheduled trial, Lynn Plemmons, who represents Barrett, filed a motion requesting Barrett undergo a second criminal responsibility examination.
Barrett was previously found unfit to proceed with the criminal proceedings against him by Arkansas State Hospital staff. At that point, Judge Charles “Ed” Clawson Jr. ordered in early 2017 that Barrett receive in-patient treatment at the State Hospital.
In his March 2017 ruling, Clawson ultimately ordered Barrett undergo treatment leading up to his ability to stand trial.
“I am not prepared to make a finding that he is not fit to proceed at this point,” Clawson wrote in his 2017 ruling. “What I am prepared to find is that he many need some treatment in order to continue with the process and therefore think it would be appropriate that he be provided treatment which will include medication for the symptoms of anxiety and depression to which Dr. [Melissa] Dannacher referred. Having made that finding, I would find that this matter needs to be rescheduled for some point in the future for a pretrial and in the interim he be provided treatment through the state hospital or other appropriate facility to obtain medication for these two problems so that this matter can proceed to trial.”
In his July request, Plemmons pointed out on Barrett’s behalf that the defendant was in the Arkansas State Hospital’s care receiving treatment but still needed a second criminal responsibility hearing.
Plemmons said Barrett had been receiving treatment consistently for more than six months and that treatment “included both therapy and medication and [that] he is [now] much more able to communicate.”
Crews said she disagreed with the defense’s request, noting she believed it was a “delay tactic” and reiterated that the victim in this case is entitled to her day in court. In her arguments against allowing Barrett to undergo a second evaluation, Crews also addressed the state’s position, noting prosecutors have attempted bringing this case to trial for three years.
Clawson ruled in the defense’s favor in July and ordered the State Hospital conduct a second criminal responsibility examination.
Following the 34-year-old's alleged escape, he has since been ordered to remain behind bars without bond in the county jail. Clawson said Monday that he will stand by an earlier ruling that Barrett is considered fit to proceed with trial.
"The court is accepting the State Hospital's findings. [Barrett] is fit to proceed," Clawson said.
Twentieth Judicial District prosecutors and the defense counsel each said they expect to spend a full day calling witnesses to the stand and asked that a two-day trial be set in Barrett's case.
"This is a case where the defense will require quite a bit of expert testimony," Plemmons said Monday.
The two-day trial in the 2015 rape case filed against Barrett is now scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 23 in Faulkner County Circuit Court. Prior to his trial, Barrett is also scheduled to appear in circuit court Nov. 13 for a pretrial hearing regarding the aforementioned case.