LITTLE ROCK — For the second time, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a man accused of killing a transient in Crawford County in 2001 has not been denied his right to a speedy trial.
Rickey Dale Newman, now 59, also a former transient, was convicted and sentenced to death in June 2002 in the February 2001 slaying of Marie Cholette, 46, in a “hobo park.” In January 2014, the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction, finding that he was incompetent at the time of his trial, and ordered a new trial.
In February 2014, Crawford County Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell suspended proceedings in the case and committed Newman to the Arkansas State Hospital until he could be evaluated and found competent to stand trial. Cottrell ruled in November 2015 that a new evaluation of Newman showed he was competent to stand trial.
In a petition filed last month, Newman’s attorneys argued that after the issuance of the November 2015 ruling that Newman was competent, a year elapsed without a retrial, so the state had violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
In a previous petition filed in May 2016, Newman’s attorneys argued that the state violated the speedy-trial rule by allowing more than a year to pass between Newman’s committal and the finding that he was competent. The Supreme Court rejected that petition in December, finding that the delay was attributable to Newman’s refusal to submit to evaluation and therefore was not the fault of the state.
In response to Newman’s second petition arguing that the speedy-trial rule was violated, attorneys for the state argued that the filing of Newman’s May 2016 petition delayed his retrial. The period of time between the filing of that petition and the Supreme Court’s December ruling should not count in determining whether the speedy-trial rule had been violated because the delay was not the state’s fault, the state argued.
The Supreme Court rejected Newman’s latest petition Thursday in a one-page order without comment.
Cottrell has ruled that Newman is mentally retarded. In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing a mentally retarded defendant is “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.