BY MELANIE BUCK AND LEANN DILBECK –
Death row inmate Karl D. Roberts was back in Polk County Circuit Court this week in a competency hearing on whether or not he is able to make real-life decisions regarding the death penalty he received upon conviction in the 1999 rape and murder of his 12-year old niece, Andi Brewer. Circuit Court Judge J.W. Looney presided over the hearing and stated in his decision that Roberts is indeed “competent to knowingly and intelligently waive all rights to post conviction relief and has the capacity to choose between life and death (i.e. to elect execution) and to forego representation.”
Roberts received the death penalty in May of 2000 from a jury of his peers in a trial that was presided over by Judge Gayle Ford. After his conviction, Roberts waived his right to appeal.
However, on January 6, 2003, just hours before he was scheduled for execution, Roberts decided he wanted to seek an appeal and received a “stay of execution.” Since that time, he has remained incarcerated in a sea of legal maneuvering that resulted in the Arkansas Supreme Court re-opening his case on February 14, 2013.
In Polk County Circuit Court on Monday, December 29, 2014 expert witnesses, Dr. Mark Peacock and Dr. Daryl Fujii, testified as to whether Roberts is competent or not. Dr. Fujii, a Clinical Psychologist of 22 years, from Hawaii, testified that he believes Roberts is not fit to make decisions stating that Roberts has “hallucinations” and is “delusional.” Dr. Fujii, who hasn’t interviewed Roberts since 2013, said that Roberts fears getting raped in prison and that he also believes there is a conspiracy to mistreat him “from the prison administration, down.” However, in Judge Looney’s decision, he stated, “While both experts described a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Dr. Peacock acknowledged that this did not necessarily mean one is incompetent to make rational decisions.” Both expert witness doctors indicated that Roberts is “capable of rational decision making although under some circumstances affected by mental disease,” said Looney.
Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner pointed out that Dr. Fujii’s last report on Roberts was written in 2011, even though the doctor had interviewed Roberts in 2013. Riner also pointed out that in the report, Fujii seemed to “fairly heavily rely on what Mr. Lee (Roberts’ attorney) had told” and that the doctor had referenced the lawyer almost 20 times in the document.
Dr. Fujii said Roberts’ “decisions are not based on reality but his fears and illusions of getting raped in prison.” Riner said he felt that the thought of being raped in prison is not unrealistic fear, saying, “Prison is not a nice place.”
After testimony was heard, the defense produced affidavits from six individuals for Judge Looney to take into consideration. Judge Looney took those to chambers to weigh all of the evidence before he made a decision. In his report, Judge Looney said three of those affidavits were from people who had no recent contact with Roberts and were only considered as historical information and the other three “add little to the testimony of the experts.”
Included in the evidence was correspondence from Roberts, by letter, to Judge Richard Kopf dated May 10, 2013 and letters to Polk County Circuit Court dated November 13, 2013; April 24, 2014; and May 12, 2014. After reading the letters Roberts had written, Looney stated, “He has made that waiver clear by his letter filings in this court, which were cogent and unequivocal, and by his testimony of September 16, 2013.”
Looney concluded, “The petition for Post-Conviction Relief filed by Defendant March 29, 2013 and the substituted petition of April 4, 2013 are hereby dismissed.”
Roberts had stated in May 2003 that he understood he was under sentence of death and was effectively waiving his rights to seek further relief. Roberts further testified that nothing had changed regarding his ability to intelligently and knowingly waive his rights and that he was not under the influence of medication or any other substance in making this waiver. Judge Ford had then asked Roberts what he wanted to happen in his case having waived all of his rights of which he replied, “Well, I don’t think a guilty person should be allowed to live or he should at least be able to accept responsibility, his punishment…whatever it may be.” He affirmed to the court that he understood he was choosing death over life.
With the Arkansas Supreme Court’s re-opening of the case, Roberts appeared before Judge Looney in September of 2013, and confirmed that he did not want the process to be delayed anymore and cited that he didn’t want to bring any more heartache to himself or his family to an already grievous situation. Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner asked Roberts that day on the stand if his decision to seek the appeal was “the right one,” in which, Roberts replied, “After everything me and my family has suffered through…no it wasn’t.”
Judge Looney explained that while Roberts had fully expressed that he doesn’t want to pursue the appeal, the Arkansas Supreme Court had ordered that a more recent mental evaluation must be performed that concludes Roberts understands that he is choosing death over life. The mental evaluation that proved he was fit to stand trial was not sufficient or recent enough to satisfy the Arkansas Supreme Court therefore sending the case back through the court system and eventually bringing the decision handed down by Judge Looney today.
Roberts’ defense team, headed by attorney Josh Lee, is expected to continue the appeal process on to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
For related articles:Circuit Court Denies Karl Roberts’ Post-Conviction Relief Karl D. Roberts Continues Seeking Appeal Roberts Appeal Rejected by Arkansas Supreme Court Family Continues Seeking ‘Justice for Andi’ Justice for Andi Supreme Court Re-Opens Roberts Death Penalty Case Victim’s family reacts to latest decision A Tree for Andi Roberts to Appear in Polk County Circuit Court Roberts Tells the Court, “I’m ready to go.” Roberts Defense Team Receives Another Continuance Victim’s Father Released and Family Responds to Latest Legal Maneuvering of 15-Year Death Row Inmate Karl D. Roberts