BY LEANN DILBECK –
“I would like to live but at the same time I am bound by law to take responsibility for the wrongs I’ve done. I’m ready to go,” were the words spoken today by Karl D. Roberts as he took the stand in Polk County Circuit Court before Honorable Judge J. W. Looney.
Approximately 30 people attended the Roberts hearing amid very tight security at the Polk County Courthouse. Roberts, himself, was wearing a bullet-proof vest.
Because of the length and the complexity of the numerous legal maneuverings of the case, Judge Looney opened the hearing with a very brief timeline of the case.
In May of 2000, Roberts was convicted for the 1999 rape and strangulation murder of his 12-year old niece (by marriage) Andi Brewer. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection.
Roberts waived his right to challenge his conviction and sentence in 2000 in Polk County Circuit Court.
As is customary in death penalty cases, the Arkansas Supreme Court reviewed the case for any errors that may have occurred in the trial courts (Polk County Circuit Court).
On May 20, 2003, Roberts appeared in Polk County Circuit Court and told the Court, “I don’t think a guilty person should be allowed to live or he should at least accept responsibility, his punishment whatever it may be.” The Circuit Judge asked Roberts if he understood that he was choosing death over life. Roberts answered, “Yes, sir.” The Circuit Court held this to be a valid waiver of Roberts’ right to pursue any further appeals.
However, just hours before he was scheduled for execution in January 2004, Roberts allowed his attorneys to seek an appeal and received a stay of execution. Ultimately, the Arkansas Supreme Court re-opened his case on February 14, 2013 following numerous legal actions and delays.
While Roberts was on the stand today, Judge Looney asked him about a letter he (Roberts) had written to a federal judge that had been ordered sealed. Looney respected the request and did not read the letter but asked Roberts about certain points in the letter. Roberts 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 today 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 has fully expressed that he doesn’t want to pursue the appeal, the Arkansas Supreme Court has 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 is not sufficient or recent enough to satisfy the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Therefore, the ruling today from Polk County Circuit Court, in order to be compliant with a ruling from the state’s highest court, is that a mental evaluation by the state hospital is required. Upon the receipt of that, another hearing will be scheduled.
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