LITTLE ROCK — A Pine Bluff man who allegedly held two women captive inside a medical clinic is entitled to a new trial because he was not allowed to present evidence at his first trial that formed the entire basis of his defense, the Arkansas Court of Appeals said Wednesday.
The state’s top court overturned William Lamar Brown’s conviction of two counts of kidnapping and one count each of second-degree battery and second-degree escape, for which he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors said that on Feb. 21, 2013, Brown entered a walk-in clinic and was shown to an examination room where a nurse, Phyllis Martin, and a nurse practitioner, Karen McPherson, planned to treat him for a groin abscess. While in the room, Brown allegedly brandished what appeared to be a gun and explosives and held the women captive for about 45 minutes.
Brown beat Martin, cut off McPherson’s hair and made multiple threats to kill the women before police entered the room and arrested him, prosecutors said. Brown later escaped when an officer released his handcuffs to remove his jacket, but he was quickly apprehended.
The items that appeared to be a gun and explosives were found to be a toy gun painted black and a dough-like substance.
During his trial in Jefferson County Circuit Court, Brown testified that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2009. The state objected, arguing that the testimony was irrelevant because Martin had not raised the affirmative defense of a mental disease or defect.
Circuit Judge Robert Wyatt Jr. agreed and ruled that the evidence was inadmissible. Brown’s mother and a friend were not allowed to testify about Brown’s diagnosis until the sentencing phase of the trial.
Brown, now 31, argued on appeal that the judge’s ruling was in error, and in its opinion Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals agreed.
The appeals court said Arkansas law allows a defendant who has not raised an affirmative defense of mental disease or defect to argue that the state has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she was capable of forming the intent to commit a crime. A defendant who raises that defense may present evidence of a mental disease or defect, the court said in the opinion written by Judge Larry Vaught.
“Brown suffered prejudice as a result of the circuit court’s exclusion of evidence of his mental disease. His entire defense was based on the excluded evidence,” Vaught wrote.