NEWPORT -- A teen accused of fatally shooting a police officer in 2017 is scheduled to go to trial in August after a hearing Thursday that included his attorney accusing the judge and prosecutor of trying to embarrass him.
Circuit Judge Harold Erwin set Aug. 6 as the trial date for Derrick Heard, who was 16 when he was charged with capital murder in the June 2017 slaying of Lt. Patrick Weatherford, a 15-year veteran of the Newport Police Department.
Weatherford, 41, was killed June 12, 2017, after he and another officer responded to a vehicle break-in in the parking lot of Newport High School. Weatherford was shot while pursuing the suspect.
Police originally arrested 18-year-old Tyler Calamese after investigators said he confessed to killing Weatherford. Heard was arrested later after authorities said he told police he had fired the shot that killed the officer.
Calamese is charged with breaking or entering, theft and providing a weapon to a minor. Police say Calamese stole a handgun and gave it to Heard, who then used it to kill Weatherford.
Defense attorney Ronald Davis of Little Rock told the court Thursday that he will argue Calamese shot and killed Weatherford.
Erwin called Davis and Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce to Thursday's hearing at the Jackson County Courthouse to discuss a six-month delay in the proceedings.
The hearing marked the first time the parties had convened publicly since August, when Erwin denied a motion by Heard's lawyer to move the case to juvenile court.
Boyce said he requested the meeting after learning the Arkansas Supreme Court hadn't received a motion for appeal of the judge's ruling.
"It's the responsibility of the defense to make sure it is filed to the Supreme Court," Boyce said after the hearing. "Mr. Davis failed to do that. The Supreme Court doesn't even acknowledge the appeal exists. I requested the judge to set it for trial since it's technically still in his jurisdiction."
Erwin demanded an explanation for the delay from Davis.
"We have a simple interlocutory appeal from the middle of September until February," Erwin said. "This thing hasn't been lodged correctly. I don't know of any response from the court on your motion to appeal. We have six months on an interlocutory appeal. It has not been effective, and I want to know why not."
Davis looked around the court room, which was empty except for a scattering of deputies and a few reporters.
"The characterization and the tone continues to suggest that you are not pleased," Davis said.
Erwin quickly cut him off.
"I am not," Erwin replied.
Then Davis, Boyce and Erwin went back and forth for more than 20 minutes on who was responsible for the delay.
"I am not trying to delay this case," Davis said multiple times.
Davis mentioned repeatedly throughout the hearing that a miscommunication between his office and the circuit clerk's office had caused the delay, and that he didn't have knowledge of when the record of appeal was actually completed, which led to him asking for an extension.
"I wouldn't have asked you for an extension if I knew it was already complete," he said.
Erwin allowed an extension in December, but Boyce said Thursday that the defense had "back-doored" the prosecution by implying to the judge that the sides had discussed allowing extra time to file the appeal even though they had not.
Davis said the mix-up was a mistake made by one of his employees who had signed off on the document.
Erwin repeatedly questioned Davis about why he didn't make sure the process was correct with the Supreme Court appeal, which was never filed. He said the six-month time period was unacceptable, but Davis contended the judge knew of the delay when he asked for the extension.
"You guys are trying to embarrass me," Davis said. "You guys have gotten my full attention now. It's my intention for this man to walk out with me on trial day, and you can print that."
Davis said the judge's actions showed that he went on a "fact-finding mission" that was filled with false information from a former deputy clerk in the Jackson County Circuit Court office. Davis said no one contacted his office to let him know when the documents were completed.
Erwin ordered the former clerk to the stand, where she testified that she had called an assistant at Davis' office in October but couldn't remember who she had spoken with about the appeals document.
"Are you telling me that it's not your duty to call the clerk and see if the record is ready?" Erwin asked Davis.
Visibly frustrated throughout the hearing, Davis continued to argue with the judge and the prosecution. At one point Erwin said Davis was "really close to talking to me incorrectly and with no respect whatsoever."
"Let me remind you of the pecking order," Erwin said. "I am the circuit judge. I don't get interrupted or told to hold on."
Erwin asked Heard at one point if he wanted a new defense attorney. Davis objected to the judge's question, telling Heard that he didn't have to answer and that he had a right to remain silent. Heard replied to the judge's question with, "I'm good."
"I know what is going on here," Davis said. "This isn't my first time in Newport."
Erwin asked Davis to elaborate, but Davis declined because he "didn't want to get in any more trouble" and withdrew his statement.
Boyce said the heated hearing wasn't surprising.
"There is no such thing as a simple capital-murder trial," he said. "Especially when it involves the murder of a police officer."
State Desk on 03/22/2019
Print Headline: LR attorney claims effort to 'embarrass' him; judge notes 'pecking order,' sets trial date in officer killing