Judge orders murder-case mental exam

Defendant accused in April fatal shooting in PB; order to delay proceedings

PINE BLUFF -- The trial of a man accused in a Pine Bluff killing has been delayed after a judge granted a defense request for a mental evaluation to determine if the accused is mentally fit to stand trial.

Circuit Judge Alex Guynn granted a motion for a mental evaluation to be conducted on Tony Warren, who is accused in the April 8 shooting death of Clifton McDowell of Pine Bluff.

Warren, 21, of Pine Bluff, was charged with capital murder April 12 in the death of McDowell, 24, at Iris Street and Howard Drive in Pine Bluff.

Warren was initially arrested on drug and firearm charges in a traffic stop April 9 in Pine Bluff, during which police reported finding 21 grams of marijuana, a Springfield Armory .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun, a box of .45-caliber ammunition, digital scales and a cellphone.

According to court records, defense attorneys Bill James and Megan Wilson-Lowman of the James Law Firm in Little Rock filed a motion Jan. 10 asking Guynn to order examinations regarding Warren's fitness to proceed with trial and lack of criminal responsibility in the matter.

On Jan. 15, James and Wilson-Lowman filed a notice with the court that they intend to present a defense that Warren is not criminally responsible for his actions because of mental disease or defect, what is known as an "insanity defense."

"These are mental evaluations that a lot of times are requested in capital cases," Wilson-Lowman said. "It's a mental status examination to make sure that he is fit to proceed."

Wilson-Lowman said she could not predict how long the requested mental evaluations would delay the trial but that it would set things back several months, at least.

Another potential delaying factor, she said, would be if prosecutors appeal Guynn's ruling to disallow a search of Warren's cellphone to be used as evidence.

When he was arrested, Warren told detectives that he was in Little Rock at the time of the shooting, staying at a motel with a cousin, according to a probable cause affidavit. According to the affidavit, during a search of the cellphone, police found text messages indicating that he was in Pine Bluff on Howard Drive five minutes before the shooting.

In a Jan. 7 hearing, Wilson-Lowman successfully argued to suppress the evidence found on the cellphone, saying the search warrant that police used was misleading and overly broad in its wording.

According to court records filed Jan. 13, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jay Gerard filed a motion asking for reconsideration of the suppression of evidence found on Warren's cellphone. According to Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter, the motion differs from an appeal in that it simply asks Guynn to reconsider his ruling based upon a number of legal precedents listed in the motion.

Hunter said if Guynn declines to reconsider his ruling or returns with the same ruling, prosecutors will then have to decide whether to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

However, Hunter said Guynn's orders for mental evaluations based upon the defense motions will have to be satisfied before any other trial issues can be decided.

"That stops everything until the evaluations are completed," Hunter said, "and then it depends on what the reports say."

State Desk on 01/22/2020

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