Medical records that show a Little Rock man accused of killing a friend in a drunken-driving crash had a blood-alcohol level 50% above the legal limit were wrongfully obtained by police and cannot be used at trial, a Pulaski County Circuit judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge Barry Sims sided with defense attorney Chad Green in the case of Jerry Wayne Joyner III, 24, who is charged with felony negligent homicide and two counts of second-degree battery related to the collision that killed his passenger, Malik Deshun "King" Lewis, 21, of Little Rock three years ago. The battery charges represent injuries inflicted on the people in the second car involved in the wreck.
Following an hour-long hearing, Sims barred prosecutors from using the records at Joyner's pending trial. Joyner faces up to 32 years in prison. Hospital blood-testing following the crash show Joyner had a blood-alcohol level of 0.122, with 0.8 the level that presumes intoxication under the law.
Green launched a multipronged legal attack Tuesday on the procedure police used to obtain Joyner's medical records. The attorney told the judge investigators obtained the 103 pages of records by court order when the law, which had been changed a month earlier, required they get a search warrant. Green further argued that through the order, police usurped prosecution subpoena authority to obtain the records, violating Joyner's privacy rights.
"They dropped the ball ... by not getting a warrant," Green told the judge, urging Sims to bar prosecutors from using the records at trial.
Green acknowledged that police procedure for obtaining medical records in fatal-crash investigations has changed over the past three years, but said those changes have not been enough. Green told the judge the police department is still guilty of "widespread abuse" in the way investigators get those records so suppressing the records will encourage them to give up those improper tactics.
Deputy prosecutor Reese Lancaster told the judge police had done nothing wrong and had been forced to seek the records after investigators' plans to obtain a urine sample following the crash were thwarted by Joyner becoming physically ill in the immediate aftermath of the crash.
Police legally obtained a court order for the records, which do not have the privacy protections claimed by the defense, he said. Furthermore, prosecutors would have gotten the records anyway once police arrested Joyner regardless of how investigators obtained them, Lancaster told the judge
Lancaster persuaded the judge that statements Joyner made to police about a month before his arrest were freely given so they can be used at trial. Joyner told Officer Mark Williams, the crash investigator, that he had "killed my friend" and wrote down his recollection of the wreck. Joyner was arrested in September 2018, almost exactly a year after the crash.
Joyner said he and Lewis had left a nearby nightclub to go purchase cigarillos, Williams testified. Joyner said they were in a 2016 gray Charger that he had borrowed from friend Viola Schaeffer because Joyner's car was boxed in at the parking lot for the club, the officer said.
Green argued that Williams had coerced Joyner into talking after the defendant had invoked his right to have his lawyer present. But the judge rejected those accusations, finding Williams had done nothing wrong, after hearing how Joyner had initiated that conversation with the officer who had read him his rights.
The collision on Asher Avenue near the Madison Street intersection occurred shortly before midnight Sept. 9, 2017. According to crash reports, Joyner was driving west on Asher, with Lewis in the passenger seat, when they collided with a 2007 Chevrolet Corvette, southbound on Madison, that had turned in front of them.
Corvette driver Jerry Jones of Little Rock and his passenger Sirisha Davis of Florida were injured in the crash.