Jack Nelson Jones Professional Association
November 11-17, 2019
Sharp v. State Of Arkansas, 2019 Ark. App. 501 (Oct. 30, 2019)
This case arose on appeal from the Howard County Circuit Court, Honorable Charles A. Yeargan presiding. Appellant Amanda Jill Sharp (“Sharp”) was convicted in a bench trial of first-degree criminal mischief and criminal trespass. It not being her first encounter with the criminal justice system, she was sentenced as a habitual offender to fifteen years’ imprisonment, with eight of those years suspended. She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,380.77. She argued on appeal that the trial court erred in denying her motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals (“Court”) affirmed the lower court’s decision.
On Sept. 25, 2016, Sharp drove to the home of John Eric Glidewell (Glidewell) at a high rate of speed, music blaring, at 6 a.m., sliding to a stop ten feet from the bedroom where Glidewell, his wife, and children were sleeping. In a deliberate but unfortunate choice of persons to contact in this manner, Sharp leapt from her vehicle armed with a flashlight and began screaming and beating on and ramming the front door of the house. When this failed to cause Glidewell to open his door, Sharp turned around and began kicking the door as a horse might. This continued for nearly five minutes even though Glidewell, a Howard County Deputy Sheriff, was yelling at her to stop. Glidewell testified that the pounding on the side of his house and the door convinced him that Sharp was using some metal object in an attempt to break into his home, and that Sharp was screaming something, but the noise from her radio and her garbled words made it impossible for him to tell what she was saying. He even threatened to shoot Sharp through the door but still she persisted, until Glidewell was able to get her to back up enough for him to go outside. Once he was able to see the weapon was a flashlight, he grabbed Sharp and arrested her and called for assistance. Sharp had damaged Glidewell’s front door, including the door frame and the glass outer door, and had knocked holes in the vinyl siding of the house.
Sharp waived a jury trial and raised mental disease or defect as a defense. The court ordered examinations for criminal responsibility and fitness to proceed, and Dr. Julia M. Wood (Wood) performed a forensic evaluation on Sharp. Wood diagnosed Sharp with schizoaffective disorder and methamphetamine-use disorder. Wood concluded that while Sharp did not lack the capacity to understand the proceedings against her or to assist effectively in her own defense, it was her opinion that Sharp lacked the capacity to appreciate the criminality of her conduct and to conform her conduct to the requirements of the law at the time of the alleged offense due to her schizoaffective disorder. She also found that Sharp “was capable of the culpable mental state required as an element of the alleged offense.” She concluded that Sharp’s substance abuse was not the “sole cause of her psychotic and mood symptoms.” Wood concluded that Sharp was not high on drugs at the time of the offense because Sharp told her she had not used drugs for at least three days prior to the offense and had “slept well since her prior meth use.” Wood testified that in her experience, sleep was an indicator that a meth user was no longer under the influence.
Sharp was not satisfied and asked for a second mental evaluation, which was done. The only change in Wood’s findings was that Sharp told her she had had no drugs for four days. A motion to dismiss based on a lack of criminal responsibility was filed the same day. A hearing on the motion took place on Dec. 12, with an order denying the motion filed on Dec. 21. At the bench trial on Jan. 14, 2019, Glidewell testified that he was home asleep on Sept. 25, 2016, at 6 a.m., when he heard loud music coming up his driveway and gravel popping “almost sounding like a wreck.” He stated that the vehicle pulled up a few feet from his door, beside his bedroom window. He said that all he could hear was somebody hollering. He stated that he heard a woman’s voice and it sounded like she was beating on his “front metal door with something metal while screaming.” He said that he told his wife to call 911 and subsequently retrieved his gun. He testified that the woman started “kicking the door causing the whole door to shake.” He stated that after about five minutes of this, he recognized that it was Sharp, but said he could not understand what she was saying. He testified that although he thought Sharp was hitting the door with something metal, he realized that she had “turned around and was kicking it as hard as she could.” He threatened to shoot her if she did not move away from his door, which she did not do. Sharp finally sat down in the doorway, and Glidewell was able to get her to “scoot back” from the doorway so that he was able to go outside and place her under arrest. When he asked Sharp why she was at his house, she said that “the Baileys had poisoned her and people were getting their electricity.” He said that Sharp started moving “up and down” and, when he finally got her to sit in the yard, she started rolling around, making it “obvious to [him] that she was on drugs.” He testified that Sharp told him several times that she was on drugs and later said it was methamphetamine. Glidewell had known Sharp for years, but she had never come to his house. He said that Sharp broke his door and damaged his siding with a flashlight which she subsequently put in the flower bed. He stated that he received an estimate in the amount of $2,394 for the damages caused by Sharp. He also said he was buying a better door after this. On cross-examination, Glidewell stated that he lived two houses down from Sharp, about a half mile. He stated that once he detained Sharp, she told him that “the Baileys had poisoned her, someone named Bob, and that she saw something in the ditch.” He said that Sharp was “looking around, looking off in the ditch, and saying ‘there they are’ insisting somebody was in the ditch.”
On redirect, Glidewell stated that he had worked in law enforcement for nineteen years and had encountered “probably . . . hundreds or thousands” of people under the influence of methamphetamine, and Sharp was displaying the same behavior as others under the influence. He said that if Sharp had just been scared, she would have calmed down because he was there, but she just kept talking over him. Glidewell said he had also had many dealings with people suffering from schizophrenia, and, while he was no doctor, it was his belief that Sharp was on drugs the night in question; however, he admitted schizophrenia can come and go in episodes.
Sharp made a motion to dismiss at the conclusion of the State’s evidence, challenging the criminal intent and amount of damages. The court denied the motion and Sharp put on her defense. Dr. Wood testified that she first came in contact with Sharp in February 2017 when she performed a forensic evaluation on Sharp who scored a ninety out of one hundred, which indicated that she understood the legal matters and charges against her and that she was capable of assisting her attorney in preparing for trial. Wood testified Sharp had an extended history of mental illness. Wood said that it was her opinion that on the date in question, Sharp was “experiencing a psychotic state and hallucinating due to untreated schizophrenia, not drugs.” Wood testified that in that state, Sharp could not appreciate the criminality of her conduct or conform her conduct within the bounds of the law at the time in question. She also stated that Sharp acted appropriately under her mistaken belief that someone was chasing her. Wood testified that the only evidence she had of whether Sharp was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crime was Sharp’s version of events. She stated Sharp did not exhibit the signs of a meth user when she evaluated Sharp. However, she stated that if Sharp had admitted to Glidewell she was on meth at the time of the incident, “that would influence [her] opinion.”
On redirect, Dr. Wood stated that whether Sharp used meth three or four days before the incident would not “have influenced [her] opinion as to whether Sharp was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the alleged incident”. The medical-records manager at Riverview Behavioral Health in Texarkana, Arkansas, testified that Sharp had been diagnosed with a number of things, including schizophrenia, suicidal ideation, anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, nightmares, and insomnia. In Sharp’s admission assessment from Oct. 31, 2016, Sharp said she had last used meth around Sept. 26, 2016.
Sharp renewed her motion to dismiss at the close of all of the evidence, arguing she did not have the requisite intent for first-degree criminal mischief. Alternatively, she argued the affirmative defense of mental disease based upon Dr. Wood’s evaluations. The court denied the motion to dismiss, finding that Sharp’s actions were not reckless but intentional in using a flashlight and her body to try to enter the home, and continuing to kick the door. The court ruled that her actions were caused by meth induced use. At a later cost hearing, the court found damages of $2,394, with Glidewell having had to pay $1,000 deductible and his insurance paid $1,394. The lower court found the defendant had the burden to show that the reports of Wood should be upheld. It found Wood indicated her decision was based entirely on what Ms. Sharp told her and a few other reports, leaving the court to question whether Sharp gave true and accurate statements to the doctor. Wood indicated she had an error in her report at one point. Sharp did not tell Wood that she told Officer Glidewell she was high on meth at the time of the event. Other than a statement and Glidewell’s assessment of her behavior, there was nothing showing she was high at the time, but Sharp had a history of use, and admitted on a mental health intake a use of meth on the day of the event. Based on all this, the trial court ruled that the credibility and weight given by Wood was not conclusive or persuasive and rejected the report’s findings, finding instead that Sharp failed to prove her affirmative defense by a preponderance of evidence. Sharp was subsequently sentenced as a habitual offender.
Sharp argued error by the trial court in denying her motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss during a bench trial is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, the Court of Appeals must determine whether the verdict was supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial and must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict. Additionally, the weight of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses are matters for the factfinder, not for the Court to determine. Sharp further argued that her purpose for being at Glidewell’s home was not to commit criminal mischief, but to “save her own life.” The Court noted that, since intent ordinarily cannot be proved by direct evidence, the factfinder can draw upon his common knowledge experience to infer it from the circumstances. Moreover, because of the difficulty in ascertaining a person’s intent, a presumption exists that a person intends the natural and probable consequences of his or her acts.
The Court found that, here, the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the State, showed that Sharp arrived at Glidewell’s home before daybreak on Sept. 25, 2016, with her music blaring while high on meth. She knocked a hole in Glidewell’s vinyl siding with a flashlight and damaged his door by hitting and kicking it. She continued this behavior even after Glidewell threatened to shoot her if she did not stop. The Court held that this evidence was sufficient to support the lower court’s finding that Sharp possessed the requisite intent for first-degree criminal mischief. It noted that Sharp failed to preserve her argument that the State did not establish that damage of over $1,000 was done. Sharp’s final argument that the trial court erred in not accepting Wood’s findings was also denied by the Court, holding that the trial court, acting as the factfinder, chose to credit Glidewell’s testimony that Sharp was high on meth at the time of the crime over Wood’s opinion that Sharp was suffering from a mental disease, and noted that the lower court was entitled to believe Glidewell’s testimony. Accordingly, the decision of the trial court was affirmed.