An Arkansas man charged in the murder of local woman Sydney Sutherland, 25, was ordered to get a mental health evaluation. With this decision, the defense for Quake Howard Lewellyn, 28, got its way.
The court order, filed on December 7 and now obtained by Law&Crime, will determine if the defendant is capable of participating in his case. A mental health examiner will provide an opinion on whether Lewellyn lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and to help effectively in his defense. The examination is scheduled for up to 60 days.
Under Arkansas law, a criminal defendant “who lacks the capacity to understand a proceeding against him or her or to assist effectively in his or her own defense as a result of mental disease or defect” cannot “be tried, convicted, or sentenced” while the “incapacity endures.” A judge can allow such a defendant to either walk free—which rarely ever occurs in murder cases—or to be remanded to the custody of the Department of Human Services “for detention, care, and treatment.” If the defendant regains capacity, he can be criminally tried.
The move suggests that Lewellyn’s attorneys will argue that he lacks criminal responsibility for his actions. Any statements the defendant makes during the examination is not necessarily admissible as evidence at trial, but the expert who conducts the evaluation can be called to testify.
Sutherland was reported missing back on August 19 after she did not return as expected from jogging. Investigators said her phone turned up about 1.3 miles from her home. Lewellyn quickly popped up on their radar. He allegedly said he saw her running on County Road 41 before the disappearance. Authorities said he agreed to be interviewed by the Arkansas State Police and allowed troopers to search his pickup truck. There, police recovered blood on the tailgate. A search of Lewellyn’s phone uncovered data from an app called Life 360 which puts the defendant just yards from where Sutherland’s body was discovered.
The defendant allegedly confessed to hitting Sutherland with his truck, raping her, and burying her.
Attorney William O. James Jr. requested the mental health evaluation back on November 19, saying in a filing obtained by Law&Crime that he had “reason to believe that due to mental disease or defect, Mr. Lewellyn may not fully understand the proceedings against him, and may not have been able to fully appreciate the criminality of the conduct with which he is accused and his ability to assist in his defense may be in question.”
Aaron Keller contributed legal analysis to this report.
[Mugshot via Jackson County Sheriff’s Office]
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