Accused killer Rickey Dale Newman will get a new first-degree murder trial in Crawford County Circuit Court.
Vickie Jones, case coordinator for Judge Gary R. Cottrell, sent a letter to the circuit clerk’s office Monday setting the new trial for Oct. 27.
Newman, 56, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die at the end of a one-day trial in Crawford County Circuit Court on June 10, 2002, for the 2001 murder of Marie Cholette, 46, at a Van Buren homeless camp. Newman was allowed to represent himself, confessed to the crime and asked jurors to sentence him to death.
In November 2009, the state Supreme Court remanded Newman’s case to circuit court after a psychologist who found Newman competent to stand trial admitted errors in his evaluation during a 2007 federal court hearing, and questions were raised about whether the state withheld evidence from the defense.
But on Jan. 16, the state Supreme Court ruled Newman was incompetent to stand trial when he was convicted in 2002 and ordered a new trial.
On Feb. 18, Newman was scheduled to be arraigned on the capital-murder charge, but Cottrell determined the hearing wasn’t necessary when he learned Philadelphia attorney Julie Brain had entered her appearance on Newman’s behalf.
On Feb. 28, Cottrell signed a "not-fit-to-proceed commitment" order based on the Supreme Court’s finding that Newman was incompetent to stand trial in 2002, directing Newman be sent to the State Hospital for "detention, care and treatment until restoration of fitness to proceed."
Brain filed a motion March 6 asking Cottrell to reconsider his order, which he denied March 10, and Newman was subsequently transferred to the state hospital March 18. On March 24, Brain filed a motion to quash the order with the Supreme Court.
On June 17, Brain filed a motion to dismiss the March 24 filing as moot, after Newman was returned to the Crawford County Detention Center. The high court granted the motion.
In April, Cottrell was notified by Mark Peacock, director of the state hospital postdoctoral fellowship in forensic psychology, that Newman’s unwillingness to cooperate with an examination to assess his current mental state or fitness to stand trial — at the direction of Brain — makes any ongoing effort to forcibly treat or "restore" his fitness to stand trial potentially "unsafe" and doesn’t serve the best interest of the state hospital or Newman.
In a May 15 letter, Billy Burris, forensic services program coordinator at the state hospital, notified Cottrell that Newman exhibited no signs or symptoms of a major mental illness during his stay at the hospital and does not require continued hospitalization.