In a decision handed down late last week, an appeals court upheld the kidnapping and burglary convictions and sentences of 99 years and 50 years in prison assessed by a Parker County jury in the February 2012 trial of a 44-year-old Oklahoma man who represented himself at trial.
Chuck Allen Little was convicted of the March 2011 kidnapping of a Weatherford woman and burglary of her home, according to Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain. During the trial, the victim testified that Little, her ex-boyfriend, broke into her residence, waited for her to return home, came up behind her and threatened to kill her while holding a knife. She was able to escape briefly and scream for help, which a neighbor testified that she heard and then saw Little dragging her back into the residence.
When Parker County Sheriff's deputies arrived on scene in response to a neighbor's 911 call, Little fled out through a back window to the home. After a multi-agency manhunt, Little was eventually apprehended later that day.
During the trial, Assistant District Attorneys Nikki Morton and Robert DuBoise, who tried the case for the prosecution, played an interview investigators had with Little in which he admitted to having a "little ol' domestic" with the victim during which he admitted displaying the knife. He also told the investigator that he pulled the victim back into the home to try to calm her down.
During the punishment phase of the trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that Little had six prior felony convictions. Evidence showed that one of those was an offense in which he broke into his former mother-in-law's home and bound her arms and legs with telephone cords in an effort to draw his then wife and child out of a women's shelter, for which Little was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
In his appeal, Little complained that District Judge Graham Quisenberry erred during the trial by not having a separate jury trial on the issue of whether or not he was competent to stand trial.
"Judge Quisenberry had this defendant evaluated not once but twice by a Ph.D.-level psychologist during the time the case was pending," Swain said. "He also had numerous pretrial hearings to determine if Little really wanted to represent himself and examined the multitude of pretrial motions that Little filed in the case. Nothing presented indicated that this defendant was incompetent to stand trial, which is how Judge Quisenberry ruled and which was affirmed by the court of appeals."
Little also requested a new trial because his request for "hybrid representation" was denied.
"Hybrid representation is when a defendant represents himself during parts of a trial and has an attorney represent him during other parts," said Assistant District Attorney Eddy Lewallen, who handled the appeal for the prosecution. "Defendants are not entitled to hybrid representation and it
is, in fact, routinely denied, as it was in this case."
Since Little insisted on representing himself, Quisenberry appointed "stand-by counsel" to assist him if he decided during the trial that he no longer felt able to represent himself, an eventuality that did not come to pass, Swain said.
In concluding their evaluation of Little's appeal, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled that "there was no error in the trial court's judgment," affirming the convictions and sentences.
Little could still appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Lewallen said, "but I am doubtful that our state's highest criminal appeals court will choose to hear his case because it really does not present any novel legal issues or unusual fact situations.”
Little will not become eligible for parole until the year 2041, Swain said.