By Ray King
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected arguments from a man convicted of aggravated robbery who claimed that a judge denied his motion to dismiss the case because the man failed to get a speedy trial.
Walter McCray Jr., 56, also contended that one of the two counts of robbery he was convicted of should have been dismissed because he had already stolen money from another person before he encountered the second victim.
Formal charges were filed against McCray on Feb. 1, 2018 alleging that on July 29, 2017 he entered the Family Dollar Store on South Blake Street with a pair of men’s boxer shorts over his head and demanded money while pointing a gun at an assistant manager, who was at a cash register. After the manager took money from the register, McCray demanded she open the safe or he would kill her.
Another assistant manager was stocking shelves at the rear of the store and called 911 after hearing the threats. After he ended the call, he grabbed a bottle of laundry detergent, approached McCray from behind and hit McCray over the head with the bottle. The two men fell to the floor and struggled over the gun before McCray got up, pushed the assistant manager out of the way and picked up the bag of money, then left the store. McCray was arrested outside the store.
A Jefferson County jury found McCray guilty of one count of aggravated robbery involving the assistant manager he had demanded money from and guilty of a second count of aggravated robbery involving the other assistant manager McCray had struggled with. He was also convicted of theft of property and of using a firearm in the commission of the crime.
Because of his prior convictions for violent felonies, McCray was sentenced to life in prison for each of the robbery counts. He was also sentenced to 40 years for theft of property and 15 years for using the firearm in the commission of the other crimes.
In his appeal, McCray contended that he and the assistant manager struggled for control of the gun, not the money but the high court rejected that argument.
Writing for the court, Associate Justice Courtney Rae Hudson said although McCray had already obtained the money, he dropped the bag during his struggled with the other manager and video from the store showed that the two men stood up after the struggle and McCray pushed the other man several times to get him away from the bag of money.
Regarding the speedy trial issue, McCray argued that his attorney was the one who asked that the case be continued, not him but Hudson wrote that McCray’s argument was without merit.
In the ruling, she said Arkansas rules of criminal procedure specifically excludes from the speedy-trial computation “the period of delay resulting from a continuance granted at the request of a defendant or his counsel.”
McCray is serving his sentence at the East Arkansas Regional Corrections Unit at Brickey’s.