A Miller County judge heard pretrial motions Monday in the case of a Texarkana man accused of raping and robbing his former Sunday schoolteacher in November 2015.
Jury selection for Vasquez Dominique Hayes, 22, is scheduled for April 24 at the Miller County courthouse. Hayes is charged with two counts of rape, two counts of theft of property and charges of kidnapping, aggravated robbery and residential burglary in the alleged Nov. 22, 2015, attack on a woman who once taught classes he attended at a Texarkana church.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell filed a motion last week asking that photographs of a "very personal and private nature" taken of the woman during a sexual assault examination at a local hospital not be shown to a jury without a ruling first from the court. Circuit Judge Carlton Jones asked Hayes' lawyers, Lawrence Walker and Crystal Okoro of Little Rock, if they have an expert or other witness prepared to testify as to what the photos depict. After Walker told Jones he does not have an expert lined up to testify, Jones granted the state's motion and ordered the photographs will not be shown without prior approval from him.
Until late Friday, Mitchell's motion was the only one pending before the court.
Walker faxed an eight-page motion to the state after 7 p.m. Friday seeking to limit the state's use of the word "victim" and the state's use of certain evidence. Mitchell objected to Walker's late filing, pointing out that Friday was a state holiday and that she had just a few hours to prepare to respond to the motion. After a brief argument concerning whether Friday was a state holiday and the timeliness of Walker's motion, Jones agreed to consider the motion.
Walker argued that referring to the woman as a "victim" could prejudice a jury. Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Black said case law allows the court to refer to the woman as "alleged victim," and Jones agreed to do so.
Walker's motion sought to limit testimony from Vasquez Hayes' wife, Jessica Hayes, under the protection of spousal privilege. Walker argued that recordings of jailhouse phone calls between the couple and a letter Jessica Hayes wrote to prosecutors should be inadmissible because of spousal privilege. Mitchell and Black disagreed.
Jones said spousal privilege rules under Arkansas law do not provide blanket protection and withheld ruling on specifics until trial. Jones denied a request from the defense to limit admission of other members of Vasquez Hayes' family.
Walker's motion asked that references to other wrongs allegedly committed by Vasquez Hayes be ruled inadmissible as well. Mitchell agreed that probation Vasquez Hayes is serving for theft of property should not be mentioned in front of the jury. Black argued that Vazquez Hayes' videotaped interview with police regarding the alleged attack also are relevant.
"The defendant's own statement to detectives about his drug use that night should be admitted," Black argued.
Jones ruled that statements or evidence concerning Vasquez Hayes' alleged use of drugs should be admitted but that any reference to his alleged selling drugs at other times should not.
One of the last issues addressed Monday concerns a possible plea deal for Vasquez Hayes with the state.
"Ms. Okoro reached out to me last week regarding a plea offer. I made one, and based on the discussions here in court today I assume that was rejected," Mitchell said. "All offers from the state are now withdrawn."
The exact nature of the state's offer was not discussed.
Jones questioned Vasquez Hayes on the record concerning his decision to reject an offer for a plea bargain. Vasquez Hayes stated that he made the decision after conferring with his lawyers and not under any threat.
When Hayes was arrested in 2015, the alleged victim did not realize she had once known her alleged attacker, according to a probable cause affidavit used to create the following account. It wasn't until Hayes' mugshot was published in local news reports that she learned the man wearing sunglasses, gloves and a tightly drawn hoodie had once been a student where she worked as a teacher at a local church.
The woman had opened the door of her home in Texarkana, Ark., to let her barking dog out at approximately 1 a.m. when an armed man allegedly forced himself inside and twice sexually assaulted her. The woman alleges that she was made to ride in her own car as Hayes drove it to an ATM and forced her to withdraw $500. The woman was released in the early hours of Nov. 22, 2015, in an Arkansas neighborhood as the man who allegedly attacked her sped away in her car.
Jury selection, opening statements and testimony from the first of the state's witnesses is scheduled to begin Monday. For each of two counts of rape, Hayes faces 10 to 40 years or life if convicted. Aggravated residential burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping are punishable by 10 to 40 years or life as well. For theft involving the woman's stolen car, Hayes faces three to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. For theft involving the woman's debit card and ATM withdrawal, Hayes faces up to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.