By Christopher Allen
A judge in Newport County Superior Court has given the Newport Police Department until Feb. 28 to provide the evidence it has gathered to date on one of the defendants charged in the shooting death of Yordi Arevalo.
A Feb. 24 hearing to determine the legal representation of Xavier Perry, 28, of Newport, was temporarily adjourned after Perry appeared before Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Lanphear and demanded an immediate bail hearing, telling the court he had been told the hearing would take place on Feb. 24.
At the time of his arraignment in District Court, the only available public defender was assigned to Shamik Steele, one of the three men charged in the Feb. 14 shooting inside the Friendly Sons of Newport social club that resulted in the death of Arevalo and the injuring of another man, who has since been released from Rhode Island Hospital.
A bail hearing for Steele is scheduled for March 3 in Newport Superior Court.
Perry is charged with first-degree murder, felony assault, conspiracy, and using a firearm when committing a crime of violence. Another Newport man, Duane Logan, 46, remains at-large with an active warrant for conspiracy to commit murder.
Rhode Island legal precedent states that “If the court holds the defendant without bail, a bail hearing date must be set within 10 business days, excluding weekends and holidays.”
According to court records, a hearing for Perry was initially scheduled for Feb. 15, but was continued to March 3.
Perry, who has remained at the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston without access to a public defender since his Feb. 15 arrest, maintained his innocence before Lanphear, telling the judge he has been on 23-hour lockdown. He said he wished to defend himself during a bail hearing, as is his constitutional right.
Lanphear implored Perry to wait until he could confer with a state-provided attorney before making any decisions, giving him a half-hour recess to think it over. He advised Perry that it may be unwise to continue without an attorney, both because it may be detrimental to his future defense and that a court-appointed attorney may be reluctant to take his case after learning a bail hearing was conducted without legal representation present.
“You can incriminate yourself even if you are innocent,” said Lanphear.
Perry maintained his innocence throughout the hearing, saying he would rather move forward immediately. “I’m an innocent man who is fighting for his life,” he said. “I’m losing time with my family.”
When proceedings resumed, Perry repeated his request for self-representation, and requested that the state’s attorney provide him with whatever evidence they have against him. Lanphear then asked Perry if he would consider having the hearing continued until March 3, before which time he could speak with a lawyer. Perry refused, and repeated that he was innocent of the charges and was being denied his legal rights.
After considerable back-and-forth, Lanphear agreed with Perry’s position that he should be allowed to view the evidence against him, calling another three-hour recess so that Special Assistant Attorney General Michael Marinelli could go to the Newport police station to retrieve any materials the state planned to use to convince the court that Perry should remain in prison without bail.
When proceedings resumed for the second time, Marinelli told Lanphear that he was unable to take possession of evidence being held by Newport police, saying that no one in the department was available, that the official police reports were still being formulated, and that police evidence collected was “not in our immediate possession.”
Marinelli said that if Perry had planned to represent himself, he should have expressed his intentions after his arraignment, and that it was not general practice for the state to present evidence, such as witness testimony, during a determination of attorney hearing.
Lanphear chastised the attorney general’s office, along with the Newport Police Department, saying he was “extremely displeased” that they could not submit evidence per his request. Marinelli responded that the state had not prepared to hold an evidentiary hearing on Feb. 24, which had been scheduled on the docket as a determination of attorney hearing, a judicial formality where defense attorneys appear and confirm they will be representing the defendant charged with a crime.
Though Lanphear appeared sympathetic to Perry’s position that he had a right to view evidence against him, he continued the hearing until Feb. 28, and ordered the state to gather and provide witness statements, photographic evidence, and “any videos that would be used against [Perry]” during the bail hearing.
The court order will allow Perry to view the state’s evidence against him before he returns to Newport Superior Court on Feb. 28. It was not immediately clear whether he would be provided with a state-appointed attorney before that time.