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Arkansas Department of Health
KATV-Channel 7

Arkansas health officials say the number of coronavirus cases in the state has reached 1,000. The state Department of Health says the state has had 18 deaths.

Arkansas shut down its public schools, closed many businesses and banned gatherings of more than 10 people. But it has stopped short of issuing the stay-at-home orders that most other states have imposed.

Arkansas Senate President Pro Tem Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) and House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) speak on their legislative priorities during a press event Friday
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers are preparing to meet again amid the coronavirus outbreak, but legislative leaders say they hope to wrap up work in less than two weeks.

Senate President Jim Hendren said Friday lawmakers will move forward as planned with the fiscal session set to begin on Wednesday.

The session is moving forward days after two House members tested positive for COVID-19.

The session will include similar social distancing restrictions to last week, when lawmakers approved a $173 million coronavirus fund. Health officials say Arkansas has had at least 687 cases.

A sign language interpreter, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Nate Smith at Sunday's press briefing.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The number of coronavirus deaths in Arkansas has risen by one to six and the number of cases is at least 426, up from 404.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said Sunday that it is encouraging that the number of cases in the state is not rising as rapidly as in some parts of the country, such as New York City, but residents must continue doing things such as social distancing and limiting travel.

Hutchinson said the number of hospitalizations due to the virus dropped from 48 on Saturday to 43 on Sunday.

Hutchinson COVID-19 coronavirus
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas has had its first deaths from the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced two people have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Damage from what officials say was likely a tornado in north-central Arkansas between the towns of Pyatt and Bruno.
KATV-Channel 7

Severe storms, including at least one possible tornado, have struck parts of Arkansas, damaging homes and causing widespread damage to trees and power lines.

Officials say at least one home was destroyed and another lost its roof to a storm that struck a remote Ozark Mountains area Thursday evening near Pyatt in northern Arkansas, near the Missouri border.

At least one person was sent to a hospital in nearby Harrison, Arkansas, with minor injuries.

Arkansas Department of Health Director Nathaniel Smith and Gov. Asa Hutchinson speak to reporters Wednesday about the first presumptive case of the coronavirus reported in the state.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The number of coronavirus cases in Arkansas has risen to 30 and includes the first person one in the northwest corner of the state. 

The Department of Health announced the eight new cases on its website Wednesday.

Arkansas State Capitol
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

A proposal has been filed in Arkansas that would create a new nine-member independent commission to redraw the state's congressional and legislative districts.

Arkansas Voters First on Thursday filed the proposed amendment to the state's constitution that the group hopes to get on the ballot this fall. The group must submit nearly 90,000 signatures from registered voters by July 3 to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Arkansas' legislative districts are redrawn by a panel comprised of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

Willie Mae Harris
Department of Correction

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he will commute the sentence of a woman convicted more than three decades ago of fatally shooting her husband, who had physically abused her.

Hutchinson on Wednesday announced his intent to make Willie Mae Harris immediately eligible for parole.

Harris was convicted in 1985 of first degree murder in the shooting death of her husband.

Harris admitted to shooting her husband, but has said it was an accident related to self defense.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen
PBS

An Arkansas judge has blocked the state from issuing more licenses to sell medical marijuana. That's after a Pine Bluff dispensary says it was unfairly overlooked for another applicant.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Tuesday granted a temporary restraining order as requested by Medicanna of Pine Bluff. Medicanna sued the state Medical Marijuana Commission after another dispensary was awarded a license to sell medical marijuana.

Griffen scheduled a March 3 hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction against the state.

Leslie Rutledge
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas's attorney general is accusing a Hot Springs woman of taking part in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud people by falsely telling them they had won a jackpot or lottery.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sued 74-year-old Jean Butler, who Rutledge said acted as a "money mule" and received money from victims of the scheme. Victims were told they had to pay taxes or fees before receiving their prize.

University of Arkansas

One of the country's most revered novelists has died.

Charles Portis, best known for "True Grit," was 86. His fans included Tom Wolfe, Roy Blount Jr. and Larry McMurtry, and he was often compared to Mark Twain for his plainspoken humor and wry perspective.

Portis saw the world from the ground up, from bars and shacks and trailer homes, and few spun wilder and funnier stories. In such Portis novels as "True Girt" and "Norwood," characters embarked on journeys that took the most unpredictable detours.

"True Grit" was twice made into a feature film.

Arkansas Works Governor Asa Hutchinson Work Requirement
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal appeals court panel in Washington has upheld a lower court's decision that blocked the Trump administration's work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

Friday's decision from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., found the Arkansas work requirements for Medicaid recipients to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Trump administration has allowed states to require able-bodied adults drawing Medicaid benefits to work, volunteer or study. Officials argue that work can make people healthier.

Ten Commandments Jason Rapert
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A trial seeking the removal of a privately funded Ten Commandments monument from the Arkansas Capitol grounds is set to begin this summer. 

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Monday ordered the trial over the privately funded monument to begin the week of July 13.

Opponents of the monument sued the state over the display, arguing it's an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government.

The granite monument replaces a display that was destroyed in 2017 less than 24 hours after its installation.

Forrest City Walmart shooting
KATV-Channel 7

Two police officers were wounded and a gunman was killed Monday morning in an exchange of gunfire at a Walmart store in Forrest City in eastern Arkansas, authorities said.

Forrest City Police Chief Deon Lee said one of the officers was taken to a hospital about 45 miles to the east in Memphis where he was in surgery, and the initial prognosis is “he’s going to be OK.”

Patricia Young, sister of executed inmate Ledell Lee (left), speaks to reporters during a press conference on Jan. 24 announcing the legal challenge to seek DNA testing that she argued could exonerate her brother.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An Arkansas judge has approved an agreement that will allow new tests of fingerprint and DNA evidence that two groups say could exonerate a man executed in 2017.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen approved the agreement between the city of Jacksonville and the sister of Ledell Lee, who was executed for the 1993 slaying of Debra Reese.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Innocence Project had sued the city seeking the release of the evidence.

Former Arkansas governor and senator David Pryor and his son, former senator Mark Pryor, are supporting Joe Biden's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The former vice president's campaign announced the endorsements from the Pryors on Tuesday.

Arkansas is holding its primary on March 3 along with more than a dozen other states.

David Pryor served as Arkansas governor from 1975 to 1979 and went on to serve three terms in the U.S. Senate. Mark Pryor served two terms in the Senate before losing re-election in 2014.

Ledell Lee Patricia Young
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Two groups sued a central Arkansas city on Thursday seeking the release of evidence they say could exonerate an inmate who was executed nearly three years ago.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Innocence Project asked a state judge to order Jacksonville authorities to release fingerprint tests and DNA evidence they say supports claims that Ledell Lee was innocent of the 1993 murder of Debra Reese. The groups filed the lawsuit on behalf of Patricia Young, Lee’s sister.

Linda Collins and Rebecca O'Donnell
Facebook

A woman charged with killing a former Arkansas state lawmaker faced new charges Tuesday alleging that she asked fellow inmates to kill the victim's ex-husband.

Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell, who has pleaded not guilty to capital murder in the killing of former state Sen. Linda Collins, was charged with two counts of criminal solicitation to commit capital murder and two counts of criminal solicitation to commit tampering with physical evidence.

Karl Roberts
Arkansas Department of Correction

An Arkansas death row inmate convicted of killing a state lawmaker's daughter is arguing he should not be executed because he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday heard arguments over Karl Roberts' appeal of his conviction and death sentence in the 1999 killing of 12-year-old niece,

Andi Brewer. An attorney for Roberts told the Arkansas justices that the inmate's schizophrenia made him unable to effectively assist defense attorneys during his 2000 trial because he believed that jailers were secretly recording him.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death penalty demonstration in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in April 2017.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the state attorney general's request to prohibit a judge who demonstrated against the death penalty from handling any cases involving her office.

In a 4-3 decision, justices rejected the request by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to remove the cases from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's court. The court did not elaborate on how it reached its decision in a one-page order.

Arkansas finance office says higher than expected sales and income tax collections in November kept the state's revenue above forecast and above the same month last year.

The Department of Finance and Administration on Tuesday said the state's net available revenue in November totaled $431.8 million. That's $24.7 million above the same month last year and $15.3 million above forecast.

The state's net available revenue so far for the fiscal year that began July 1 totaled $2.4 billion, which is $87.5 million above forecast.

Paul Petersen
You Tube

An Arizona official charged with running an adoption-fraud scheme involving women from the Marshall Islands has asked an Arkansas court to delay trial for 10 months.

Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen is accused of smuggling and paying pregnant women from the small nation in the western Pacific to give up their children for adoption in the U.S. He faces 62 charges in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah.

Rusty Cranford
Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

A lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribing three former Arkansas state lawmakers, including the governor's nephew, has been sentenced to seven years in prison without parole.

Rusty Cranford was sentenced in federal court Monday for bribing Republican state Sen. Jon Woods, Democratic state Rep. Hank Wilkins and Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. Prosecutors say Cranford paid the bribes to benefit the Missouri-based nonprofit Preferred Family HealthCare, whose former executives also face charges.

Linda Collins and Rebecca O'Donnell
Facebook

A judge has set a fall 2020 trial date for a woman charged with killing a former Arkansas state lawmaker who was found dead outside her home.

Jonesboro television station KAIT report s that the judge on Friday scheduled Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell's trial to begin Oct. 19. She is charged with capital murder in the death of former Republican state Sen. Linda Collins.

Nkiruka Azuka Omeronye
Arkansas Times

An Arkansas judge ordered a journalist be released after she served a few hours of her three-day sentence for recording proceedings in a homicide case.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren sentenced Nkiruka Azuka Omeronye Tuesday for contempt of court. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports she was released Wednesday.

Omeronye, a KNWA TV reporter, admitted to making an audio recording during a hearing in Mauricio Torres' capital murder case last month. She testified that she recorded to ensure she took accurate notes.

Danny Lee at an arraignment hearing on Oct. 31, 1997 for the murders of members of a Russellville family. A federal judge Tuesday denied a request for a new trial.
The Russellville Courier

A federal judge has temporarily halted the first federal execution in 16 years as a lawsuit on how the government intends to carry it out continues.

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutka said in a Wednesday evening ruling that the public is not served by "short-circuiting" legitimate judicial process.

"It is greatly served by attempting to ensure that the most serious punishment is imposed lawfully," she wrote.

Nkirurka Omeronge
Arkansas Times

An Arkansas county judge has sentenced a television reporter to three days in jail for recording a hearing in a homicide case.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren sentenced KNWA reporter Nkirurka Omeronge on Tuesday. Karren found her in contempt of court during Mauricio Torres' capital murder proceedings last month.

Little rock school district
Chris Banks / KUAR News

Little Rock teachers are striking for the first time in more than three decades over the state's control of the local school system and a panel's decision to strip their union's collective bargaining rights.

Members of the Little Rock Education Association are picketing across the 23,000-school district on Thursday in what's being billed as a one-day strike to protest Arkansas' takeover of the local system. Arkansas has run the school district since 2015, when it was taken over because of low scores at several schools.

Kelly Connelly / KUAR News

An Arkansas state legislator announced a bid Tuesday to unseat a Republican congressman in 2020 as the filing period for next year's election came to a close.

Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott is the only Democrat who filed to run against Republican Rep. French Hill, who was first elected to the 2nd Congressional District in 2014.

Elliott said she believes the district, which includes Little Rock, could be competitive for Democrats.

flickr.com

A federal appeals court has upheld a judge's ruling against an Arkansas anti-loitering law that opponents say unfairly targets panhandlers.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a federal judge's preliminary injunction against the 2017 law, which expands the definition of loitering to include anyone asking for charity or a gift in a harassing or threatening manner that's likely to cause others alarm or create a traffic hazard. A federal judge in 2017 called the measure "plainly unconstitutional."

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