Associated Press

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Wendell Griffen
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A disciplinary panel has filed ethics charges against six Arkansas Supreme Court justices over their decision to prohibit Pulaski County Circuit Judge Griffen from hearing execution cases after he took part in a death penalty demonstration last year.

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission said the high court didn’t gave Griffen adequate notice or an opportunity to be heard over his removal from the cases. Griffen was photographed lying on a cot outside the governor's mansion last year the same day he blocked Arkansas from using an execution drug.

John Brown
KARK-Channel 4

An Arkansas man who has been imprisoned since 1992 for robbery and murder convictions has been released after a judge overturned his conviction last month.

A judge ordered John Brown's release Wednesday after he served 26 years for the 1988 killing and robbery of an elderly woman in Fordyce. The Midwest Innocence Project, which appealed on Brown's behalf, says Brown's lawyer at the time was "ineffective and corrupt," and argued the state withheld potentially exculpatory evidence.

In 2015, Brown's co-defendant confessed to committing the crimes alone.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A former Arkansas lawmaker whose uncle is the state's governor pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges that he spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds on trips, groceries and other personal expenses.

Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson made his first court appearance Tuesday. He was charged last month with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns. His case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker and is tentatively set for trial on Oct. 22. Hutchinson is the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Both are Republicans.

A former Arkansas state representative has been sentenced to three years' probation for his role in a bribery scheme.

Former Rep. Micah Neal was sentenced Thursday to probation, the first year of which he must serve under house arrest. Neal also must complete 300 hours of community service and pay $200,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors said Neal and former state Sen. Jon Woods directed state funds to two nonprofits in exchange for kickbacks which were funneled through a consulting company. Neal pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.

insidehighered.com

The former president of a private Christian college in northwest Arkansas has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty for his role in a kickback scheme involving former state lawmakers.

Oren Paris III was also ordered to pay $621,500 in restitution. Paris was president of Ecclesia College. He admitted to funneling bribe money to the lawmakers in exchange for state grants.

Salfalko via Flickr, Creative Commons

An Arkansas judge has disqualified a ballot measure that would limit the damages awarded in civil lawsuits and would give the state Legislature control over court rules.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce on Thursday ruled that the proposal lawmakers put on the November ballot violates the state's constitution by combining disparate measures into one amendment. The proposed amendment caps noneconomic and punitive damages awarded in lawsuits and also places limits on attorneys' contingency fees.

Election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A proposal to legalize casinos in Arkansas has been approved for the November ballot.

Secretary of State Mark Martin's office on Wednesday said supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment submitted more than the nearly 85,000 signatures from registered voters required to put the proposal on the ballot. Martin's office said it had determined 99,988 valid signatures were submitted.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Attorneys say a nephew of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to resign from the state senate to focus on defending himself from corruption charges.

Attorneys for Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson Attorneys on Friday called the new accusations that he had spent campaign funds on personal expenses, including a Caribbean cruise and tuition payments, inaccurate. But they say he's stepping down so that Capitol business can proceed without "unnecessary distraction."

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Two more inmates have died of possible drug overdoses at a maximum security prison in southeast Arkansas.

Arkansas Department of Correction attorney James DePriest say the inmates aged 26 and 55 were found unresponsive Wednesday in their cells at Varner Supermax Unit, about 50 miles southeast of Little Rock.

DePriest has said three other inmates were found unresponsive earlier this week and that they died within 24 hours of each other .

War Memorial Stadium
Bobby Ampazzan / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas officials say they're implementing new security measures at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. That's after thousands of attendees fled the stands during a high school football game because of false rumors about a gun threat.

The Department of Parks and Tourism said Tuesday it's instituting a clear bag policy for all athletic events, will use a security wand on all patrons entering the facility and is prohibiting loitering in the concourse. The department says it will continue to evaluate security measures and enhance them as necessary.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A Department of Correction official says three inmates have died in less than 24 hours at a prison in southeast Arkansas, possibly from drug use.

Spokesman James DePriest said Monday that both state police and the department are investigating to determine the cause of the deaths at Varner and its supermax unit.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains

A federal appeals court says it won't allow Arkansas to enforce a law that critics say would make the state the first in the U.S. to effectively ban abortion pills.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied a request by the state to put on hold a judge's order preventing Arkansas from enforcing the law.

That law says doctors who provide the pills must hold a contract with a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications.

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

An attorney for an Arkansas judge who faces sanctions for participating in a death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the use of an execution drug says the complaint against the jurist is more about optics than it is ethics.

A judicial ethics commission on Friday held a hearing on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's request to dismiss the complaint against him over the demonstration last year. Griffen was photographed laying on a cot outside the governor's mansion during a death penalty demonstration last year.

Little Rock Police Helicopter
Little Rock Police Department

Authorities say one person was hurt when a powerful wind toppled a Little Rock Police Department helicopter during a test run.

Little Rock Police Lt. Michael Ford tells TV station KATV that a pilot was conducting the test run Thursday after a new battery was installed in the helicopter.

Ford says a straight-line wind tipped the helicopter off a staging area it was sitting on, then the aircraft went into a malfunction and started spinning on the ground.

Ford says one officer suffered a serious head injury but was able to talk to emergency crews as they arrived.

Tom Cotton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas' junior U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton says he's running for reelection in 2020, but that his focus now is on helping Republicans win state and national offices in this year's midterm races.

Cotton appeared at a political event Wednesday and said he thinks Republicans will hold their majority in the House of Representatives and expand their majority in the Senate.

Arkadelphia
Nick Juhasz / Wikimedia Commons

The consequences of President Donald Trump's trade battle are hitting home in one rural Arkansas town.

Arkadelphia has been planning on a new paper mill and the hundreds of jobs it would create since the project was announced two years ago by a Chinese company.

But optimism has been giving way to concern in recent months amid Trump's escalating trade dispute with China.

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

An Arkansas judge who was banned from hearing execution cases after participating in an anti-death penalty demonstration is seeking the removal of an attorney investigating his ethics complaint against the state Supreme Court.

Bill Clinton George W. Bush
Clinton Foundation / Facebook

Former President George W. Bush has expressed concern with the national immigration debate, saying the conversation is ignoring the "valuable contributions" immigrants make to society.

Bush and former President Bill Clinton spoke Thursday to graduating students of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. During a discussion before the ceremony, Clinton also warned of growing global Chinese leadership.

Ten Commandments
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal judge has agreed to merge two lawsuits by opponents of Arkansas' Ten Commandments monument that seek to have the display removed from the state Capitol grounds.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Monday granted the request to consolidate the lawsuits challenging the privately funded display. A 2015 law required the state to allow its construction.

The monument was reinstalled in April after the original version was destroyed by a man who crashed his car into it.

Arkansas Supreme Court Lee Rudofsky
courts.arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Supreme Court has cleared the way for the state to launch its medical marijuana program.

Justices on Thursday reversed and dismissed a judge's ruling that prevented officials from issuing the first licenses for businesses to grow the drug.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in March that the state's process for awarding medical marijuana cultivation licenses was unconstitutional.

He said the process violated constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2016 that legalized marijuana for patients with certain conditions.

A federal judge is again blocking Arkansas from enforcing a law that critics say makes the state the first in the nation to effectively ban abortion pills.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Monday granted a 14-day temporary restraining order preventing Arkansas from enforcing the restriction on how abortion pills are administered. The law says doctors who provide the pills must hold a contract with a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications.

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

An Arkansas judge charged with breaking judicial ethics rules for participating in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug says a disciplinary panel should dismiss its case against him.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's attorneys renewed their May 2017 request for the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to dismiss the complaint against the judge.

Wendell Griffen
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A judicial disciplinary panel has charged an Arkansas judge with ethics violations for lying on a cot outside the governor's mansion during an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug.

An ex-lobbyist has pleaded guilty in a multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe Arkansas lawmakers and embezzle from a Missouri-based nonprofit where he worked.

Rusty Cranford of Rogers, Arkansas, admitted paying bribes to former state Sen. Jon Woods, former state Rep. Henry Wilkins IV and a legislator identified only as "Arkansas Senator A." Outside his lobbying work, Cranford oversaw Springfield, Missouri-based Preferred Family Healthcare's operations in Arkansas.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

Eighteen condemned inmates say in new court filings that the executions of four men in Arkansas last year exposed problems that should render the state's lethal injection procedure unconstitutional.

Citing witness accounts of what happened in the execution chamber, the inmates' lawyers say it was never clear whether the Arkansas Department of Correction followed its guidelines. They said there was no way to tell when each drug was administered and that it wasn't clear an attendant performed proper consciousness checks on each inmate.

Arkansas finance officials say a drop in corporate tax collections kept the state's revenue below expectations in May.

The Department of Finance and Administration said Monday that the state's net available revenue in May totaled $347.4 million, which is $8.1 million below the same month last year and $9.6 million below forecast. The state's net available revenue for the fiscal year that began on July 1 totaled $4.9 billion, which is $44.2 million above forecast.

Ten Commandments
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The man accused of destroying a Ten Commandments monument outside the Arkansas state Capitol has been acquitted of a felony charge by a judge who cited evidence of a mental disease or defect.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza said Thursday that Michael Tate Reed must report to the state hospital in Little Rock for additional evaluations that could lead to his release.

U.S. Supreme Court
Matt Wade / Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing Arkansas to put in effect restrictions on how abortion pills are administered. Critics of a challenged state law say it could effectively end medication abortions in the state.

The justices on Tuesday rejected an appeal from the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arkansas that asked the court to review an appeals court ruling and reinstate a lower court order that had blocked the law from taking effect.

Leslie Rutledge Attorney General
Talk Business & Politics

Arkansas' attorney general has approved the wording for ballot measures that would raise the minimum wage, legalize casinos and change the redistricting process. That's after the state Supreme Court ordered her to certify the wage-hike proposal.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge certified the measures on Wednesday, hours after justices gave her three days to approve or substitute language for a proposed initiated act to gradually raise Arkansas' minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022. The sponsor of the measure sued after Rutledge had previously rejected its wording.

Ten Commandments Jason Rapert
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Opponents of a Ten Commandments display at the Arkansas state Capitol are suing to have the monument removed, arguing it's an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government.

Separate lawsuits were filed in federal court Wednesday challenging the display, which was installed on the Capitol grounds last month. A 2015 law required the state to allow the privately funded monument.

The monument was reinstalled last month after the original version was destroyed last year by a man who crashed his car into the display.

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