Arkansas Courts

Cummins Unit Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal lawsuit accuses Arkansas of violating the constitutional and legal rights of prison inmates by not taking adequate steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The class-action complaint was filed Tuesday on behalf of 11 inmates at state prisons, including three at the Cummins Unit in southeast Arkansas, where 670 inmates have tested positive.

Little Rock Family Planning Services
Arkansas Times

COVID-19 safety precautions have become the backdrop for the latest abortion arguments in Arkansas. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of Little Rock Family Planning Services, filed a lawsuit Monday contesting a cease and desist order issued by the state last week.

arkansas gaming casino
Talk Business & Politics

A Pulaski County judge has ruled that Gulfside Casino is a qualified applicant and its application with the state Racing Commission must be considered. Circuit Judge Tim Fox said the state’s decision to bar Gulfside’s application because the signatures of local elected officials did not include current officeholders was incorrect.

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.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen
PBS

A lawsuit challenging the ballot referendum process has been dismissed by a Pulaski County judge. On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen dismissed the suit against the Arkansas Secretary of State and Safe Surgery Arkansas, a group supported by the state’s ophthalmologists.

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.

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.

Little Rock Police Officer Charles Starks shooting 30-year-old Bradley Blackshire who was in a stolen car on Feb. 22, 2019.
Little Rock Police Department

A Pulaski County circuit judge has ruled a Little Rock police officer who shot and killed a suspect in a stolen car should not have been fired for his actions. In a written opinion issued Thursday, Judge Timothy Fox said a 30-day suspension was "clearly warranted" and a reduction in pay to that of an entry-level officer was "appropriate," but that Starks didn't deserve any additional penalties.

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.

A former lobbyist who pleaded guilty as part of a corruption investigation that ensnared several Arkansas state lawmakers is to be sentenced Monday. Rusty Cranford could face up to 10 years in federal prison, but his defense attorney says Cranford’s cooperation with investigators should weigh heavily with the judge.

Since pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge in June 2018, Cranford has repeatedly met with investigators and appeared before federal grand juries.

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.

Jim Hendren Hendren Plastics
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal judge has ruled a drug recovery program and a company owned by an Arkansas state lawmaker violated labor laws by requiring participants to work full-time without getting paid. It’s considered an alternative to jail time, but U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks said the two entities manipulated the labor market for their own benefit.

Arkasnas Business reporter Mark Friedman wrote about that in this week's issue:

John Walker
Arkansas Times

The body of lawmaker and civil rights attorney John Walker will lie in state at Arkansas' capitol as part of his funeral arrangements this week.

Secretary of State John Thurston announced that Walker's body will lie in state at the Capitol on Thursday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on the second-floor rotunda. Walker, 82, died at his Little Rock home on Monday.

The funeral for Walker is scheduled for St. Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, at 11 a.m. Friday.

Attorney and state Rep. John Walker of Little Rock.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas civil rights attorney and state lawmaker John Walker has died. He was 82. The Pulaski County Coroner’s Office says he died Monday at his home in Little Rock. A cause was not immediately reported.

Vaping
ecigarettereviewed.com / Wikimedia Commons

An Arkansas teenager who began vaping last year is suing a leading e-cigarette maker, accusing the company of deceptive marketing and fraudulently concealing the addictive nature of its products.

The unnamed teenager and his mother filed the lawsuit against Juul Labs, Inc. last week in federal court in Little Rock and are seeking class action status on behalf of all Arkansas residents who bought or used Juul's products. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Wendell Griffen
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

An Arkansas judge who demonstrated against the death penalty is asking the state Supreme Court to dismiss the attorney general's request to prohibit the judge from hearing cases involving her office.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen told the state Supreme Court Thursday that the request by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to reassign the civil cases is a "blatant attempt" to defy Arkansas' constitution and its process for investigating complaints against judges. Rutledge has accused Griffen of regularly demonstrating bias against her staff in his court.

Little rock school district
KATV-Channel 7

The Arkansas Board of Education’s new plan for a partial return of local control to the Little Rock School District is raising concerns from many. It divides the district into three separate categories that will be afforded varying degrees of local control.

Lower performing schools will be placed in Category 3, receiving the least amount of local control. The curriculum and personnel decisions of these schools will remain under state control.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen
PBS

A hearing was held Tuesday to consider a request by Arkansas's attorney general that a judge not be allowed to hear cases involving her office. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen responded by playing an audio recording of a Sept. 13th hearing after Attorney General Leslie Rutledge alleged he displayed inappropriate behavior toward a member of her staff.

Arkansas' attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to reassign cases involving her office from a judge who has been prohibited from handling execution cases, accusing him of regularly being biased against her staff.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Tuesday requested that the court reassign the civil cases from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. He was prohibited from handling execution cases in 2017 after he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked Arkansas from using a lethal injection drug.

File photo. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas's attorney general is seeking to move lawsuits challenging a measure giving the prison director authority to determine an inmate's competency to be executed to federal court.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday filed notice to move the lawsuits by death row inmates Bruce Ward and Jack Greene from Jefferson County Circuit Court. The state Supreme Court in November struck down an earlier version of the mental competency law.

Legislators this year approved a reworked version of the law, and the inmates are seeking to have it overturned.

Jason Rapert Ten 10 Commandments
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal judge is temporarily restricting who can see the video deposition of a legislator who sponsored a measure requiring a Ten Commandments statue at the Arkansas Capitol in a lawsuit challenging the monument.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary order Wednesday preventing additional copies of state Sen. Jason Rapert's deposition from being made or distributed. An attorney for Rapert, a Republican who sponsored the 2015 law requiring the privately funded monument, had asked that the video only be available to attorneys in the case.

Rep. Mickey Gates
www.arkansashouse.org

Arkansas Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd on Friday said he is taking the rare action to remove a colleague from a House seat.

Shepherd, R-El Dorado, wrote a letter to House members explaining that he intends to put forth a resolution calling for the “immediate removal” of Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs, from the chamber. Gates pleaded last month no contest to not paying state income taxes and worked out an agreement to pay part of what he owed.

Safe Surgery Arkansas is asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to appoint a special master to review its signature collections and it is challenging the legality of a new law that was used by the Secretary of State to reject counting its petitions.

Mike Laux Lloyd St. Clair Benjamin Crump No knock raids police
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys have filed four new federal lawsuits alleging that Little Rock's use of no-knock warrants in police drug raids violated the U.S. Constitution.

Civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump and Mike Laux said Thursday the lawsuits against the City of Little Rock and officers with the Little Rock Police Department demonstrate police falsely obtained affidavits and were unreasonable in searches of residences.

Jake Files
Arkansas Times

A federal judge has denied a former Arkansas state senator's request to be released from a federal prison in Oklahoma where he has served just more than one year of an 18-month prison term for fraud and money laundering.

Republican Jake Files of Fort Smith filed the request last Friday, one year after reporting to the prison in El Reno, Oklahoma, to serve his sentence .

The Department of Justice has scheduled executions for five federal inmates in December and January, including Daniel Lewis Lee, convicted in 1999 of murdering a family in Pope County, Arkansas. The executions are to be the first by the U.S. government since 2003.

Lee’s execution, set for Dec. 9, is to be the first of the five and was ordered by U.S. Attorney General William Barr to adopt an addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol.

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