Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the circuit court granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s unverified petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding, inter alia, that a fair-cross-section-of-the-jury violation is structural and therefore cognizable in Rule 37 proceedings. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not clearly err in finding that Appellant failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability that the jury’s decision would have been different had evidence of Appellant’s other crimes been excluded; (2) the circuit court clearly erred by requiring Appellant to prove that he was prejudiced by his counsel’s failure to pursue a fair-cross-section claim, and therefore, the court erred in denying Appellant’s ineffective assistance claim; and (3) the circuit court did not clearly err in its determination that trial counsel was ineffective for his failure to call a certain witness during the penalty phase and in thus vacating Appellant’s death sentence. View "Reams v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s order dismissing Appellant’s complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction, holding that the circuit court (1) properly dismissed Appellant’s claim that executing him after twenty-five years in solitary confinement would be cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment; but (2) erred in dismissing Appellant’s claim that Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-506(d)(1) violates his due process rights under the United States and Arkansas Constitutions by vesting sole discretion in the Director to determine whether a prisoner is competent to be executed. The Court remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Greene v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint against several individuals (collectively, the State) seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and challenging his competence to be executed, holding that Ark. Code Ann. 16-90-506(d)(1) is unconstitutional and violates the Due Process Clause of both the United States Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution. Plaintiff, an inmate scheduled to be executed, argued that the statute unconstitutionally delegates the competence inquiry to the Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction and denies an incompetent prison access to the court to obtain an evidentiary hearing to determine whether he is competent to be executed. The circuit court granted the State’s motion to dismiss the complaint, concluding that Plaintiff failed to state a claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff had standing to bring this action; (2) the constitutional issues were preserved for appellate review; and (3) section 16-90-501(d)(1) is unconstitutional on its face and violates due process guarantees. View "Ward v. Hutchinson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the State’s appeal from the circuit court’s order granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges against her based on a speedy-trial violation, holding that this was not a proper State appeal under Ark. R. App. P.-3(d). Defendant was convicted of thirty-one counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty in district court. Defendant appealed her convictions to the circuit court. Defendant later moved to dismiss the charges against her based on speedy-trial grounds. The circuit court found that Defendant’s right to a speedy trial had been violated and dismissed the charges against her. The State appealed. The Supreme Court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss, holding that the State’s appeal was not authorized under Rule 3. View "State v. Seigel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court dismissing with prejudice Appellant’s civil rights case in which he challenged the conditions of his confinement in the Arkansas Department of Correction, holding that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to enter the order of dismissal with prejudice. Although Appellant’s complaint asserting a civil rights claim was electronically stamped with the date and time, no filing fee was paid. The circuit court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to prosecute. On appeal, Appellant argued that the order of dismissal should be vacated for lack of jurisdiction because he never paid a filing fee, and therefore, the complaint was never filed and no action was commenced. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that because Appellant never paid a filing fee and that fee was not waived, Appellant’s case was never filed, and therefore, the circuit court never acquired jurisdiction. View "Ward v. Hutchinson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment and dismissal of Plaintiff’s civil rights and tort complaint on the ground of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC), filed a complaint against ADC officials in their individual capacities under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 (ACRA), Ark. Code Ann. 16-123-101 to -108. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated his due process rights when they failed timely to release him from punitive isolation and that Defendants committed the torts of false imprisonment, negligence, and excessive confinement. The circuit court found that Plaintiff had failed to exhaust his due process and tort claims as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PRLA), 42 U.S.C. 1997e. Because the PRLA is a federal law that is not applicable to actions brought against public officials in their individual capacities under ACRA and Arkansas tort law, the circuit court erred in granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiff’s case for failure to exhaust. View "Harmon v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and dismissed in part the order of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.5. The Court reversed and dismissed as to the issue of whether trial counsel’s failure to present the affirmative defense of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect was ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to consider this issue. The Court otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in finding that counsel did not provide ineffective assistance as to Appellant’s remaining allegations of defective representation; and (2) the cumulative error rule in allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel should not be recognized in Arkansas. View "Lacy v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s motion to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for a writ of audit querela, which the Court treated as a petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a writ of error coram nobis, or alternatively, for leave to file a postconviction petition in the trial court pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.2(a). The Court held (1) Petitioner failed to raise sufficient allegations that established entitlement to relief under coram nobis; and (2) because Petitioner’s Rule 37.2 petition was filed outside the three-year statute of limitations, he was not entitled to relief unless his assertions would render the judgment void, and the adequacy of Miranda warnings does not implicate a fundamental right that is capable of voiding the judgment. View "Munnerlyn v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Appellant’s convictions for negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, and reckless driving, holding (1) because the refusal to submit to a blood test pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. 5-65-202 would result in the imposition of criminal penalties, as applied to Appellant, the statute is unconstitutional, and therefore, the circuit court clearly erred in finding that the blood draw from Appellant did not implicate the Fourth Amendment; and (2) the totality of the circumstances did not establish that Appellant either impliedly or voluntarily consented to the warrantless blood draw. View "Dortch v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s pro se petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1, holding that the trial court did not provide sufficient written findings to demonstrate that Appellant was not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance claims. The trial court denied relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing. The Court remanded to the trial court with directions to conduct a postconviction hearing limited to the two claims of ineffective assistance of counsel preserved by Appellant in this appeal. View "Collins v. State" on Justia Law