Articles Posted in Civil Rights

by
The Supreme Court remanded the instant appeal of the circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s pro se petition for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in which Appellant sought to proceed with a civil-rights complaint against certain Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) employees, holding that the order was not sufficient for review, and therefore, the case must be remanded for findings of fact. The order at issue found that Appellant was not indigent and must pay the statutory filing fee for the action. The Supreme Court held (1) contrary to the assertion of Appellee, the director of the ADC, the order was appealable; and (2) the cause must be remanded for a supplemental order on the in forma pauperis petition that contains adequate findings of fact on the issue of whether Appellant was indigent. View "Berger v. Kelley" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of possession of methamphetamine, holding that the circuit court erred by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress because the search of Defendant’s wallet violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Defendant was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine after the arresting officer discovered the drug in Defendant’s wallet. In his suppression motion, Defendant argued that the officer did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion to search him for weapons and lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to search his wallet. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the officer did not have probable cause to search Defendant’s wallet, and because Defendant did not consent to the search of his wallet, the search violated the Fourth Amendment. View "Shay v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant a resentencing hearing and imposing a sentence of life with parole eligibility pursuant to the Fair Sentencing of Minors Act of 2017 (the Act), holding that Appellant was entitled to resentencing in accordance with the Court’s decision in Harris v. State, 547 S.W.3d 64. In 1983, Appellant pled guilty to capital murder. Appellant was seventeen years old at the time of the murder and received a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Following the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460, 479 (2012), Appellant filed a petition for habeas corpus arguing that his sentence was unconstitutional. The circuit court granted the petition, vacated the sentence, and remanded Appellant’s case for resentencing. Although Appellant’s sentence had been vacated before the Act was enacted, the circuit court relied on the Act’s provision in resentencing him to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after thirty years. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) based on this Court’s decision in Harris, the circuit court erred in applying the Act to Appellant’s case; and (2) Appellant was entitled to a hearing to present Miller evidence for consideration upon resentencing. View "Robinson v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant’s arguments lacked merit. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment for each conviction. In his petition for writ of habeas corpus, Appellant argued that Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), rendered his life sentence for aggravated robbery unconstitutional because he was a minor at the time of the offense and that Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S.460 (2010, and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016) precluded his sentence even for his homicide offense. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant’s Miller-based argument was without merit; and (2) Graham had no application to Appellant’s case. View "Early v. Kelley" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order dismissing Appellant’s counterclaim for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), holding that the Court was unable to address the sole issue raised by Appellant on appeal. On appeal, Appellant argued that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to consider her counterclaim because DHS was entitled to sovereign immunity and that her case should be dismissed without prejudice due to lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to preserve her sovereign-immunity argument, and therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the counterclaim. View "Wilson v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying the petition because the charges did not violate double jeopardy. Appellant sent an email to an undercover police officer with an attachment containing thirty photographs depicting child pornography. Appellant pleaded guilty to thirty counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child. Appellant later filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging that his convictions on twenty-nine of the thirty counts violated double jeopardy because he sent only one email with one attachment. The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that each photograph that was distributed could support a separate charge, and the fact that the thirty photographs were attached to the email in a single file was not relevant in this case. View "Pelletier v. Kelley" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Appellant’s pro se petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37.1 without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that the petition and record conclusively showed that Appellant was entitled to no relief. In his petition for postconviction relief, Petitioner alleged that trial counsel was ineffective in seven separate instances. The trial court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing, concluding that Petitioner failed to allege explicit grounds for postconviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no merit in Petitioner’s arguments and that Petitioner was not entitled to postconviction relief. View "Gordon v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the circuit court denying without a hearing Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding that because the circuit court failed to make written findings in accordance with Rule 37.3(a), the case must be remanded to the circuit court for written findings in compliance with Rule 37.3(a). Appellant was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment for first-degree murder and an additional fifteen years’ imprisonment for possession for a firearm. In his petition for postconviction relief, Appellant argued that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to present the proper jury instructions on justification and extreme emotional disturbance manslaughter. The circuit court denied relief. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not clearly err in denying Appellant’s claim regarding the jury instruction on justification; and (2) the circuit court failed to comply with the dictates of Rule 37 as to Appellant’s claim regarding the jury instruction on extreme emotional disturbance manslaughter, and the case must be remanded for entry of findings with respect to this claim. View "Douglas v. State" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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