Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s second pro se petition and supplemental petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis, holding that Petitioner did not meet his burden of demonstrating that the State withheld material evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Defendant was convicted of possession of cocaine and resisting arrest. In the instant petition, Petitioner asserted that the time of his plea and arraignment, he was unaware that his arrest warrant had been recalled, in violation of Brady. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that Petitioner failed to meet his burden of proof or state facts sufficient to establish that the State suppressed evidence or that the evidence was exculpatory in nature. View "Rice v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s petition to reinvest the circuit court with jurisdiction to consider his petition for writ of error coram nobis or other relief, holding that that Petitioner stated sufficient grounds for the Court to find that his writ may be meritorious. Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In his coram nobis petition, Petitioner argued that expert hair-comparison testimony at his trial was not meaningfully different from hair-comparison testimony in other cases wherein the Supreme Court reinvested jurisdiction in the circuit court. Therefore, Petitioner argued, this Court should follow that precedent in this case. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding that where the expert’s testimony contained one or more of the same errors as those identified in Strawhacker v. State, 500 S.W.3d 716 (Ark. 2016), and Pitts v. State, 501 S.W.3d 803 (Ark. 2016), reinvesting jurisdiction in the circuit court was appropriate. View "Martin v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court convicting Appellant of first-degree murder and sentencing him to a term of life imprisonment, holding that substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict that Appellant committed the offense. On appeal, Appellant argued as his sole point that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to sustain Appellant’s first-degree murder conviction. View "Arnold v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting a preliminary inunction requested by Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated Arkansas taxpayers, holding that Geoffrey Herweg was ineligible to hold the appointed position of Jacksonville police chief because of his 2002 Texas misdemeanor conviction. In 2002, Herweg pleaded guilty to the offense of giving a false report to a police officer in a Texas court. In 2017, Herweg was appointed as the City of Jacksonville’s new police chief. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, illegal exaction, and emergency temporary restraining order alleging that Herweg was ineligible to hold the office of police chief. The circuit court granted a preliminary injunction in Plaintiff’s favor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff had standing in this action and presented a justiciable controversy; (2) article 5, section 9 of the Arkansas Constitution applies to both elected and appointed officials; (3) the office of chief of police constitutes an “office of trust” pursuant to article 5, section 9; (4) Herweg’s Texas conviction disqualified him from holding the office of the City’s police chief; and (5) the circuit court properly found that irreparable harm would result of Herweg were to remain in office in violation of article 5, section 9. View "City of Jacksonville v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the denial of Appellant’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, issued the writ, and remanded this case to the sentencing court, holding that Appellant’s judgment-and-commitment orders incorrectly stated that he was ineligible for parole. Appellant was convicted of multiple offenses he committed as a juvenile. In his habeas petition Appellant alleged that one of his sentences of sixty years’ imprisonment exceeded his life expectancy without the opportunity for parole, resulting in a de facto life sentence, in violation of Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). The Supreme Court held (1) Appellant was parole eligible, and therefore, his sentence did not violate Graham; but (2) Appellant’s judgment-and-commitment orders incorrectly stated that his was ineligible for parole pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. 16-93-609, which did not apply to Appellant. View "Benson v. Kelley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s convictions for two counts of rape and sentences of life plus forty years’ imprisonment, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (2) the trial court did commit prejudicial error in denying Appellant’s motion in liming seeking to preclude reference to the prosecuting witnesses as “victims”; and (3) Appellant failed to preserve for appeal his arguments that the trial court erred in closing the courtroom during voir dire and abused its discretion in restricting his cross-examination of a certain witness. View "Friday v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s request to proceed with a petition for writ of error coram nobis and declined to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court or recall the mandate in Petitioner’s appeal but granted a part of Petitioner’s requested relief by holding that the judgment was void to the extent that it imposed a sentence for the charge of kidnapping. Petitioner argued that his conviction for kidnapping was invalid and that the sentence on that conviction was an illegal sentence that the trial court lacked the authority to impose. The Supreme Court held (1) Petitioner’s sentence for kidnapping was illegal and void because he was sentenced for both kidnapping and capital murder; and (2) Petitioner failed to state a basis that would justify coram nobis proceedings in the trial court or to show a need for resentencing proceedings. View "Hallman v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law