Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court dismissing an in forma pauperis petition to proceed with a pro se petition for a writ of error coram nobis and a motion for appointment of counsel on the basis that Appellant failed to state a colorable cause of action, holding that Appellant failed to demonstrate that the trial court abused its discretion in declining to grant the relief sought. Appellant pleaded guilty to raping his daughter on several occasions. Appellant later filed three pleadings relating to his request for a writ of error coram nobis. The trial court dismissed the pleadings for failure to state a colorable claim for the issuance of a writ of error coram nobis. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that Appellant failed to state a basis for coram nobis relief. View "French v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's order to expunge Appellant's felony conviction under Act 531 of 1993, holding that the circuit court did not have the authority to expunge Appellant's conviction as a matter of law. Appellant pleaded guilty to Class C felony theft of property. Appellant was sentenced to three years of probation, and the conditions of probation referenced Act 531, known as the Community Punishment Act. In 2011, Appellant pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the conditions of probation. The court resentenced Defendant to four years of probation, but the new order omitted any reference to the Act. Appellant later petitioned to expunge her conviction under Act 531. The circuit court granted the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant failed successfully to complete probation under Act 531 and was thus ineligible for expungement under the Act's provisions. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's request seeking postconviction DNA testing of twenty-six pieces of evidence under Act 1780, holding that the circuit court properly found that Defendant failed to meet the predicate requirements for testing. Defendant was twice convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Carol Heath. All of Defendant's challenges to his conviction were unsuccessful. Here, Defendant sought postconviction DNA testing claiming that the proposed testing could undermine the prosecution's case or exonerate him. The circuit court found that Defendant had not satisfied the requirements for testing under Act 1780. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that none of the evidence that might result from the proposed testing could advance Defendant's claim of actual innocence or raise a reasonable probability that he did not murder Carol Heath. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of capital murder, holding that the circuit court did not err when it denied Defendant's directed verdict motion because there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction. Specifically, Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence that he was guilty of either capital or first-degree murder as felony murder during a rape or an attempted rape or intentional murder. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to uphold the jury's capital murder conviction and that, after examining the record in compliance with Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 4-3(i), no adverse ruling involved prejudicial error. View "Chumley v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's pro se petition seeking to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis, holding that Petitioner's claims did not establish a ground for the writ. Petitioner was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and other offenses and sentenced as a habitual offender to an aggregate term of 504 months' imprisonment. In his petition, Petitioner asserted that Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), violations occurred based on prosecutorial misconduct. The Supreme Court denied the petition, which rendered moot the motions Petitioner filed in connection with the petition, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the State withheld any evidence or otherwise violated Brady. View "Ivory v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's amended motion for belated appeal of a judgment reflecting his conviction on charges of fleeing and endangering the welfare of a minor, holding that the trial court's conclusions regarding whether Petitioner was advised of his right to appeal or whether he notified his attorney of his desire to appeal were supported by the transcript. Because Petitioner made representations that conflicted with those made by his attorney, the Supreme Court remanded the matter to the trial court for additional findings of fact. The trial court found that Petitioner was advised about his right to appeal and did not timely articulate a desire to appeal. The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's motions for belated appeal, holding that Petitioner's attorney acted in a professionally reasonable manner by not filing a notice of appeal, and therefore, Petitioner was not entitled to a belated appeal. View "Simpson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from an order of the circuit court granting Appellees' motion to dismiss Appellants' complaint for lack of standing and for failure to state a cause of action, holding that the circuit court properly ruled that Appellant First Arkansas Bail Bonds, Inc. did not have standing and that the declaratory judgment claim was moot. Appellants sought a declaratory judgment finding that Appellees, the district judge of Saline County, Benton and the district judge of Saline County, Bryant, had violated Ark. Const. art. II, 8 by failing to allow defendants to use a licensed bail-bond company. The circuit court found (1) the declaratory judgment claim was moot because Appellant James Toland had paid his sheriff's bond, most of that payment was refunded, and Toland had pleaded guilty and remained in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Correction; and (2) First Arkansas lacked standing because it had not been denied the opportunity to pay Toland's bond. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal from the circuit court's order, holding (1) First Arkansas did not sustain an actual injury, and therefore, it lacked standing; and (2) the declaratory judgment claim was moot, and no exceptions to the mootness doctrine applied. View "Toland v. Robinson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's pro se motion for belated appeal of 2018 judgments and granted Petitioner in forma pauperis status, holding that where counsel was aware that Petitioner wished to appeal, Petitioner was entitled to a direct appeal as a matter of right. At separate trials, Petitioner was convicted of several drug charges and fleeing. In this motion, Petitioner argued that his retained trial counsel failed to pursue an appeal on his behalf. The Supreme Court granted relief, holding that where counsel admittedly was aware that Petitioner wished to appeal and where counsel did not receive direction from Petitioner not to appeal counsel did not comply with Ark. R. Crim. P. 16. The Court also granted Petitioner in forma pauperis status for the purpose of having the transcript prepared for the appeal. View "Cribbs v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's pro se motion requesting copies of his case file pursuant to Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 19(b), holding that Petitioner did not demonstrate a compelling need for paper copies. At issue was Petitioner's request that the Supreme Court order Gregg Parrish, executive director of the Arkansas Public Defender Commission, to provide paper copies of the material contained on an electronic disk provided to Parrish by the circuit court. Parrish responded that he did not possess paper copies of a client file and was not obligated to convert the electronically stored material to paper. The Supreme Court denied the motion, holding that Petitioner made no showing of a compelling need for paper copies of the electronically stored material. View "Epps v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from the circuit court's denial of Appellant's pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant's habeas petition was clearly without merit. Appellant filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in the circuit court, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter a judgment reflecting Appellant's conviction on a charge of second-degree murder as a habitual offender. The circuit court denied the dismissed the petition. Appellant appealed and filed pro se motions in which he sought a copy of documents from the record on appeal in order to prepare his brief and some accommodation for the delay in filing his brief. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, which rendered the motions moot, holding that Appellant's habeas petition was clearly without merit. View "Rainer v. Kelley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law