Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Appellant, an inmate of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC), was part of a class-action lawsuit brought against the City of Helena-West Helena and Phillips County. The lawsuit settled, and the ADC received a settlement check that was deposited into Appellant’s inmate trust-fund account. Appellant then initiated a series of unsuccessful grievances alleging that ADC had confiscated the funds without his permission by depositing the check into his inmate account and that the ADC had improperly refused his withdrawal request to pay legal fees. The State later filed a petition for reimbursement of costs of care and a motion for leave to deposit Appellant’s funds with the court. The circuit court granted the State’s petition and directed that the settlement funds be deposited into the State treasury. The Supreme Court remanded to the circuit court for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the circuit court failed to make findings mandated by statutory authority. View "Harmon v. State" on Justia Law

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By per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court denied Appellant’s pro se petition for a writ of error coram nobis. In this same opinion, however, the court held that Appellant’s sentence was illegal and remanded the case to the circuit court for resentencing. The circuit court “reimposed” the same sentence on remand that the Supreme Court had held was illegal. Specifically, the court asserted that “the supreme court, with all their power, cannot change the statute.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred and exceeded its jurisdiction in looking beyond the Supreme Court’s opinion in Ward I and improperly attempted to correct any perceived error. View "Ward v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's convictions for one count of aggravated robbery, two counts of robbery, three counts of theft of property, and one count of commercial burglary, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Appellant’s motions for a directed verdict on the aggravated robbery and robbery counts, as substantial evidence supported the three convictions; and (2) a conviction imposed on a juvenile sentenced as an adult may be used as the basis for an increased penalty imposed under the habitual offender statute, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in sentencing Appellant to life imprisonment for aggravated robbery. View "Wilson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant appealed his convictions of capital murder and kidnapping, arguing that the circuit court erred in denying his motions to suppress on five separate grounds. The State cross-appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in granting Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to two search warrants. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Appellant’s motions to suppress and dismissed the State's cross-appeal, holding (1) with regard to some of Appellant’s motions to suppress, the circuit court did not err in denying the motions, and with regarding to the remaining motions the court was precluded from addressing Appellant’s arguments; and (2) the State’s cross-appeal was untimely. View "Lewis v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant was convicted of residential burglary and sentenced to probation. Thereafter, Appellant was convicted of residential burglary and sentenced to a suspended imposition of sentence. Appellant was then convicted of aggravated robbery with a firearm enhancement. The trial court revoked the probation and suspended imposition of sentence and sentenced Appellant to life imprisonment and additional terms of imprisonment on each revocation. The Supreme Court affirmed the revocations but reversed and remanded as to the aggravated-robbery conviction and the firearm enhancement, holding (1) the trial court erred in denying Appellant’s motion to suppress his statement to a detective, and the error was not harmless; and (2) Appellant raised no allegation of error as to the revocations, and thus they stand. View "Coleman v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant pleaded guilty to murder in the first degree and was sentenced to 480 months in prison. Appellant later filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking release from custody. The circuit court dismissed the petition because Appellant did not state a basis for issuance of the writ. Appellant appealed. The State filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that Appellant had failed to submit a brief or otherwise take any action to pursue the appeal. The Supreme Court granted the motion, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing Appellant’s habeas petition because Appellant did not establish that the trial court lacked jurisdiction in his case or that the commitment was invalid on its face. View "Barber v. Kelley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2006, Appellant pleaded guilty to first-degree battery and other offenses. In 2016, Appellant filed a second amended petition seeking coram nobis relief. The trial court denied relief, noting that it had found Appellant’s first coram nobis petition untimely and that the second petition “would be no timelier than the first.” On appeal, Appellant argued that he had a valid excuse for his delay because he did not become aware of an exculpatory statement allegedly withheld by the State until the time immediately before he filed his first petition for coram nobis relief. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court erred in limiting its examination of the due diligence requirement to the length of time from Appellant’s imposition of sentence without giving due consideration to Appellant’s claims regarding when he became aware of the allegedly exculpatory statement; and (2) Appellant stated sufficient allegations that may satisfy the due diligence requirement, and factual determinations were essential in deciding whether the writ should be granted. View "Scott v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2014, Appellant, who was not a naturalized citizen of the United States, entered a negotiated change of plea to possession with the purpose to deliver methamphetamine. The circuit court accepted the plea and sentenced Appellant to two years and an additional term of three years’ suspended imposition of sentence (SIS). In 2015, Appellant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging that he was not provided with warnings regarding immigration and deportation pursuant to Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010). The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court lacked jurisdiction to grant habeas relief because, despite Appellant’s SIS sentence, Appellant was not in custody as defined by this state’s laws. View "Rangel v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner, who was convicted on charges of kidnapping, rape, and murder, filed a pro se petition for scientific testing under Act 1780 of 2001 Acts of Arkansas. Petitioner filed a petition for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on the Act 1780 petition on the same date. The circuit court denied the Act 1780 habeas petition and found that the in forma pauperis petition was denied “due to venue issues.” Petitioner filed a notice of appeal. The clerk, however, declined to file the record on the basis that it was not tendered within ninety days of the notice of appeal. Petitioner then filed a pro se motion for belated appeal in the Supreme Court. The court treated Petitioner’s motion as one for rule on clerk and denied the motion, holding that Petitioner could not prevail on appeal because he failed to state a basis on which the trial court could have ordered scientific testing under the statutes. View "Marshall v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant, who was incarcerated at a unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction located in Lee County for committing the crime of rape, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Lincoln County Circuit Court. The circuit court dismissed the petition. Appellant sought to appeal. Now before the court was Appellant’s motion for extension of time to file brief. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal, holding that Lincoln County Circuit Court was without jurisdiction to dictate Appellant’s release because Appellant was not currently in that county. The dismissal of the appeal rendered the motion moot. View "Williams v. Kelley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law