Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying and dismissing Appellant's pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant stated no ground on which the writ could issue under Arkansas law. Appellant was found guilty of two counts of the rape of two children. Appellant was sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment on each of the two counts of rape. In his petition for writ of habeas corpus, Appellant alleged that the sentence imposed was excessive and based on "junk science"; (2) inadmissible testimony was allowed in the sentencing phase; and (3) he was denied the right to allocution before the sentence was imposed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that none of Appellant's claims stated a ground for the writ. View "Abernathy v. Kelley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's pro se third petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a writ of error coram nobis, holding that this petition was an abuse of the writ. Petitioner was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. In his pro se third petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a writ of error coram nobis Petitioner alleged that the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The Supreme Court dismissed the petition, holding that Petitioner abused the writ in this instance because he alleged no fact sufficient to distinguish his claims from the claims in his first two petition. View "Barnett v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's pro se petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to allow him to file a petition for writ of error coram nobis in his criminal case, holding that neither of Petitioner's claims established cause to permit Petitioner to proceed in the trial court with a coram nobis petition. Petitioner was found guilty of multiple drug-related offenses. As grounds for the writ, Petitioner alleged that (1) while his criminal case was on remand from the court of appeals, a third party confessed to him that he was the owner of drugs and scales seized in the search of Petitioner's house, and (2) neither Petitioner's trial attorney nor his appellate attorney afforded him effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding (1) Petitioner's petition with respect to the third-party confession was not timely filed; and (2) Petitioner's allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel were not cognizable in a coram nobis proceeding. View "McKinney v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's petition for writ of error coram nobis, holding that reversal was not warranted because Appellant failed to establish a meritorious Brady claim. In 1994, Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2015, Appellant filed a petition to reinvest jurisdiction in the circuit court to consider his petition for error coram nobis on the ground that the State had suppressed exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The circuit court ultimately denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's error coram nobis petition. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion for a new trial based on postconviction DNA testing results, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying the motion and in not granting an evidentiary hearing before ruling on the motion. Defendant was convicted of rape, aggravated robbery, and burglary more than thirty years ago. In 2012, Defendant moved for postconviction DNA testing under Act 1780 of 2001 seeking to test for "touch DNA" on the knife found at the crime scene. The circuit court entered a stipulated order for postconviction DNA testing on the knife and several hairs and hair fragments. After testing was complete, Defendant moved for a new trial, relying on the DNA testing results. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's motion for new trial; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in finding that an evidentiary hearing was not required. View "Carter v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for various drug and drug-related offenses and sentencing him to an aggregate term of forty years' imprisonment, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of the presence of filmmakers at the search of Defendant's residence. When DEA officers and other law enforcement officers executed a warrant for the search of Defendant's home, they found drugs and drug paraphernalia. An HBO documentary film crew was present at the search under an agreement with law enforcement. The filmmakers did not participate in the search, nor did they include footage of the search in a documentary that later aired on HBO. On appeal from his convictions, Defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to order the State to obtain the HBO video footage of the search of Defendant's home and to identify the filmmakers who were present. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) did not abuse its discretion in declining to order the State to obtain the video; (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's request for a continuance; (3) did not abuse its discretion in granting the State's motion to exclude testimony about the film; and (4) erred in giving a nonmodel instruction, but the error was harmless. View "Harmon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming amended integration orders entered by the Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission (AOGC), holding that the AOGC did not exceed its statutory authority in granting SWN Production, LLC's (SWN) request to reduce the royalty payable under Appellants' oil and gas leases when the lessees elected to go "non-consent." On appeal, Appellants argued that the AOGC's actions were both ultra vires and arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) while there is no statutory provision specifically stating that the AOGC may reduce the royalty rate contained in a lease, there is also no statutory language expressly stating that the consenting parties - such as SWN - are responsible for payment of royalties when an uncommitted leasehold working-interest owner elects to go non-consent; and (2) the AOGC's orders were neither ultra vires nor arbitrary and capricious. View "Hurd v. Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Plaintiff on her slip and fall action, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err by not granting Defendants' motion for a directed verdict because substantial evidence supported the jury's verdict; (2) did not abuse its discretion as a matter of law by allowing a chiropractor to testify as an expert regarding the causal connection between Plaintiff's fall and the treatment provided by other physicians; and (3) did not abuse its discretion by allowing Plaintiff to give causation testimony regarding her treatments that were not rendered in temporal proximity to the occurrence of the accident. View "Dollar General Corp. v. Elder" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this action challenging the decision of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission disqualifying Carpenter Farms Medical Group, LLC's application for a marijuana-cultivation facility the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and dismissed in part the judgment of the circuit court denying the State's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity, holding that the complaint may go forward only under Ark. Code Ann. 25-15-207 and the declaratory judgment action alleging an equal protection violation. In its complaint, Carpenter Farms asserted (1) it was the only 100 percent minority-owned applicant and that the Commission singled out its application for disparate treatment in violation of equal protection guarantees; and (2) the Commission violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to adopt certain rules and improperly applying the rules it did adopt. The circuit court denied the State's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed in part, holding (1) the lawsuit cannot proceed regarding the Commission's application of its own rules or as an administrative appeal; and (2) Carpenter Farms can go forward with it claim that the Commission failed to adopt model rules and with its declaratory judgment action alleging an equal protection violation. View "Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration v. Carpenter Farms Medical Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this matter - which regarded Petitioner's pro se motions seeking to belatedly appeal his conviction, permission to proceed in forma paupers, and appointment of counsel - to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the proper disposition of the matter required findings of fact. In his motion for belated appeal, Petitioner alleged that after he was convicted for aggravated assault on a family/household member he advised his retained attorney that he wished to appeal but that his attorney had failed to file a timely notice of appeal. The record did not contain an order relieving his attorney, so the question at issue was whether and when Petitioner communicated to his attorney that he wished to appeal and whether his attorney acted within an objective standard of reasonableness in not pursuing an appeal. The Supreme Court held that the proper disposition required findings of fact, and therefore, the matter must be remanded to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing. View "Marek v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law