News » The Week That Was

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Quote of the week

"[D]elusions so cloud [Jack] Greene's thinking that, as a psychiatrist has determined, he does not rationally understand his execution. An execution of that nature would not be humane and it would not serve the purposes of punishment. It would merely be a miserable spectacle." — Scott Braden, the assistant federal defender representing Jack Greene, who is scheduled to be killed by the state Nov. 9 for his conviction in the 1991 slaying of Sidney Burnett, a Johnson County pastor. The state Parole Board last week voted 6-0 against recommending clemency for Greene. Court action continues on efforts to stop the execution on that ground. Governor Hutchinson has the final say on clemency.

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The Arkansas Supreme Court has reversed a lower court ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza and declared that former legislator Mike Wilson had properly challenged spending of state surplus — the General Improvement Fund — as unconstitutional. Wilson had earlier challenged the spending of state surplus on local projects that was directed by legislators and not explicitly designated in law. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in his favor in decisions in 2006 and 2007. In response, the legislature began parceling out surplus to regional planning districts. These agencies then generally distributed the money as individual legislators directed from proportionate shares of the money.

Spending of this money has always been corrupt at a certain level — bad government if not strictly illegal. But it has led to criminal corruption. Two former legislators, Jon Woods and Micah Neal, were indicted for scheming with others to get kickbacks from hundreds of thousands of GIF money funneled to Ecclesia College, a private Bible college in Springdale. Numerous instances have been cited of money spent on dubious or nonexistent enterprises. Lawyers in the Springdale case have said they've been told to expect further indictments. Senate Republicans have even adopted a rule to deal with leadership changes that might be required in the event of more criminal charges.

With money tight and Governor Hutchinson in opposition, the legislature sent out no GIF money in the 2017 session, but many were unhappy about it.

Former judge pleads guilty

Joseph Boeckmann, the former state district judge from Wynne, pleaded guilty to two felony charges in federal court last week in exchange for the dismissal of more than 20 other counts. Federal prosecutors described to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker a scheme in which Boeckmann would dismiss charges of young male defendants in misdemeanor and traffic cases in exchange for "community service," where the men would come to Boeckmann's house to "pick up cans," during which Boeckmann would photograph them in compromising positions. Investigators who later searched Boeckmann's computers later found thousands of such photographs. Prosecutors also said Boeckmann dismissed charges of one defendant in exchange for sexual favors. Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of between 30 and 37 months in prison.

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Morgan ponders governor's race

Happiest political news of the week is word from Arkansas's premier gun nut, Jan Morgan, that she might challenge Governor Hutchinson in the Republican primary next year. Morgan would make Hutchinson, a regular carrier of NRA luggage, look like a liberal gun confiscator. She's the shooting range owner and self-styled Second Amendment expert who gets a lot of cable TV time for her gun rants. She first burst into the limelight by declaring her Hot Springs gun range a Muslim-free zone.


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