News » The Week That Was

State supreme court stays execution

Also, fear of a bathroom bill, Maggio appeal denied and more.

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Quote of the week

"We've had some political issues coming up in the legislature that have threatened to harm everything we've done for the last 30 years ... . We have spent literally millions of dollars trying to establish a positive image of Arkansas out there. People think that Arkansas is a good place to come and that bathroom bill could jeopardize all of that." — Joe David Rice, retiring state tourism director, speaking to members of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commission and other area leaders, as reported by the Southwest Times-Record in Fort Smith. Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas) failed to pass such a bill in the Arkansas legislature in 2017, but the idea is being studied in the interim for possible re-introduction.

Arkansas Supreme Court stays execution

The Arkansas Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for Jack Greene on Tuesday in a 5-2 decision. Green was slated to be executed Thursday, Nov. 9. Justices Rhonda Wood and Shawn Womack would have denied the request. The majority did not give a reason for granting the stay.

Attorneys for Greene raised an argument denied in circuit court last week that it is unconstitutional for state law to give sole discretion for determining a condemned prisoner's competency to the director of the state Department of Correction.

Greene's lawyers argued that he was mentally incompetent, specifically suffering from delusional disorder. They said Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley's decision that Greene was competent to be killed for a slaying in Johnson County was based on an outdated evaluation. They argued that U.S. Supreme Court precedent requires a "fair hearing" by a neutral decision-maker, not a member of the executive branch.

The state Supreme Court stayed the execution of Bruce Ward for the same reason in April. His appeal for a permanent bar to execution on the ground of incompetency remains on appeal.

Multiple experts have said that Greene lacks rational understanding of his punishment, but Greene has objected to a stay of his execution in Arkansas.

Maggio appeal denied

The U.S. Supreme Court this week denied without comment former Circuit Judge Mike Maggio's petition to consider an appeal of his conviction and 10-year federal prison sentence for bribery.

Maggio began serving his sentence in July for admitting that he'd been influenced by campaign contributions from a nursing home owner, Michael Morton of Fort Smith, to reduce a verdict against one of Morton's nursing homes from $5.2 million to $1 million. The contributions were arranged by former Republican state Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway. Neither Morton nor Baker was charged and both have said they did nothing wrong in contributing to Maggio's campaign for the state Court of Appeals, scrapped by this and another ethics violation. Maggio attempted to withdraw his guilty plea and also argued that the prosecution hadn't met the standard for a bribery case in charging him.

The completion of Maggio's criminal case now clears the way for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Morton and Baker over the verdict reduction (Maggio was held immune from lawsuit for acting in his official capacity) to attempt to draw testimony from Maggio to support their suit on behalf of the estate of the woman who died because of inadequate care and which saw the unanimous jury award reduced by $4.2 million.

Rumors have also long circulated that the federal public corruption team that brought this case — and which has been working on kickback cases against two former legislators in Northwest Arkansas — might plan more action on completion of the Maggio criminal case. But that's only speculation at this point.

Arkansas Poll by the numbers

The Arkansas Poll from the University of Arkansas is one of the most reliable indicators of where Arkansans stand on a wide range of issues. The results of the 19th edition were released earlier this week. A sampling:

72 percent support the death penalty

55 percent believe the campaign finance system should be "completely rebuilt"

47 percent approve of President Trump

40 percent disapprove of Trump

38 percent support stricter rather than less strict gun control laws

15 percent support less strict rather than stricter gun control laws

30 percent were worried about global warming as a threat in their lifetime

61 percent were not worried about global warming

43 percent support LGBT adoption (compared to 61 percent nationally)

35 percent support same-sex marriage (compared to 64 percent nationally)


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