Bobby Ampezzan

Managing Editor

Bobby Ampezzan is a native of Detroit who holds degrees from Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) and the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville). He's written for The Guardian newspaper and Oxford American magazine and was a longtime staff writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The best dimestore nugget he's lately discovered comes from James Altucher's Choose Yourself: "I lose at least 20 percent of my intelligence when I am resentful." Meanwhile, his faith in public radio and television stems from the unifying philosophy that not everything is serious, but curiosity should follow every thing, and that we all should be serious about curiosity. I'm at (501) 569-8489.

 

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AR Dept. of Corrections

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today has asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set the next execution, this after the state made international news for scheduling eight executions in 11 days in April in order to make use of a lethal injection drug set to expire May 1.

Arkansas's three-drug execution protocol calls for midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, in that order. The state's supply of midazolam expired May 1. The state doesn't have any alternative protocol to execute anyone sentenced to death. 

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

On a blistering Monday afternoon in July, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. George Hollingsworth sat down with Hot Springs Village Voice managing editor Jeff Meek to talk about the Vietnam War.

"I hope this," Hollingsworth said, meaning Ken Burns' The Vietnam War, and perhaps his own small part here on this set, "could start a national dialogue again about America, not only its tendency to war, but its tendency to govern in a dishonest fashion."

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

CLARKSVILLE — Before a gathering of Rotarians enjoying corn on the cob and barbecue pork, inside a cool room at the University of the Ozarks, the state’s former lieutenant governor and the city’s utilities manager explain the prescience of a 20,000-module solar array in 20 slides.

 

It's a roughly $10 million investment, or about what the city itself spends in just eight months for power, since it doesn’t generate any itself, according to the manager, John Lester.

The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas announced Monday he's pursuing charges against the rapper Finese 2Tymes.

Meanwhile, local authorities are still calling for the community to come forward with information about the Power Ultra Lounge mass shooting Saturday.

On Facebook, Ricky Hampton, aka Finese 2Tymes, posted his condolences for the shooting.

“THE VIOLENCE IS NOT FOR THE CLUB PEOPLE," he wrote Saturday. "WE ALL COME WITH 1 MOTIVE AT THE END OF THE DAY, AND THATS TO HAVE FUN."

C-SPAN

The relationship America's Baby Boomer generation has with marijuana cannot be explained by teenage infatuation, followed by early adulthood ambition, followed finally by later-life acceptance, says Brookings Institution senior fellow John Hudak.

"I think that one of the important things to caution about when thinking about the Baby Boomer generation is that they are often characterized as a bunch of hippies smoking weed and having sex. In reality, marijuana use always was and continued to be something that is done by a small percentage of the population."

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

The city of Little Rock and its police force are asking the community for help finding those responsible for a mass shooting downtown today at Power Ultra Lounge, 220 W. 6th St, at about 2 a.m.

At last report, 28 people were injured in the incident, 25 directly from gunfire.

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

UPDATE: Police tweeting the number injured is 28 — 25 shot.

Shooting broke out at a late-night club in downtown Little Rock Saturday morning, injuring 28 (earlier, police had numbered the injured at 17).

Footage shot by a patron and uploaded to Facebook captures a spray of gunfire at about 2 a.m. At the end of the video patrons can be heard checking each other for bullet holes. The Little Rock police responded shortly after.

Zhelun Lang / THE DAILY CAMPUS

The state of Arkansas today begins accepting applications for marijuana licenses, both to grow it and sell it commercially. It becomes the first so-called Bible Belt to do so, and the 29th state nationally to have a state-regulated marijuana cultivation and retail industry.

Of course, it’s still a  Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act and illegal under federal law.

On the eve of this Independence Day weekend, Arkansas Public Media offers you this interview of John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of Marijuana: A Short History, by managing editor Bobby Ampezzan. 

NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS

In emphatic language, the Supreme Court of the United States Monday reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court’s lopsided decision to deny non-birth parents in a same-sex marriage a place on their child’s birth certificate.

In a per curiam order, not a decision, in Marisa N. Pavan, et al. v. Nathaniel Smith, the six-member majority further staked out the court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

BOBBY AMPEZZAN / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission meeting veterans might have looked around the board room inside the Alcohol Beverage Control Division last week and wondered where the dreamers went. Gone were the cowboy boots and branded T's, the men (some women, not many) who clearly are interested in marijuana and, if given the chance, the business of growing it and selling it — legally. They were replaced by lawyers and other men and women in suits.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Without any official program, anti-death penalty protesters busied themselves Monday evening with song and prayer. And Twitter.

"'The court reinstituted Marcell Williams' death sentence for procedural reason no more.' What? Hold on, let's figure out what's happening."

Laura Hardy said the thing that’s most gotten under her skin the last couple of weeks of Arkansas executions has been the seemingly gleeful, baiting comments made on Twitter and elsewhere from Arkansas politicians. 

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

A legal challenge to Monday's planned execution of Jack Jones was rejected by the state Supreme Court.

In an Arkansas Public Media story yesterday reported Jack Jones’ attorney Jeff Rosenzweig objected to the jury in Jones' sentencing. Specifically, they filled out paperwork to show contradictory findings about whether there were valid reasons, or mitigating factors, to avoid a death penalty sentence.

His attorney Jeff Rosenzweig argued precedent in Arkansas is to grant re-sentencing when there’s been such an error.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkanas Public Media

Reporters, as a rule, don't like waiting or wondering. For those covering Arkansas's executions, the night begins around dinner time and, at least this week, didn't end until after midnight, and as late as 11:00 no one knew what exactly would happen.  With his death warrant set to expire at midnight, Ledell Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56pm from the three-drug lethal injection cocktail that had been administered some twelve minutes earlier.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas has executed Ledell Lee, who was convicted of murdering a woman in 1993.  The execution came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the lethal injection.  Bobby Amepezzan covered the story from the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections.  This story aired on Morning Edition on April 21.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

  

While a small group of local protesters gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock Monday night, a larger group of international journalists convened death penalty coverage from within the visitation center inside the fenced perimeter of Cummins Prison.

Night Of The Stay

Apr 18, 2017
Michael Hibblen / KUAR

I've always wanted to be picked. Who doesn't? Little League, passing out papers, taste tester of Meemaw's pasta sauce. So when it came to filling the last of three media witness slots at the Arkansas Department of Correction's first execution in 12 years, I threw my name in the hat. 'Maybe I get picked,' I thought, with some small amount of delight not unlike making your Mega Millions pick.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Easter morning Arkansas politicians shared their faith with Twitter followers. Have a blessed Easter, He is risen, went a Arkansas House Majority account tweet that was dutifully retweeted by some members of the House Republican majority. 

Tonally it was a shift from the day before, and before the day was over it would shift again, back to the big news of the weekend, two judges' stays of Arkansas's scheduled executions set to begin today. 

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

  

Monday the state begins executing death row inmates. Seven in all. But today, as Christians everywhere marked the Passion of Jesus, an anti-Death Penalty throng converged on the steps of the Capitol.

 

Little Rock Diocesan Bishop Anthony Taylor reminded the crowd — those who stood in judgment of Jesus were pretty sure he deserved to die. For that matter, Moses too. He’d murdered an Egyptian.

 

"If God could use a murderer to set his people free and lead them to the promised land, then there is hope for everyone."

Karen Tricot Steward / Arkansas Public Media

Governor Asa Hutchinson has great confidence that the seven executions set for this month will be carried out successfully.

“I don't expect [a botched execution] to happen. I went [to the Arkansas Department of Correction] and I reviewed the protocols, procedures and training. But, obviously, there's contingency plans. That's why we have communication directly from the chambers there to my office,” said Hutchinson.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Last week a former Little Rock police officer took the stand in federal court to explain what happened on a night five years ago when he shot and killed a 15 year old. If he convinces 12 jurors he took appropriate action he and the city will not have to come up with millions in punitive and compensatory damages.

The same could never happen if something goes wrong in the planned executions of eight men over 11 days beginning Monday, say defense attorney Jeff Rosenzweig and Terrence Cain, University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law professor.

“The 11th [amendment to the Constitution] prohibits [lawsuits seeking] damages against states unless Congress specifically abrogates,” says Cain.

“The state has sovereign immunity in something like this,” Rosenzweig says.

UA Little Rock / Arkansas Public Media

A new survey of racial attitudes and perspectives in Arkansas finds that whites and blacks diverge significantly on the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Joel Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity at the UA Little Rock this week releases the results of its annual Race, Ethnicity and Religion survey. John Kirk is the survey’s author.

"There's a very polarized idea about what Black Lives Matter means what its successes will be, and African Americans very strongly believe Black Lives Matter is making an important impact and having an important role, than whites, who tend to be very much in the opposite direction, that Black Lives Matter isn't making an impact and doesn't have a role to play."

"It's punishment. We are going to take a person who's helpless and we're going to kill him. Why? Because he deserves it," says New York Law School professor Robert Blecker on the death penalty.

Blecker is the author of The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice Among the Worst of the Worst.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Sara Gullickson flew in from Arizona to voice her concerns at the Medical Marijuana Commission's first public hearing today in Little Rock.

"I really, really strongly urge Arkansas to consider for the dispensaries running a merit based program instead of a lottery based program. Lottery based programs definitely breed litigation, program delays, and really don’t set the state up for success."

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Last month, Medical Marijuana Commissioner Carlos Roman, an anesthesiologist, joked that the appropriate venue for the commission's first public hearing Friday would be Verizon Arena, the 18,000-seat venue for touring Top 40 musical acts, circuses and monster truck rallies.

Instead, the commission got the UA Little Rock's Bowen School of Law — larger than the modest fifth-floor conference room inside 1515 W. 7th St. where the meetings have been, still smaller than the anticipated crowd.

The commission has received dozens of email comments already, a large number asking the body to rethink its plan for a lottery to pick 32 Arkansans to open retail storefronts for medical marijuana.

Grove Pashley

Next month the state of Arkansas will execute eight of its 33 inmates, in pairs over four evenings and by lethal injection.

For more than 18 years Damien Echols was one of those on death row. He knows all eight men and says Don W. Davis, scheduled to die April 17, "kept me alive." 

Here's his full Arkansas Public Media interview with reporter Ann Kenda in which he talks about the justice of capital punishment, life on death row, life after death row and his wife, Lorri, whom he married while on the block. 

Echols was reached at his home in New York. 

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas’s 91st General Assembly has hosted serious discussions on healthier eating (only) on food stamps and on Sharia Law, guns on college campuses and sanctuaries on those same campuses for undocumented immigrants. Less attention until late had been given to the roughly two dozen bills that seek to shape up — or water-down, depending on your bent — the state’s half-century old Freedom of Information Act.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Fewer than a dozen speakers piped up at the Arkansas Department of Health’s first public hearing today, and the whole affair — advertised around the state and referrenced often on social media — finished in about 40 minutes.

Several speakers voiced concern that the health department was overreaching for quality control through proposed batch sampling and laboratory testing thresholds, and that such a regulatory structure was hindering the rollout of the therapy, and promises to pass those costs on to the patients. 

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

A host of bills have been filed in the 91st General Assembly that direct Arkansas’s voter-approved medical marijuana program in small and moderate ways, but two senate bills would prohibit smoking, eating or drinking medical marijuana products. Monday, the smoking ban failed a Senate floor vote by 14 votes, 10-15, but it could come up again.

The Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6 on the ballot Nov. 8, passed with better than 53% support.

Arkansas Public Media spoke to the amendment’s author Monday afternoon just before the Senate floor vote. Little Rock attorney David Couch specializes in nursing home litigation and regulation.

We began with the legislation banning smoking and ingesting marijuana, sponsored by Republicans Jason Rapert (Bigelow) and Gary Stubblefield (Branch) in the Senate, and House Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs).

NPR / Arkansas Public Media

A report on a state legislator's bill to wipe the name Clinton from Little Rock's national airport was the lead story on NPR's U.S. news page Wednesday morning. 

Arkansas Weighs Whether To Remove The Clinton Name From Little Rock's Airport

Arkansas Public Media reporter Sarah Whites-Koditschek filed the report as part of NPR's ambitious new reporting partnership with dozens of radio stations and public radio reporting projects like Arkansas Public Media across the nation. The state governance project seeks to cover statehouses and legislation debates with an eye toward what trends nationally are impacting local governance, and vice versa.

NPR / Arkansas Public Media

Erika Gee is on the government relations and regulatory team at the law firm of Wright Lindsey Jennings, and she's taken clients who wish to procure licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries or cultivation facilities, a five- to seven-figure outlay before a single seed is planted or bud is sold. 

Andrew King is on the Cannabis Engagement Committee at another big firm, Kutak Rock, and he absolutely will not. King has written about why for Arkansas Lawyer. 

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