Justice

From social justice to law enforcement and the courts.

Jennifer Gibson / Arkansas Public Media

An 11-member jury ruled in favor of former Little Rock police Lt. David Hudson in an excessive force case in federal court on Wednesday.

 

Hudson was working as an off-duty security guard at Ferneau, a restaurant in the Hillcrest neighborhood, on Oct. 29, 2011 when he punched Chris Erwin in the face seven times on the sidewalk outside after asking Erwin and his party to leave the establishment. 

Former Little Rock police Lt. David Hudson told a federal jury Tuesday that he took the only safe option available. That, he said, is why he repeatedly punched a man he asked to leave a Little Rock restaurant in 2011.

“After the seventh punch, I felt from his body, and his body language, that he was ready to submit to arrest,” said Hudson.

Arkansas Public Media

A federal jury trial began Monday in an excessive force lawsuit against a retired Little Rock Police Department officer.

In 2011, now retired Lt. David Hudson was recorded on video hitting Chris Erwin in the face at least seven times and slamming him against a wall. This was after the officer told Erwin and his friends to leave a private party at Ferneau, a restaurant and bar in Hillcrest.

Arkansas Department of Correction

The Arkansas State Medical Board dropped a possible investigation Thursday into a Department of Correction-affiliated doctor’s role in obtaining a lethal injection drug.

The board was reviewing whether an ADC doctor might have used his license to help obtain a lethal injection drug from the McKesson Company.

McKesson sued the department in April, claiming a physician’s license on file had been used to purchase the drugs under false pretenses.

Board attorney Kevin O’Dwyer says the board ruled to drop the matter after finding no proof of the doctor’s involvement.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas executed two men in one night this week, and there is a dispute about how it went. Attorneys for the first man executed Monday, Jack Jones, say he gasped for air as he died. Media witnesses say they simply saw Jones’ lips moving. None of the execution witnesses were allowed to hear Jones’ sounds.

Andrew DeMillo, an Associated Press reporter who witnessed Jones’ execution, reported back to other journalists at the prison that Jones’ lips had moved during the lethal injection process.

Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Arkansas’s now six scheduled executions this month have been effectively stayed, again. This time it’s the result of a drug supplier suing to block usage of its product in the state’s lethal injections.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray in Little Rock has granted a temporary injunction in favor of the drug supplier McKesson Corp. The company says the Department of Correction used deceptive practices to obtain its vecuronium bromide.

Testimony from both sides diverged on whether prison officials were forthright that they were ordering the drugs for use in an execution. 

After a dizzying day of legal drama, the execution of inmate Don Davis was called off with moments to spare.  Davis, who was taken to a "quiet room" and given his last meal, was not put to death by lethal injection after the US Supreme Court refused to lift a stay from a state court.  The state had made preparations for the execution while seeking an emergency decision from the nation's highest court.  Witnesses were in place when word came shortly before midnight that the justices had denied the request to vacate the stay via a simple, one-sentence decision.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

A federal judge in Little Rock has stayed the executions of eight inmates scheduled this month. The ruling came down Saturday morning granting a preliminary injunction in the case.

The inmates had argued the state’s lethal injection protocol creates a risk of severe pain, and federal Judge Kristine Baker agreed, while expressing regret for the further delay caused to families of the inmates’ victims.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen put a separate stay on the use of one of the execution drugs Friday, after a manufacturer filed suit to block its use.  Two other inmates had also received separate individual stays.

Eastern District of Arkansas / United States Federal Court

The effects of the sedative midazolam, along with Arkansas's execution practices generally, were the subject of a federal hearing that began in Little Rock Monday that could halt seven planned executions of death row inmates starting next week.  

State Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky told U.S. District Judge Karen Baker that the inmates' case has no basis in law, and that their complaints under the Eighth Amendment have already been dismissed by previous U.S. Supreme Court and 8th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings.

He deflected arguments by the inmates' attorneys that an expedited schedule of double executions over ten days would minimize the inmates' access to effective counsel and increase the risk of error at the Arkansas Department of Correction.

"A risk of maladministration or accident is not cognizable under the 8th Amendment, but more importantly, their allegation is entirely speculative."

To the eight men scheduled to be executed over 10 days this month by the state of Arkansas, the question is when. When will they die? On the day and time of the state's choosing — April 17, 20, 24 and 27 — or some later date, dependent on a court-ordered stay of their execution? For others without more than a passing interest in the news, the question might be why, followed by how.

How does the state end the life of an inmate, without pain but without error?

In Arkansas's case, the answer, for better or worse, is lethal injection. 

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

They sit in rows, 150 closely shaven men in yellow uniforms and white identification badges, before opposing walls, in a cinder-block walled gymnasium.  

A selected group of four sit in plastic chairs forming a circle before their co-residents. Two stand up and shake hands, and the others say, “Squash it!” and clap.

These residents at Little Rock’s all-male Community Corrections Center have a daily ritual, a conflict resolution practice, meant to teach them interpersonal skills before they return to the real world.

Avoid Rejection: Ways Consumers Can Score A Mortgage Loan

Feb 1, 2017
Nanci Flores / UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS

NOTE: This story is part of a package on mortgages, race and database journalism. Read the lead story in the package here

Every Friday afternoon, Realtor Julia Valenciana spends part of her workday in the studio of La Zeta, 95.7-FM, a Spanish-speaking station in Springdale, telling the Hispanic community how to buy a home and avoid being rejected by the system.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

News — the industry, the product, the hashtag — took a haymaker from a heavyweight Jan. 10 when then-President-elect Donald Trump called one of its largest purveyors, CNN, “fake news.”

If not the antidote to “fake news” then certainly its antipode is “data journalism,” darling of special projects desks (like the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team). Data journalism is the application of great sets of data to working hypotheses. To find out what’s killing Arkansans, for instance, the data journalist might begin with what. is. killing. Arkansans. — each deceased a data point, each point an Excel doc box, and each row and column an eventual pie slice or vector. Where a Capitol reporter is proud to acquire a working shorthand, the data journalist acquires a working knowledge of computer coding.

At least 3,200 state workers, and thousands more public and private sector employees around Arkansas, will not see changes to the way they account for their work hours.

A federal judge in Texas Tuesday temporarily stopped changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act the Labor Department under President Obama sought to implement in order to change workplace accounting of employees' hours and grant more overtime pay.

Jacqueline Froelich/ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

In late September, Canopy Northwest Arkansas, a new faith-based global refugee resettlement center in Fayetteville, received final approval from the U.S. State Department to move forward with its essential mission — to accommodate as many as 100 refugees a year.

Canopy’s resettlement Director Emily Crane Linn, who is headquartered at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, says she was euphoric.

Emily Crane Linn is Canopy’s resettlement director

“It’s real,” she says. “We’ve been approved. There’s no more provisional, no more waiting. It’s happening.”

Jacqueline Froelich/ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Winter is approaching, and tens of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees, fleeing political and religious persecution, languish in tent encampments in Western Europe. Clint Schnekloth, a pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville is worried. Earlier this year, he petitioned the U.S. State Department to open a Lutheran-church sponsored refugee resettlement agency in Northwest Arkansas to help.