Arkansas court won't let judge hear execution cases again

The Arkansas Supreme Court says it won't allow a judge who demonstrated against the death penalty the same day he blocked the state from using a lethal injection drugs to resume hearing execution cases

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday it won't allow a judge who participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug to resume hearing execution cases.

The court rejected the request by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, whom the court disqualified from hearing execution cases in 2017 following the demonstration outside the governor's mansion. Griffen in June asked the court to allow him to hear death penalty cases again.

Justices said they considered Griffen's request a petition to rehear a case, which they said must be filed within 18 days of the decision.

"Judge Griffen strenuously disagrees with the Arkansas Supreme Court decision to deny restoration of his powers yet he is glad the court has finally ruled because it sets the stage for our next effort," said Mike Laux, Griffen's attorney. Laux declined to elaborate on the next steps the judge may take.

Griffen, who is black, had argued that no white member of the state's judiciary has similarly been banned from hearing and deciding an entire category of cases.

The court last month rejected Griffen's request that the justices disqualify themselves from hearing his request.

In April 2017, Griffen was photographed wearing an anti-death penalty button and surrounded by people holding signs opposing executions as he lay on a cot outside the governor's mansion. Before the demonstration, Griffen had blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug over the claims that officials misled a medical supply company. He participated in a similar demonstration a year later.

A disciplinary panel in June dismissed an ethics case against Griffen over the demonstration.

The ruling came two days after Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked justices to reassign any civil cases handled by her office from Griffen's court. Rutledge accused Griffen of being biased against her staff. Griffen has denied those claims.


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