More injustice for Tim Howard 

Department of Correction delays parole hearing due after conclusion of new trial.

STILL WAITING: State has not released Tim Howard from prison.
  • STILL WAITING: State has not released Tim Howard from prison.

First, Arkansas held Tim Howard in a cell on death row for 14 years after a trial in 1999 that would later be ruled illegal. Then, after the jury at his second trial this spring sentenced him to a term of years that would make him immediately eligible for parole, the state refused to grant him the necessary parole hearing.

On May 8, Howard's new jury sentenced him to a total of 38 years in prison. It did not pull that number from a hat. Before the jurors began deliberating, they asked the judge if they could set the length of Howard's sentence. The judge said they could, but only if they found Howard guilty of nothing greater than second-degree murder, which is what the jury did.

When it came to sentencing, the jurors were instructed that if they sentenced Howard to a term of years, he would be eligible to be transferred out of prison after serving half of whatever time they gave him.

In addition, the jurors were told:

"The term of imprisonment may be reduced further, up to one-fourth of the period you impose, if the defendant earns the maximum amount of 'meritorious good time' during his imprisonment."

Howard has always maintained that he is innocent of the murders for which he was convicted. Throughout his time on death row he was a model prisoner. One-fourth of his new 38-year sentence would be nine and a half years — considerably less than the time he had already spent behind bars.

But since that verdict, officials at the Arkansas Department of Correction have all but tied themselves in knots, insisting that he cannot be released. I know this because Howard has granted his attorney permission to let me see his files.

At first, the ADC told reporters that Howard would not become eligible for parole until November 2017. The reason, they said, was that he had been held on death row and the department didn't award good time to prisoners on death row.

Howard's attorney, Patrick Benca, protested to Jim DePriest, the ADC's chief attorney, arguing that Howard was being doubly penalized. First, he'd had to endure those years in isolation on death row because of a state prosecuting attorney's misconduct. And now, the state was denying him "good time" credit for those years, even though Howard's death sentence had been vacated.

I, too, was asking the department to explain Howard's unique situation. On July 24, ADC spokesperson Cathy Frye offered a lengthy explanation of what she called this "highly unusual case" that I, frankly, could not understand.

At the end of the email, however, Frye offered that, due to new calculations, and if the parole board approved, Howard would be eligible for release on Feb. 26, 2016 — a date almost two years earlier than the one previously announced.

Benca still wasn't buying it. On Aug. 18 he submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the ADC's internal correspondence regarding the new calculation. Benca told DePriest in an email:

"If Mr. Howard was incarcerated back in 1999 for second-degree murder, with the same exact entry dates, he would have been eligible for parole [in] a little less than 10 years ...

"This man is being punished additionally because he got a new trial and received a better sentence? He lived in a hole for almost 14 years and you are telling me he is only entitled to 244 days of good time credit?"

The correspondence revealed that DePriest had checked on and confirmed Howard's prison record. He'd written that Howard had received one disciplinary, but, at a hearing, had been found not guilty.

In June, DePriest had written: "Realizing I could be wrong (heaven knows), it appears to me that we have miscalculated his [parole eligibility] date and that he is going to be immediately eligible for parole."

Someone apparently convinced DePriest that he was indeed wrong, because on Aug. 24, DePriest told Benca that the department's options regarding Howard were limited by terms of the sentencing order submitted by the court where Howard was retried. Benca foresees a lawsuit.

I see madness — at best. Any sane (or fair) system would have released Howard by now. Even the department's own lawyer deemed him eligible for a hearing, at least. Yet, despite the government hullaballoo about how this state can't afford to hold prisoners indefinitely, the ADC has not managed to get even Howard out the door.


Speaking of Tim Howard, Arkansas Department Of Correction

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Mara Leveritt

  • Illustrating the governor's message

    Our prisons burst with disparities. Eliminating them will take courage. Let's see if the Arkansas Parole Board can heed the governor's message with one matter currently before it.
    • Dec 3, 2015
  • Mara Leveritt offers governor a symbol for sentencing reform

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state needs to get serious about sentencing reform if it is to cope with its exploding prison population.
    • Dec 1, 2015
  • Parole board hears arguments on parole for Tim Howard

    The hard-fought battle over the fate of former death-row inmate Tim Howard intensified on Thursday when John Felts, chairman of the Arkansas Parole Board, held a hearing at Cummins prison to consider Howard’s eligibility for parole.
    • Oct 9, 2015
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • Issue 3: blank check

    Who could object to a constitutional amendment "concerning job creation, job expansion and economic development," which is the condensed title for Issue 3 for Arkansas voters on Nov. 8?
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

  • Trump country

    Even in deep red Arkansas, Trump could damage some down-ballot Republicans — but will boost others.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Youth movement

    Irvin Camacho, 24, hopes to be the first Latino elected to the Arkansas legislature.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Democrats' last stand in NE Arkansas

    Nate Looney vs. Rep. Brandt Smith for District 58.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Leslie Rutledge, the absent attorney general

    Arkansas loses out to Trump love, Obama hate.
  • Thanks!

    In less than two weeks, We the People are about to roll the dice and elect our next president. Just enough time left to dash off a few well-deserved thank you notes ... .
  • 'Living legend'

    Union Pacific's No. 844 steam locomotive made its way through the North Little Rock train yard on Oct. 24. The 907,980 pound train was the last steam locomotive made for Union Pacific and is amid a 1,200 mile journey that will end in Cheyenne, Wyo. on Oct. 31. This is the first multi-state excursion for the locomotive since completion of a three yearlong restoration.

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation