A response from Judge Griffen; but much larger questions linger | Arkansas Blog

Friday, April 14, 2017

A response from Judge Griffen; but much larger questions linger

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 9:21 PM

click to enlarge WHAT DID THE GOVERNOR KNOW: About the prison system's illicit scramble to obtain killing drugs that nobody reputable wanted to provide?
  • WHAT DID THE GOVERNOR KNOW: About the prison system's illicit scramble to obtain killing drugs that nobody reputable wanted to provide?
I got a short note from Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen in response to my questions about the attorney general's criticism of his participation in a death penalty case and mine about his appearance at an anti-death penalty vigil at the Governor's Mansion today. In full:

I'll address their concerns and your question Tuesday morning. Hope you and family have a blessed Easter.

Legislators are hopping mad. Social media is buzzing, particularly about the photo images of Griffen on a gurney.

Consider none other than the irrepressible Sen. Jason Rapert (I'm stunned it took him until 9:20 p.m.)

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-04-14_at_9.42.01_pm.png

I don't expect it will be long before someone carries a complaint to the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission about Judge Griffen and potential violation of, at least, broad rules that judges should comport themselves in ways that don't cause lack of confidence in the impartiality of courts.

Griffen has tested the limits before and generally prevailed with the view, upheld in many courts, that judges have the same First Amendment rights of expression that the rest of us do.

But, as I've often said before about Griffen, just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you should. Appearance counts. Judgment counts. Heading from a ruling that effectively halted executions to an execution protest has an ill appearance to just about anyone.

But this story is about larger questions than Wendell Griffen's judiciousness.

First: When will we hear from federal Judge Kristine Baker, who could make the Griffen case a footnote by halting all executions on other grounds.

Second: Let's not forget the mendacious, underhanded behavior of the state of Arkansas to assemble drugs in clandestine and dubious fashion for state killing. If the state isn't beyond reproach in carrying out the law, how does it expect others to behave properly? Finally:  What did Gov. Hutchinson know and when did he know it about the prison system's unorthodox dealings to obtain drugs no reputable manufacturer or dealer wanted to supply?

This merits an investigation and answers.

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