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Hating on Griffen 

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Tweet of the week

"What a pathetic and depressing display by Judge Griffen. He has disgraced the office that he holds for years and now is using a desperate, attention-seeking move to further bring shame on himself. I'm calling on House leadership to bring articles of impeachment immediately." — State Sen. Trent Garner (@Garner4Senate) on April 17, reacting to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen again strapping himself to a cot last week during a death penalty vigil. Griffen's participation in a Good Friday death penalty vigil last year amid the state's race to execute eight death row inmates led the Arkansas Supreme Court to bar him from hearing any cases related to the death penalty. Griffen later sued the Supreme Court justices in federal court; the case is ongoing. Garner and other legislators also voiced displeasure over Griffen's ruling last week that a 2015 law, which allowed underage witnesses in sex crime cases to testify with a comfort dog sitting next to them, was unconstitutional.

The rejecter general

On Monday, the state Supreme Court rejected casino group Driving Arkansas Forward's attempt to sue Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The group sought to sue after Rutledge last week rejected its proposed ballot measure for the fourth time. The group seeks the creation of two casinos in the state — one in Jefferson County and one in Pope County — and the enhancement of gaming at the Oaklawn and Southland racetracks for the sake of funding state highways.

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Rutledge also this week rejected a proposed ballot initiative brought by David Couch to enact changes to the process by which the state redraws congressional and state legislative districts. It was the second time that Rutledge has rejected the proposal. Couch's proposal would give political parties, as well as nonpartisan actors, a role in redrawing the maps, effectively reducing the total control that Republican officials, including Rutledge herself, would have over the process in 2020.

UA Little Rock video inspires investigation

A video was posted on Facebook last week of members of UA Little Rock's Chi Omega sorority and Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity singing along to the song "Freaky Friday" by white rapper Lil Dicky and black R&B singer Chris Brown. The students, partying on a bus and singing along, repeatedly shout out the n-word. The bit in the song they were singing along to is about the notion of white people wishing for permission to say the word. The Virginia Tech women's lacrosse team made headlines last month doing precisely the same thing, posting a video of themselves on a bus giddily shouting along to the same bit in the song.

After the video was posted on Facebook last week, UA Little Rock administration responded with a statement that it was investigating what it deemed a "racially insensitive incident" and that the national chapters of the fraternity and sorority had been contacted to initiate their own investigations. The Greek organizations have been restricted in their participation in campus programs and activities while the school investigates, university officials said.

Memorial to 21 fire victims installed

On Saturday, a memorial to the 21 African-American boys who were burned to death in a locked dormitory at the Wrightsville Negro Boys Industrial School in 1959 was installed at Haven of Rest Cemetery in Little Rock. The memorial, a bronze plaque set in a stone at the site of 14 unmarked graves, was purchased with a grant from the Curtis Sykes fund of the Black History Commission and private donations. The Wrightsville facility was not a school but a place where boys were incarcerated for petty crimes and pranks, such as soaping cars. One of the boys who died was a 13-year-old who police said had ridden a white boy's bike. Not only were they incarcerated, 21 were incinerated, when a stove caught fire to the padlocked dorm around 4 a.m. March 5, 1959, and no one came to their aid. The incident is the subject of a 2017 book by lawyer Grif Stockley, "Black Boys Burning."


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