Bill James, defense attorney for Josh Hastings, the Little Rock cop whose trial on a manslaughter charge for killing a 15-year-old ended in mistrial, is protesting Judge Wendell Griffen’s 10 contempt of court citations — and $25,000 in fines. (AP) James repeatedly ignored the judge’s directive not to mention juvenile records of companions of the slain youth.
James contends he was entitled to a hearing before punishment. This Arkansas case says contempt in the presence of the judge may be punished summarily.
But James’ motion, filed by Jeff Rosenzweig, says when the summary action is delayed until the end of the trial,as Griffen did for utterances by James earlier in the proceedings, a hearing is required. He also argues that the judge was precluded by statute from taking any court action on a Sunday except taking the jury’s verdict. The motion disputes whether James was in violation of the order by what he said and also challenges the limitation of use of juveniles’ records in the first place.
UPDATE: This afternoon, Judge Griffen denied the request to vacate the contempt citations. He said James misread a Supreme Court decision that reversed a contempt finding that produced jail time for a lawyer. James was not deprived of liberty, Griffen noted, and the Supreme Court had emphasized that courts had the power for summary punishment. He dismissed completely the notion that James belief the judge was wrong about restricting cross-examination of the juveniles should somehow mitigate his contempt. The judge, too, noted that James had not asked at the time to address the judge about the contempt findings. He also said James had cited no authority for his notion that the judge couldn’t issue a contempt order on a Sunday, when courts are limited to convening for, among others, jury deliberations. Court had convened for that purpose, he said. He said, too, citing repeated segments of testimony, that James was well aware of the order he violated when he posed improper questions about their criminal history.