Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen late this afternoon issued a 19-page order responding to a batch of defense motions in the retrial of Josh Hastings, the former Little Rock police office accused of manslaughter in the shooting of Bobby Moore, 15, on an apartment parking lot.
You read it here first. The judge did not admit error on the key motions.
He will not recuse from the case. He said defense lawyers had offered no “facts” that he wouldn’t apply the law impartially. He said his writings and comments were protected by the Constitution but had not constituted any improper comment on the pending case. He said he had no antipathy toward police, as the defense suggested and disputed the argument that he’d injected the appearance of bias for his remarks about racial issues in jury selection in this case and the lack of racial sensitivity in the Trayvon Martin case.
He disputed both the defense and state objections of his decision to take over jury questioning. He said the lawyers would be able to question jurors through questions submitted to him. He said the rules did not prevent this procedure, which is used in federal courts and other states and, he said, is fully within his discretion.
The judge denied a batch of defense procedural motions on evidence, jury instructions and a claim of double jeopardy. The all-white jury hung in the case for conviction 9-3. Since then, he has expressed reservations about challenges to some potential black jurors and said he intended to be sure no bias was allowed in the retrial.
The judge did grant some defense motions — on recording the proceedings, on agreeing to avoid off-the-record conferences and to prevent the state from mentioning rules of military combat against the defendant as a lawyer had done in passing in an argument.
In answer to a question, the judge said he’d decide whether to seat or a disqualify a juror regardless of whether the state and defense agreed or not.
Finally the judge disputed a defense motion, quoting an anonymous source, that the judge had given religious instruction to a new jury panel that will be used for the case and had made them take an oath against racial bias. He said the allegations were “categorically untrue.”
The judge had earlier set a hearing Tuesday on the defense motion for a change of venue to Perry County. The chances that the judge who’s written extensively about “cultural competency” would move the trial of a white police officer for shooting a black youth with a criminal record to a mostly white rural county are, I’d judge, remote.
Here’s the judge’s order in full.