Darlene Herndon, 69, was convicted in Little Rock District Court this week of harassment in an incident on Feb. 23, 2020, involving state Rep. Vivian Flowers of Pine Bluff and then-legislative candidate Ryan Davis of Little Rock.
Judge Melanie Martin heard the Class A misdemeanor case Tuesday. She convicted Herndon then gave her a 365-day suspended jail sentence and fined her $350, plus $180 in costs. She also ordered Herndon to have no contact with Flowers.
Herndon has 30 days to appeal the conviction to Circuit Court.
Another person charged in the case, Nicholas Castleberry, 48, is scheduled for trial on July 27.
UPDATE: As explained to me later by Davis, who testified Tuesday, Herndon was tried for harassing Flowers. Castleberry will be tried for harassing Davis.
Said Flowers: “I’m just pleased justice as done in this case. and I hope the same happens in the next case.”
Flowers and Davis said they were confronted on Dennison Street in the Capitol View neighborhood following a political fund-raiser.
Davis and Flowers were standing outside talking when Herndon and Castleberry came out of their homes and yelled at them and told them to leave. Davis and Flowers are Black people. Herndon and Castleberry are white. Davis and Flowers called the police and said they heard a gunshot after making the call. When police arrived, they drew guns on Davis and Flowers. Police later said this was standard procedure for officers arriving at a shots-fired call.
Flowers complained about a delay in filing charges and said the incident illustrated a difference in the way Black and white people are treated in the criminal justice system. Flowers and Davis also called for the Little Rock Police Citizens Review Board to review the department policy of having officers arrive with guns drawn. The Board concluded police had followed policy that night. Davis said officers’ actions that night were not the issue, but the policy itself and he was sorry it had not been reviewed. In cross-examining Davis Tuesday, he said Herndon’s lawyer seemed to suggest his problems about the night’s events were more about the police reaction than what Herndon and Castleberry had allegedly said or done. That is not the case, Davis said.
The inability to determine who fired the shot led to the filing of harassment charges. Herndon declined to comment on the case at the time. After Castleberry was charged, he said it was “political.”
Herndon didn’t testify Tuesday, Flowers said. Instead, her lawyer seemed to develop, as Davis said, that their problem was with police, not Herndon. Flowers also said that was not the case.
Flowers said Herndon’s lawyer also suggested that Herndon had come outside only to try to find out what was going on in her “close-knit” neighborhood and had told the police Davis and Flowers “didn’t look like they belonged there.”
That reference served Herndon poorly with the judge apparently. Flowers said Martin had mentioned the comment and said it was “hateful.” Flowers added, “And I felt the same way.” They spoke that night without checking what was going on.
Flowers said the judge had also noted that Flowers and Davis were on a public street minding their own business.
Flowers said the case might seem “small,” as a misdemeanor. But she said it was important and that it showed people can use the legal process to address wrongs.
“I hope people see that we can fight this behavior. They didn’t think it was a big deal. Maybe that’s how they normally treat people who look like they don’t belong. I’m hoping people won’t do it anymore and that they see there is recourse in the law.”
She didn’t see Herndon’s reaction at the verdict and didn’t know if she planned an appeal to Circuit Court, where the case would be fully retried. But she noted a jury might not be so lenient in giving a suspended sentence or a fine less than the $1,000 maximum.