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Killing Spree

Killing Spree

April 6, 2017

Vol 43 • No 31

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Why Arkansas plans to kill eight men in 11 days

Under the guise of 'synthetic civility.'

'Well, I guess this is growing up?'

Veteran pop-punk trio Blink-182 made its case at Verizon Friday night.

Trump's purge

As is typical, President Trump has tweeted about any number of subjects in recent days. They ranged from advising former NSA head Michael Flynn that he should seek immunity for testimony related to the Trump/Russia case to personal insults directed toward "Meet the Press" host Chuck "Sleepy Eyes" Todd.

Upping the game against Chronic Wasting Disease in Arkansas

Game and Fish creates research division.

Jobs magnet

Against mass executions

I would like to add my voice to those expressing horror about our planned Arkansas April executions beginning on Easter Monday.

God and guns

Session wraps up, 30 Crossing and more.

High Waters

New Hot Springs boutique hotel restaurant wows with food — and prices.

Internet looting continues

The 2017 legislative session concluded without passage of a bill to encourage internet merchants to collect and remit taxes on sales in Arkansas, though internet giant Amazon has begun doing so voluntarily.

'Ghost' glitch

Big-budget remake whitewashes an anime classic.

Amasa Hines at South on Main

Also, "The Invisible War," Sierra Hull, Succulent Party, Local H, Beethoven and Blue Jeans, Tank, Sandwiching in History Tour of Dibrell House, Junior Brown

8 in 11

The state of Arkansas is planning on killing eight men soon, one right after the other, in 11 days. They are doing this to punish them for having killed people. The Observer used to be very much a capital punishment believer. But then, we sat through a death penalty trial, start to finish.

Race to kill

You wonder if Attorney General Leslie Rutledge would be so eager to execute if her grandpa, Leslie Rutledge, who was imprisoned for killing neighbor Joe Beel and mortally wounding his brother Frank, had been sentenced to death in 1952.

Tribal loathing

To many people, politics is essentially tribal, an Us vs. Them struggle between cartoon enemies.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Blah, Blah, Blah Edition

Play at home!

Hutchinson's Pinto moment

The Ford Motor Co. brought the Pinto to America's highways, even though it knew the car had serious safety problems. Indeed, Pinto after Pinto burst into flames in rear-end collisions, causing severe injuries and deaths. Ford's lack of moral and economic judgment brought shame to the company's brand for decades.

ACLU issues warning about execution drug

The national ACLU is distributing a video saying Arkansas is risking "torturing prisoners to death" in its "rush" to execute eight prisoners in 10 days.

French Hill sides with financial industry against retiree protection rule

U.S. Rep. French Hill yesterday said he endorsed the announced delay in an Obama-era regulation known as the fiduciary rule, which he said would limit access to retirement planning. It's a rule change that favors the financial industry over consumers.

Little Rock 1957: The past isn't even past

Add another book to the reading list on the Little Rock school desegregation crisis of 1957, "Remember Little Rock," from the University of Massachusetts Press by Erin Krutko Devlin. It has great relevance today.

Arkansas Gives: Our choice for the day is Lucie's Place

It is Arkansas Gives Day, the day when contributions to many local charities can bring additional contributions. Our pick: Lucie's Place.

Make a difference for your favorite charitable cause

ArkansasGives is a 12-hour online giving event hosted by Arkansas Community Foundation. The Foundation is challenging all Arkansans to make a donation to the charity of their choice in recognition of the vital work our local nonprofits do in our communities.

Judge Griffen says NO to LR school taxation without representation; no 'field hand' for chamber, Waltons.

Wendell Griffen, a circuit judge and Baptist pastor, has joined the opposition to the Little Rock school tax proposal May 9 with a sharply worded condemnation of the business community backing 14 more years and $600 million worth of additional property taxes.

Arkansas Supreme Court refuses stays of two executions

The Arkansas Supreme Court issued a batch of orders today related to appeals from Death Row inmates. They included cursory denials of stays of execution for Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson, both scheduled to die April 20.

Sauce for Texas ganders. Why not Arkansas, too?

Democrats in Texas enjoy the same low estate that Democrats enjoy in Arkansas, But at least one of them has a wicked sense of humor, which is sometimes a good weapon in legislative halls. Why not a 24-hour waiting period and other invasive stuff before men can fill a Viagra prescription.

Federal appeals court halts Ohio lethal injection over drug used in Arkansas

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has rejected a three-drug lethal injection process in Ohio because, in part, use of the anesthetic midazolam is unconstitutional. Arkansas is preparing to use the drug in eight state killings.

Jury convicts two in feeding program fraud

KATV reports that a federal court jury in Little Rock this morning returned guilty verdicts on all counts against two people charged in a multi-million-dollar scheme for claiming federal money for feeding phantom poor children.

Judge declines to halt five executions over hurried clemency review; gives one inmate more time

Federal Judge Price Marshall this morning ruled that the state's hurried consideration of clemency requests by Death Row inmates was not flawed enough to stop the executions.

Black rhino added to Little Rock Zoo

The Little Rock Zoo has added a 10-year-old eastern black rhino to its collection, in a transfer from Zoo Atlanta, in hopes of breeding. She joins a male rhino in the African exhibit next week.

"Dream Land: Little Rock's West 9th Street" premieres on AETN tonight

"Dream Land: Little Rock's West 9th Street," an hour-long documentary on the storied street by the Arkansas Education Television Network, premieres tonight at 7 p.m.

What is ArkansasGives?

Arkansans have a heart for giving. On April 6, 2017, Arkansas Community Foundation is encouraging us to join together to grow the love for our state’s nonprofit organizations. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., ArkansasGives is a challenge to all Arkansans to give to the charities of their choice. Visit to donate.

Thursday's open line

Thursday: An open line and news roundup.

Add another coffee bar downtown: Nexus

How many coffee shops can downtown Little Rock support? We’ll find out this summer when yet another new shop, Nexus Coffee and Creative, opens at 301B President Clinton Ave., next door to the departed Ten Thousand Villages and across from Revolution.

Food and Foam Fest coming up

The “cold beer” call will ring out at Dickey-Stephens Park, not for the Travs but for Food and Foam Fest, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 14.

Johnny Key gives Michael Poore two-year contract

Little Rock school czar Johnny Key won't give voters their district back, but he has given Michael Poore a contract extension as school superintendent.

UPDATE: Police kill suspect in motel parking lot

Little Rock police fatally shot a man who reportedly had rammed one car and was attempting to ram a police car in a motel parking lot at Kanis and Shackleford Roads about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Attorney General Rutledge at work in Baltimore to aid anti-abortion agency

Once more into a foreign state for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, this time to protect anti-abortion agencies that try to mislead women so they can lobby them not to have abortions.

Khana Indian Grill

Khana Indian Grill in Fayetteville is a great option for casual dining.

Missile strike in Syria

Syria. Your thoughts?

Rally set against death penalty

For your calendar: A rally against the seven scheduled executions is set for a week from today, at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 14 at the State Capitol.

Kenneth Williams writes about his coming execution

Arkansas death row inmate Kenneth Williams talks about his mindset in the weeks leading up to his execution date on April 27  in the latest from the Life Inside series, a collaboration between The Marshall Project and Vice.

Syrian strike missiles: Made in Arkansas?

The Magnolia Reporter believes the Tomahawk missiles fired on a Syrian air base were made in Arkansas.

Governor Hutchinson vetoes 'mass picketing' and 'panic button' bills

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vetoed a "mass picketing" bill and a bill to pay for panic buttons in public schools. The first he viwed as an infringement on free speech, the second as an expense school districts should bear.

Officer identified in suspect's shooting

The Little Rock Police Department has identified Jonathan Gonzalez, a member of the force since June 2015, as the officer who fatally shot a man after he reportedly rammed cars in a motel parking lot when officers tried to arrest him on multiple warrants.

Terrorism made easy: a truck and lots of people

A stolen truck drove into pedestrians in Stockholm, killing two and leaving many injured. It's a form of terrorism that seems to be becoming more common.

What does it mean to be "hacked?"

The Times was recently accused of "hacking" by Rep. Mary Bentley on Facebook. As silly as that is, it's a symptom of a deep misunderstanding of technology. We've taken this as an opportunity to do some educating and explain a bit about hacking and how you can keep you and your data safe.

Friday's open line

Here you go — an open line and some news and comment.

The debt collector comes to Death Row

Checking court records for developments in the pending execution cases, I came across a piece of bookkeeping minutia. Wheels of justice grind fine, they say.

The Killing Spree Edition

The legal challenges to the state’s plan to execute eight men over a 10-day time period, Governor Hutchinson’s vetoes and a scuttled bid to return the Little Rock School District to local control — all covered on this week's podcast.

UPDATE: Condemned prisoner says he doesn't want clemency

Jack Jones Jr., scheduled for the final clemency hearing today among the eight who had been set for execution in April, does not want clemency, KTHV reports via Twitter.

The execution countdown: Key arguments in court next week

With seven executions set to be performed in Arkansas over a 10-day period of time beginning at 7 p.m. April 17, attention turns to a scheduled federal court hearing next week on the controversial three-drug lethal injection process.

Former Death Row guard: 'macabre circus' of executions will harm prison workers

Among those who've been speaking out against the rush to execute eight Death Row inmates is a former guard of Death Row.

Little Rock prepared to resume taxpayer subsidies of LR Regional Chamber of Commerce

The city of Little Rock has quietly been working to renew annual taxpayer payments of $300,000 a year to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce in the name of economic development. Once again tax dollars will flow to a group that works against workers' interests and also played a pivotal role in state takeover of the Little Rock School District from an elected board.

More Arkansas image building: Mass killing

Believe what you will about capital punishment, but most of the civilized world seems a little shocked by our assembly line executions this month.

Saturday night line

The Saturday night open line.

School activist says no to LR tax; backers hope for low black voter turnout

Another prominent black person has spoken out against the Little Rock School District tax proposal on a special election ballot May 9. The business establishment group pushing for approval of an $600 million in new taxes has a formula to victory that counts on a low black turnout in the majority black district.

Violent Sunday open line

Gun violence marred a beautiful Sunday in Little Rock. Here's the open line.

School choice: In Florida, it lacks accountability. Arkansas, too.

Remember when Arkansas legislators claimed Florida was a shining example of school-voucher-style scholarship programs? Save this report for their next run on public money for private schools.

Mayor Stodola plugs football at UALR

Mayor Mark Stodola has pitched his support behind a movement for college football at UALR, in part to provide another paying customer for War Memorial Stadium, likely soon to be shorn of even the one Razorback game it still hosts. It wouldn't be cheap

More headlines for Arkansas: John Grisham raps executions in USA Today

Novelist John Grisham, an Arkansas native, has called on Gov. Asa Hutchinson sto stop the planned series of executions set to begin next week. He says too many risks are being taken in the name of expediency.

Little Rock's deal to resume corporate welfare payments

Here are details behind the plan for the city of Little Rock to resume $300,000 in taxpayer corporate welfare payments to the Little Rock Regional Chamber Commerce. It's as opaque and business-lobby friendly as it was before a court struck the arrangement down. Which means the City Board will probably go for it.

Federal court hearing on executions extended

The hearing on efforts to stop seven executions scheduled to begin Monday will last much longer than expected.

Another black eye for charter schools

A non-partisan report produced on California charter schools could be a template for many other states, including Arkansas, with the difference only in numbers.

Another Monday open line

Monday: the open line and video roundup.

Parole Board denies clemency for Jack Jones

The Arkansas Parole Board said today it would not recommend clemency for Death Row inmate Jack Jones, not surprising because he said in a letter to the Parole Board that he didn't want clemency.

Star falls in Alabama; 'love guv' booked on ethics charges

Another politician done in by sex. This one Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Congressman Womack gets earful at town hall

Town hall crowd comes prepared with questions for U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers. He sloughed off criticism and said, among others, "I'm with Trump."

New deal for LR Chamber of Commerce: Taxpayer money but no transparency

Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore told me yesterday in response to a question  that new state enabling legislation requirements on transparency would apply to his proposal to ship $300,000  a year in taxpayer money to subsidize the operation of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. In other words, there will be no transparency.

Hutchinson names three judges, fills seat on UA board

The governor today filled three judgeships, including one in Little Rock, and named a former Razorback basketball star to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.

French Hill emerges to meet public — for 60 minutes, mid-afternoon on work day, with Tom Cotton UPDATE

If you have 60 minutes free mid-afternoon Monday, Republican Congressman French Hill is willing to take your questions if you'll drive out to west Little Rock for an event shared with Sen. Tom Cotton.

Stockholm syndrome, a tax dodge and empty promise in Little Rock school tax election

There's an argument for a vote for 14 years more taxes in the Little Rock School District, but the ones made last night by tax advocate Bobby Roberts aren't good ones. He's working an old dodge and putting entirely too much faith in state officials who've demonstrated they deserve little trust.

Coal is not coming back, Trump or no Trump

Must read: Ernest Dumas explains why coal is dead, no matter how much Donald Trump, Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas congressmen and the State Chamber of Commerce and others talk about overturning clean power rules. The future is gas, wind and solar.

LRSD reduces early voting options; omits black neighborhood

Noted: The original proclamation for the May 9 Little Rock School District tax election showed that early voting would be held in two place beginning May 2 — the county office building at 501 W. Markham 

The daily headlines and your open line

Here's the daily news roundup plus a space for your comments.

The Root Cafe is now for dinner

The Root Cafe's not-yet-well-known dinner is delicious.

American Bar Association urges governor to slow pace of executions

The president of the American Bar Association has urged Gov. Asa Hutchinson to slow the planned schedule for seven executions to begin Monday to protect the constitutional rights of the condemned men.

Closing in Hastings shooting trial set Wednesday

A federal court jury is to hear closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of a lawsuit by the mother of Bobby Moore against former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings for his fatal shooting of Moore during investigation of a car burglary in 2012.

Chamber gets a pat on back at City Board; welfare payment vote to come next week

The Little Rock City Board had a brief discussion this afternoon about the plans to vote next week on resuming $300,000 a year in taxpayer subsidy to salaries and expenses of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Short version: The continuing corporate welfare is greased.

Day two of federal court hearing on death row inmate lawsuit

A hearing continued into the evening before U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker at the Federal Courthouse in Little Rock, with attorneys for Arkansas death row prisoners seeking to make the cast that the state's abbreviated execution schedule — which would see eight inmates executed in 10 days this month — is in violation of the Eighth Amendment and their right to effective counsel.

A moral victory for Democrats in Kansas?

Does an unexpectedly close race for a traditionally Republican congressional seat in Kansas offer hope for Democrats in the mid-term election? What about Arkansas's 2nd District?

Job creation in Little Rock; what a city report didn't say — not much to show for effort

The city of Little Rock claims a big return on its "partnership" with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Some details were lacking in the case made by City Manager Bruce Moore.

Religious leaders urge halt to executions

Religious leaders gathered at the Capitol this morning to deliver to Gov. Asa Hutchinson a letter signed by more than 200 asking him to stop the seven executions scheduled over a 10-day period beginning at 7 p.m. Monday.

Former Sheridan coach pleads in sexual assault case

Byron Tate reports this week in the Sheridan Headlight that a former Sheridan coach and teacher, Tyler Pickett, has entered a negotiated plea of guilty to charges of sexual assault and indecency with three students.

Take the Arkansas Times Blues Bus to the Juke Joint Festival

Party on the Arkansas Times Blues Bus to the home of the famous "crossroads" in Clarksdale, Mississippi for the culmination of the annual Juke Joint Festival.

Ethics complaint on Jerry Jones' gift to North Little Rock cops gets hearing

Russ Racop, the blogger who complained to the state Ethics Commission about Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones' gift worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to North Little Rock cops, has received notice that the Commission will have a probable cause hearing on his complaints.

Two condemned prisoners seek delay for Supreme Court ruling on mental issues

Death Row inmates Bruce Ward and Don Davis have asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to stop their executions until the U.S. Supreme Court can decide a case over adequate consideration of mental state of people sentenced to death.

Wednesday's open line

The open line and daily news roundup.

Trump: That was THEN. Today ....

Nobody should say Donald Trump is not, well, flexible.

Report: Police complaint against Sen. Jake Files

KFSM in Fort Smith is reporting the filing of a police complaint against state Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith over payments made for roof repair to an apartment complex.

Death row inmates' federal lawsuit, day three

Another late night for attorneys arguing for and against a federal lawsuit brought by Arkansas death row prisoners seeking to make the case that the state's abbreviated execution schedule — which would see eight men executed this month — would violate the Eighth Amendment and their right to effective counsel.  The hearing continued past 6 p.m. tonight before U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker at the Federal Courthouse in Little Rock, and resumes for a final day tomorrow at 9 a.m. In February, Governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled double executions for each of four nights, April 17, 20, 24 and 27.

No decision yet in Hastings case

Jury resumes deliberations Thursday.

Save Obamacare! It's good for business (people, too)

Suddenly, a lot of important groups are anxious to keep key parts of Obamacare afloat. Simple. It's good for business, not to mention people who get health coverage.

Izard Chocolate, Little Rock's first chocolate maker

Little Rock's Izard Chocolate serves up fine handcrafted chocolate.

Wildwood's annual "Feastival" around the corner

All spirits will be lifted at the 19th annual Wine & Food Festival (a.k.a "Arkansas's Premier Feastival") at Wildwood Park for the Arts, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 21.

Big night in Argenta: Harringtons at Laman, a Southern spring at Greg Thompson

Neal Harrington, Tammy Harrington, Jed Jackson, Alan Gerson, Dolores Justus, Stephano Sutherlin: Those are six reasons — and there are many more — to head over to Argenta tonight for the monthly ArtWalk, 5-8 p.m.