Walls v. State (2000)
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- JUDGES—CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT—VIOLATIONS FOUND.—Where the trial judge made public comments to the news media both on the day of the first sentencing and on the day those sentences were reversed by the supreme court; and where, on the day of sentencing, he held an ex parte meeting with the victims and their families and gave each family the gift of a book, the supreme court determined that there had been violations of the code of judicial conduct by the judge's initiating ex parte communications with the victims and their families without the presence of defense counsel and by publicly commenting on a pending proceeding when the comments might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome.
- JUDGES—RECUSAL—NOT AUTOMATICALLY REQUIRED.—Reversal and remand due to error by the trial judge do not automatically require recusal of the trial judge who erred; a judge has a duty to sit on a case unless there is a valid reason to disqualify.
- JUDGES—RECUSAL—PRESUMPTION OF IMPARTIALITY.—The supreme court does not presume bias on the part of a trial judge but rather presumes impartiality.
- JUDGES—RECUSAL—DISCRETIONARY MATTER.—the decision to recuse lies within the discretion of the judge, and to decide whether there has been an abuse of discretion, the supreme court reviews the record to see if prejudice or bias was exhibited.
- JUDGES—RECUSAL—NO BIAS SHOWN IN RESENTENCING.—The trial judge's comments to the media that he was not influenced by the murders committed by one of defendant's victims and that the terms fixed in the first sentence were within the sentencing guidelines, while inappropriate and ethically suspect under the Judicial Code, fell more into the category of disagreement with the supreme court's decision to reverse rather than bias, and the record gave no suggestion of prejudice on the part of the judge towards appellant after the supreme court's reversal; in fact, at the resentencing hearing, the judge permitted appellant's counsel to proffer videotapes of the televised newscasts for the record, although the proffer was not timely and occurred after sentencing, and he further reduced the sentence on one count from that handed down at the first sentencing hearing and ran some of the sentences concurrently, and the new sentences were within the statutory limits, the supreme court discerned no bias on the part of the judge so as to warrant a third sentencing.
- JUDGES—RECUSAL—NO ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN JUDGE'S DECLINING TO RECUSE.—Although Canon 3E(1) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge shall disqualify himself "in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned," mere suspicion or conjecture that the judge's heart and mind were so tainted by events that occurred more than a year earlier that he could not view the matter afresh on remand was not enough; it is a given that a judge is able to preside over a matter on remand with a clean slate, absent proof or some indication to the contrary; where the record did not support appellant's contention that the trial judge was biased towards him at the resentencing, the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in declining to recuse.
- APPEAL & ERROR—RULING ON ISSUE NOT OBTAINED AT TRIAL—ISSUE WAIVED ON APPEAL.—Where appellant failed to obtain a ruling on the argument that the judge's failure to recuse for all the reasons already stated violated his due process rights from the trial judge, he waived the issue for purposes of appeal.
- APPEAL & ERROR—ARGUMENT UNSUPPORTED BY AUTHORITY—NOT REACHED.—Where appellant failed to cite any authority in support of his constitutional argument, but instead simply made the bald statement that his due process rights had been violated, that conclusory statement was not enough, and the supreme court would not develop the constitutional issue for him.
- APPEAL & ERROR—ARGUMENT UNSUPPORTED BY AUTHORITY—ARGUMENT REJECTED.—Where appellant contended that he should have been able to withdraw his guilty and nolo contendere pleas due to bias on the judge's part, because that equated to manifest injustice under Ark. R. Crim. P. 26(a)(1), but appellant presented the court with no convincing authority to support the contention that the judge abused his discretion in disallowing a withdrawal of his pleas, and because there was no proof of bias so as to warrant recusal, appellant's argument of manifest injustice was substantially undercut.
Appeal from Lonoke Circuit Court; Lance L. Hanshaw, Judge; affirmed.
Hubert W. Alexander, for appellant.
Mark Pryor, Att'y Gen., by: David R. Raupp, Sr., Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
[Opinion of the court by Justice ROBERT L. BROWN.]