Arkansas’ state judiciary committee on Tuesday rejected a request from the state’s Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s order to allow prosecutors to kill a suspect if they are “on the verge of conviction.”
The Judicial Branch Commission on Judicial Accountability said in a letter that the Arkansas Judicial Branch did not have the authority to issue such a sweeping order that would have an “unjust impact” on the state attorney general’s discretion to grant clemency.
“In our view, the commission does not have such authority,” the commission wrote in its letter to the state Supreme Court.
The commission noted that Arkansas courts have upheld clemence orders on the grounds that they are not a judicial power.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The commission said that the order would have a “discriminatory effect” on state and local law enforcement.
The decision by the commission was one of several the court gave final approval to during its review of the case of a man who had been accused of killing a woman in August.
Judge Steven Jones ruled that prosecutors could not kill the man if he is “on or near the brink of conviction” and that prosecutors would be required to “take all reasonable steps” to secure his release from custody.
The man was accused of murdering Michelle Wambach, 27, of Little Rock.
He was initially charged with murder in the death of Michelle Wombach, but a new prosecutor filed a murder charge against him and he was released after a judge ruled he could not be held for trial because of his prior convictions.
The commission said it had previously ruled that a state court judge cannot grant a clemences order in such a case.
“While there is no basis for concluding that a defendant has committed a crime, the court has nonetheless found that the defendant has the constitutional right to be released,” the letter said.