Judge Wendell Griffen declared late Thursday afternoon that defense attorney Bill James will not be punished on a second charge of criminal contempt after Griffen held James to the charge during the manslaughter retrial of ex-Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings.
Griffen, who also declared a mistrial in the case earlier in the day, and attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, who represented James, exchanged arguments for 15 minutes on the subject. Rosenzweig told the court that James heeded the court's instructions Monday by approaching the bench before he asked to proffer testimony regarding evidence that had previously been declared inadmissible.
The evidence in question was the fact that a gun was found in the car 15-year-old Bobby Moore was driving and that the vehicle had been stolen.
"He respected the court's decision by approaching the bench," Rosenzweig said. Rosenzweig later questioned whether James' approaching the bench constituted a crime of contempt.
Griffen argued that regardless of whether the jury could hear James, the fact that jurors were in the room when James made the request means he violated the ruling.
Ultimately, Griffen told both Rosenzweig and James that as long as James agreed to comply with the court's rules going forward, he would not punish him.
"All Mr. James has to do is say 'Judge, I'm not going to do this anymore,'" Griffen said. "And he can go on his merry way."
On Wednesday, an attorney for James filed a motion for a hearing on the contempt order. The motion contended that case law prohibits what James did only within earshot of the jury.
James was held in contempt and fined $25,000 after Hastings' first trial in June for going into the criminal histories of two teens who were with Moore when he was shot, despite being ordered not to do so, Griffen said then.
Read more in Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.