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story.lead_photo.caption Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen lies on a cot in the role of a condemned prisoner awaiting execution during a protest outside the Governor’s Mansion in April 2017.

LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas disciplinary panel dismissed an ethics case against a judge who faced the possibility of removal from the bench for participating in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug, the commission's counsel said Wednesday.

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission dismissed the case Tuesday against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen because too much time had passed between the complaint being filed and the commission taking up the case, according to an email that counsel Marie-Bernarde Miller sent to attorneys in the case. Miller said Wednesday that the panel would issue a written order in the next day or two elaborating on its reasons for the dismissal.

Griffen was accused of violating ethical rules after he was photographed in April 2017 lying on a cot outside the governor's mansion wearing an anti-death penalty button and surrounded by people holding signs opposing executions. Earlier that day, Griffen blocked Arkansas from using a lethal injection drug over a medical supply company's claims that it had been misled by prison officials.

"HALLELUJAH! I am glad that the charges that nobody has been willing to take responsibility for have been shown for what they are: baseless, cowardly, malicious and utterly political," Griffen said in a statement released by his attorney. Griffen thanked his legal team and his supporters.

The commission cancelled Griffen's scheduled Thursday hearing after the special counsel assigned to the case asked to be recused because of scheduling conflicts. The commission had cited a rule that complaints must be disposed of within 18 months, and last week said a little over two weeks remained to hear Griffen's case. If it found he had violated judicial rules, the commission could have recommended that the state Supreme Court suspend or remove Griffen.

Griffen's attorney, Mike Laux, called the case a waste of time, resources and money.

"And for what? To attack a righteous man for voicing his protected religious beliefs?" Laux wrote in an email.

Griffen has said he was portraying Jesus and participating in a prayer vigil when he was laying on the cot. He argued that his decision in the drug case was based on the law and not his personal opinions about the death penalty, and that his participation in the demonstration was protected by the First Amendment. Days after the protest, the state Supreme Court removed Griffen from the drug case and prohibited him from handling any other execution-related cases. The commission in November dismissed a separate ethics case against justices over the court's decision to disqualify Griffen.

The commission last week ruled that the justices did not have to testify in Griffen's ethics hearing.


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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    June 12, 2019 at 12:07 p.m.

    Oh well. When you can't get your act together, then you shouldn't expect a friendly ear.

  • Illinoisroy
    June 12, 2019 at 12:17 p.m.

    Don't understand why this action was considered unethical? He didn't give up his 1st amendment rights when he took position and any prosecuting attorney should have enough sense to have him recused from hearing any death penalty crimes.

  • FightingScot
    June 12, 2019 at 12:54 p.m.

    Too much time huh! Good to be a judge. This is like Boeing policing itself. Our quality is just fine. Oh it took too long to bring this up again.

  • GOHOGS19
    June 12, 2019 at 1:33 p.m.

    so the commission can take a complaint, sit on it for two years and then dismiss it because too much time has passed? what a load of BS

  • GOHOGS19
    June 12, 2019 at 1:33 p.m.

    Ray Charles could see there is a conflict of interest here Illinois Roy

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    June 12, 2019 at 1:36 p.m.

    whether your opinion is that the judges PERSONAL OPINION is right or wrong, HE HAS A RIGHT TO SPEAK, he knows his job and his OPINION does not affect his work any more that a electricians opinion of the proper way to wire, He still wires the way he is DIRECTED.
    The fact our justices thought they could censor/gag a free man.
    In these slave states. I dont care who you are I will stand with you.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    June 12, 2019 at 1:38 p.m.

    there is no "conflict of interest" in a citizens rights.
    you are either with the government (guverno/to control- Mentis/the mind) or you are with the children of the Sun.

  • Jfish
    June 12, 2019 at 3:19 p.m.

    Well said gohogs, Griffen is not a judge, he is an activist, hopefully you and I will never come before him and his biases. The fact remains that the majority of Americans favor the death penalty especially when the murders are violent, even the liberal Bostonians elected to have the Marathon Bomber animal executed.

  • Seitan
    June 12, 2019 at 3:25 p.m.

    Badly said, Gohogs. Mocking blind people is not cool.

  • Quincy5413
    June 12, 2019 at 4:08 p.m.

    The fact that Griffen sits on cases involving the death penalty is enough that he should recuse himself from such when his stand against them is so well known. There is no way he can be "fair and impartial" in ruling in those cases. LR's crime rate is so darned high already due to the fact that justice is a thing of the past; we need more Judge Parkers and Roy Beans and less Griffens!