Crittenden County man whose murder conviction was vacated ordered held on drug charges

File photo
File photo

A Crittenden County man released from prison after the state Supreme Court overturned his murder conviction due to a speedy trial violation was ordered to remain in jail on an indictment charging him with possession of a stolen firearm in connection with an arrest a few weeks after he was released in the 2018 murder case.

Marcus Parker, 30, of Marion was ordered Wednesday to remain in jail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tricia Harris, who ruled that a long record of arrests for violent crimes indicated that Parker would present too much of a danger to others if allowed to remain free on bond.

Parker was convicted in the April 28, 2018, shooting death of an off-duty Forrest City police officer, 25-year-old Oliver Johnson Jr., during a shootout between rival gang members outside of Johnson's West Memphis apartment. Parker was found guilty of numerous charges -- including one count of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted first-degree murder -- on Sept. 8, 2020, and was sentenced to two life terms as well as an additional 835 years by Circuit Judge Randy Philhours in Crittenden County Circuit Court.

Court records indicated that Philhours had released Parker on bond on Dec. 11, 2019, after Parker had been jailed for nine months on the charges. Less than five weeks later, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters, he was arrested on the stolen firearm count after the white Cadillac Escalade SUV he was driving was pulled over by West Memphis police for a traffic violation and searched after police smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle.

Peters said that Parker had a long list of release violations in which he was detected as being out after curfew or outside of his allowed area on a number of occasions. She said he was also named as a suspect in a burglary nine houses from his Marion residence in which Peters said $60,000 cash was taken. Although Parker was never charged, Peters said, the victim told police they had heard he had bought a new truck and was flashing large amounts of cash on social media.

Parker's behavior in prison, Peters said, was also marred by a number of infractions, including one incident in which he was discovered to have five cell phones hidden in his cell.

"This is reflective of the law abiding life he was not prepared to live when he believed he had been convicted of murder," she said, adding that Parker's prison record also contained a number of assaults he had committed while in custody.

Parker's attorney, Michael Kaiser of Little Rock, argued that with the murder conviction vacated, Parker had no felony offenses on his record and argued for his release, accusing the government of retaliation against Parker after his release from prison. Kaiser also said that Parker should never have been in prison to begin with, "because West Memphis couldn't get him to trial on time."

Harris, after taking several minutes to review the pre-trial services report on Parker, agreed with Peters that release in light of his record would constitute too great a public danger and ordered him held for trial.

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