A man who confessed to the Feb. 2001 killing of a transient woman walked out of an Arkansas prison after the first-degree murder charge he was convicted of was dismissed by a Crawford County Circuit Court judge. That dismissal followed a motion that was filed by a special prosecutor from Fort Smith.
The man was in prison for more than 17 years. He said that he plans to leave Arkansas but that his first stop after leaving the prison would be to a Veterans Affairs hospital to get necessary medications. Since 2015, he's been provided with medication for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
In 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the man's conviction and death sentence. At that time, he was sent back to the Crawford County Detention Center.
On September 21, the judge presiding over the case gave the special prosecutor 10 days to let the court know if he would pursue plans to prosecute the man. In response, the special prosecutor said that he would have something filed by October 13. That was well past the deadline provided by the court. It was also after the Supreme Court's scheduled October 10 mandate issuance for the case.
This case shows what can happen when mental illness and incompetency aren't taken seriously. The man was found to have several mental illnesses that required treatment and medication.
While this case isn't a representation of what will happen in all death row appeals cases, other defendants in this position should fight all they can to have their mental status considered during a criminal case.
Source: Arkansas News, "Former death row inmate released from prison," Kenneth Fry, Oct. 14, 2017