Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday summary

Prosecutors, relying heavily on a bloody palm print, failed to produce enough evidence to convict Kevin Jones of the 2005 slaying of his longtime girlfriend, Nona Dirksmeyer. Jones was acquitted of first-degree murder in the Dec. 15, 2005, death of Dirksmeyer, 19, in her Russellville apartment.

A Sharp County Circuit Court jury recommends the death sentence for Steven Victor Wertz of Kissimmee, Fla., for killing Terry and Katherine Watts in their southern Ash Flat home on Dec. 31, 1986. The seven men and five women on the jury took just an hour to decide on the sentence. On Wednesday, the jury found Wertz guilty of two counts of capital murder after only 40 minutes of deliberation.

Two Little Rock men, Robert Michaelyn Williams and Marco Balderas, stand charged with first-degree assault, capital murder in the shooting deaths of the owners of Tom and Jean’s Grocery Store. They pleaded innocent.

A Little Rock woman who said she would rather go to jail than spend another year at an alcohol-treatment facility will serve two years in a prison drug treatment program. In June, Susan Marshall pleaded guilty to two felony counts of driving while intoxicated. The charges represent her fourth and fifth arrests, which came about two weeks apart in September and while she was out on bail after her third DWI arrest, a misdemeanor. Her case made headlines in October, when a Little Rock district judge accused her of coming to court drunk during a hearing in her misdemeanor drunken driving case.

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes granted a request from attorneys for an Arkansas Tech University public safety officer to delay a federal lawsuit filed against officers involved in the July 2006 arrest of Bobby Joe Rylee, whodied in a Little Rock hospital five days later from injuries inflicted during the arrest. The lawsuit alleges the officers, along with Pope County Detention Center employees, violated Rylee’s civil rights and wrongfully caused his death.

Four convicted murderers are among the Arkansas prison inmates the state Parole Board has recommended for executive clemency. Larry L. Davis, Bobby J. Mitchell, Freddie Hendrix and Cecillia Roleson were among those recommended on a list released Monday.

Arkansas history should stand alone and be taught separately in elementary schools, advocates of teaching the subject told the state education commissioner Thursday. Members of the Arkansas History Education Coalition, including former U.S. Sen. David Pryor, met with Commissioner Ken James to discuss the group's opposition to planned curriculum changes that move Arkansas history into the social studies curriculum.

State Court of Appeals Judge Wendell Griffen on Thursday asked members of the state commission that disciplines judges to remove themselves, and the panel's director and attorney, from the judicial misconduct case against him.

Little Rock National Airport's director told lawmakers that the airport needs $17 million from the state to pay for its planned expansion. Deborah Schwartz, the airport's executive director, told members of the Senate and House public transportation committees that she's working with other Arkansas airports to push for a dedicated revenue source in the 2009 legislative session.

A Mike Huckabee appointee who also served in the state senate when Bill Clinton was governor pledges his support to Huckabee, claiming the Republican presidential candidate could work better with Congress than Sen. Hillary Clinton. Lu Hardin, a former legislator and head of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, claims Huckabee's strength is his ability to unify policymakers.

Sam’s Club can sell beer, wine and whiskey when it opens in Fayetteville in September. Michael Langley, director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration Division, issued the sales permit Thursday. The permit gives Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the right to sell liquor from a walled-off section of the store.

State Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Michael Langley on Wednesday denied an application for a private club license in Van Buren. The applicants will have an opportunity to appeal Langley’s decision to the board. If the board were to overturn Langley’s decision, Sister’s Bistro would be the first business in Crawford County, a dry county, to obtain a private club license.

Efforts to mediate a so-called “settlement” with the Joshua intervenors and the Little Rock School Board, which has been released from federal court supervision, are scheduled to begin Aug. 9. Board attorney Chris Heller said he and John Walker, the attorney for the intervenors who represent black students in the district’s 24-year-old desegregation lawsuit, plan to meet in Little Rock with John Martin, the settlement director for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, plans to more than double its stores in China in the next five years to tap the growing personal wealth of the country’s 1.3 billion people.

An Arkadelphia aerospace manufacturer expects an $1.8 million expansion of its operations in the Southwest Arkansas community. The expansion at HITCO Carbon Composites will bring total investments in Arkadelphia to more than $5.87 million, and will add more than 60 jobs over the next five years, the company said.

The football season Arkansas experienced in 2006 hasn’t been forgotten around the SEC. League coaches selected 11 Razorbacks for 12 spots on their preseason All-SEC teams. Among the Arkansas players included was first-team running back Darren McFadden, the only unanimous selection.

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