Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TOP STORY >> Second ruling on Campbell may be sought

Leader senior staff writer

The state Attorney General’s Office may ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to rehear its recent decision overturning the convictions of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, Chief Deputy Attorney General Justin Allen said Tuesday.

“A final decision has not been made,” Allen said.

Campbell was convicted in 2007 on an array of charges ranging from theft by receiving to being the kingpin in a continuing criminal enterprise—a charge created to combat organized crime—and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Campbell has served 31 months and would have been eligible for parole at the end of 10 years.

The Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday notified Dist. 23 Prosecutor Will Feland that it could file a petition for rehearing with the Supreme Court in the Campbell case. It has until Monday to do so.

Feland said his office would continue reviewing the Campbell file. The transcript of the file was so large it required a rented truck to transport it.

Regardless of what the attorney general’s office does, “We’re not going to slow down,” Feland said Tuesday. “We’re trying to determine what’s left to try.”

Such a request for a rehearing is routine, although not done in every case, Allen said.

The Supreme Court overturned the Campbell convictions unanimously, Allen said, so it was not likely that it would reverse itself.

But the Attorney General’s Office could press the issue to clarify the issues surrounding the charge of continuing criminal enterprises, a crime rarely pro-secuted in the state.

“Even if we don’t necessarily expect a reversal, it may be done to get an idea (how the court views continuing criminal-enterprise charges),” Allen said.

Campbell’s appeal attorneys, Jim Simpson and Martin Kasten of Friday Eldridge Clark, would have an additional seven days to respond to the challenge, according to Allen. “We continue to believe (the Supreme Court) decided it the correct way the first time,” said Kasten. “It does appear the court’s original decision was consistent with precedent on both evidentiary-type issues.”

Allen said if his office does ask for a rehearing, the court would probably decide the matter before the end of the year.

“The likelihood of success is very low,” Allen said.

“My understanding is that all convictions were overturned,” he said. “It was certainly a victory for Mr. Campbell.”

Regardless, Feland’s office would still be free to retry Campbell on at least some of the charges.

In addition to finding insufficient evidence to support a continuing criminal enterprise, the Supreme Court ruled that his trial should have been separated from that of his wife and that there was no probable cause for the search of the Campbell residence that turned up much of the prosecution’s evidence.

Campbell’s wife, Kelly Harrison Campbell, is appealing her convictions in the state Court of Appeals, where oral arguments are expected in January, according to her attorneys.

Should her appeal fail, she then expects to be eligible for parole in about 10 months, according to Dina Tyler, spokesperson for the state Correction Department.