Hanshaw dismisses jury after hearing

By John Hofheimer
Leader staff writer

===Lonoke County Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw, who previously denied a prosecution motion to quash the sitting jury panel, did just that Monday. He ruled that way because of testimony by a juror at Hanshaw's recusal hearing last Friday and widespread press accounts regarding statements of other jurors.
=== "The court does not feel it would be fair to the State, the defendants before the Court nor the jurors themselves for the present panel to continue to serve in criminal matters," Hanshaw wrote.
=== He said the jurors could continue to serve in civil matters until the new jury panel was empanelled.
=== In his one-page order, Hanshaw wrote, "The Court is not saying the jurors presently serving could not be fair, and, in fact, this Court has already found to be the contrary. In light of new factors consisting of the recent hearing and extensive publicity involving the panel, however, it would not be fair to these good jurors to add upon them additional burdens of controversy which they did not precipitate."
=== Hanshaw requested the circuit clerk to call a new jury panel. Dismissal of that jury was one of two things that Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain, and later special prosecutors in her stead, sought from Hanshaw.
=== The other was for the judge to disqualify himself–recuse–in all current and future criminal trials in his court.
=== McCastlain has charged that Hanshaw has a vendetta against her office. Hanshaw has countered that the prosecutor is dragging his name through the mud and wants his job.
=== Hanshaw appointed retired Circuit Judge John Plegge to serve as a special master in both matters, and to report his findings back to Hanshaw. Plegge, who held a day-long hearing last Friday, wants final briefs this Friday and said he would report his findings to Hanshaw before March 1.
=== The entire matter, dating back to McCastlain's Jan. 31 request for Hanshaw's recusal, has been acrimonious and–since the hearing–public.
=== Both Hanshaw and Jacksonville District Judge Robert Batton have called McCastlain a "bitch," and according to testimony in the hearing, Hanshaw called her deputies "a bunch of pussies" in front of defense attorneys.
=== Hanshaw, on the other hand, contends that McCastlain wants his job and had asked a former quorum court member to secretly tape record the judge's conversation.
=== He also said her prosecutors are overzealous. Special Prosecutor Jack McQuary says that if Hanshaw, after hearing Plegge's report, still refuses to recuse from the 118 current criminal cases and all future criminal cases, the state will appeal to the state Supreme Court.
=== It was the refusal of that court to issue an order of prohibition last week that cleared the way for the hearing, but the case could be re-filed later. In addition to alleging prejudice, nepotism and other violations of the canons of judicial ethics, McQuary said that a transcript of the Jan. 31 court proceedings would show that Hanshaw already recused and was therefore not authorized to appoint a special master or, for that matter, to rule on quashing the jury panel.
=== On the telephone Tuesday, McQuary said lines seven through 16 on page 15 quote Hanshaw as saying: "due to matters that cannot be disclosed, are confidential, pursuant to Canon 3E of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, the Court disqualifies on its own motion and will reset everything but the first appearances.
=== All first appearances stay here and reset all those matters for hearings on Thursday, Feb. 3, at which time, another judge can come in and can consider this stuff."