Looks like Arkansas politicians don't like admitting they were wrong, let alone making up for past mistakes. The Arkansas Project's Nic Horton reports on the story of Gyronne Buckley, who was wrongfully imprisoned for more than a decade and is now seeking compensation after the state's Supreme Court ordered him released. Buckley's compensation has been denied so far, and one member of the legislature even told reporters that the man should consider himself "blessed" that he was released at all.
The facts of the case, according to Horton:
In 1999, Buckley was convicted of two counts of "delivery of a controlled substance" and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. The Arkansas Supreme Court vacated Buckley's sentencing in 2000 and ordered the lower court to resentence him: the Clark County Circuit Court responded by resentencing him to two consecutive terms of 28 years.
Buckley was originally convicted based on audio tapes that allegedly captured conversations of two drug deals between Buckley and an undercover agent. But — after Buckley had already served more than a decade in prison — it was discovered that evidence had been withheld from Buckley's attorneys by the state during his initial trial.
The withheld evidence included significant proof that an informant's testimony was unreliable: The informant misremembered key detail of his accusations against Buckley and was coached by the police to give the desired answers. One of the undercover narcotics agents involved in Buckley's conviction was also found to have falsified evidence and lied on the stand in another case.
Buckley is now a free man. He should also be compensated for his time behind bars, which was the result of gross misbehavior on the part of law enforcement. The claim he put forth was $400,000, which is about what the average resident of Arkansas would have made over the course of Buckley's 11 years behind bars.
The Arkansas Claims Commission approved the amount, but a state senate committee rejected it. State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who sits on the committee, said Buckley should feel "blessed that [he] got acquitted on a technicality," according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel played a role in encouraging the legislature to reject the compensation claim—an unjust outcome, according to Horton.
Buckley will file a lawsuit against the state seeking fair compensation.