Supreme Court upholds probation revocation

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday said Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis was correct in denying a state prison inmate’s appeal of his conviction for violating conditions of his probation.

Kirk Johnson pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana and the use of paraphernalia. He was sentenced on April 7, 2007, to five years of probation.

Five months later, in September, the state filed a petition to revoke that probation. The state alleged that Johnson had failed to report to his probation officer, failed to pay probation service fees and sheriff’s fees, failed to attend substance abuse classes and failed to perform any of his community service requirements.

At a hearing on Nov. 10, 2008, Johnson admitted that he had violated the conditions of his probation and a sentencing hearing was set for Jan. 12, 2009. Dennis told Johnson he would be sentenced to prison if he did not bring himself into compliance with the conditions of his probation by that time.

The hearing was postponed a number of times at Johnson’s request and was not held until Feb. 16, 2010. The state presented testimony that Johnson was still not in compliance with the conditions of his probation. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In his appeal, Johnson argued that state law at the time required the sentencing hearing to be held within 60 days and that he did not receive notice of the grounds for the state’s contention that he had violated his probation.

The Supreme Court ruling by Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson said the 60-day requirement did not apply because Johnson had been released on bond pending the hearing, ruling that the 60-day limitation was designed to assure that a defendant is not held in jail for an unreasonable time while waiting on a hearing.

Regarding Johnson’s claim that he was not advised of the reasons for the revocation, Goodson said Dennis had revoked Johnson’s probation at the November 2008 hearing when he admitted violating conditions of that probation, and even though no additional testimony was needed, it was not inappropriate for the court to consider further evidence in the case.

Goodson said Johnson’s attorney was not ineffective when he did not object to the additional testimony “and trial counsel cannot be ineffective for failing to make an objection or argument that is without merit.”