Supreme Court upholds rejection of 3 prisoners’ appeals

Back from its summer recess, the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday said Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis was correct when she denied petitions filed by three prisoners in the Arkansas Department of Correction who argued that their sentences were illegal and that they should be released.

James K. Haynes is serving a sentence of life plus 40 years in Jefferson County after being convicted of rape and residential burglary.

Haynes said the judge who presided over his trial violated his rights because that judge had previously represented Haynes in another matter. The high court said Haynes did not allege that the court where he was tried lacked jurisdiction, and his allegations would not render the sentence void or illegal.

Both Gary Anderson and Kristopher Dean Parker are serving sentences in Lincoln County, and both alleged that their due process rights were violated at guilty plea hearings.

In 2003, Anderson pleaded guilty to rape in Hot Spring County District Court and was sentenced to 240 months in prison. That same day, Anderson pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to 120 months in prison, with the sentences to run concurrently with each other.

In his petition seeking release, Anderson said the trial court violated certain rules regarding negotiation and acceptance of the plea but those allegations are not among the criteria required for the court to determine that Anderson was illegally sentenced.

Parker pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping in Greene County Circuit Court in 2008 and was sentenced to life in prison.

He, too, claimed his due process rights were violated by the trial court but like Anderson, his allegations did not fit the criteria necessary for a writ of habeas corpus to be issued.

All three inmates filed the petitions on their own.