An Arkansas judge faces judicial sanction for blocking the state’s use of a lethal injection drug on the same day he pro- tested the death penalty out- side the governor’s mansion, reported The Associated Press.
The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission charged Judge Wendell Griffen, a Pulaski County Circuit Judge, with violating ethics rules in June. The three- member panel cited the judge’s online and social media comments against the death penalty as evidence of an ethical violation.
Griffen asked a judicial ethics commission to dismiss the complaint against him in August.
“This is a case really about optics and not about ethics,” said Austin Porter Jr., Griffen’s attorney, during the commission hearing.
Porter also said the case “runs afoul” of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that permitted judges to speak out on social and legal issues and a separate decision that bars excluding jurors from capital punishment cases based on their moral or religious objections.
Arkansas executed four inmates last year using lethal injection. Judge Griffen had blocked this method of execution earlier in the year, which led to the judicial commission’s charge of ethics violations.
The commission did not immediately issue a ruling on Griffen’s case but is expected to hold a full hearing this fall on its findings, during which it could advise the State Supreme Court to suspend or remove the judge.
Griffen has appealed the initial decision and asked for full review in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals pertaining to his case.