Arkansas Editorial Roundup

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Dec. 20, 2013

Go away, Mark Darr-now

Don’t disgraced officials resign any more? Yes, it happens on assuring occasion. Paul Bookout left the state Senate after misusing campaign funds and let his employer-the Arkansas taxpayer-elect another in his place. It was one way to perform a last public service and walk away with a shred of dignity. Let it also be noted that Martha Shoffner, who is no longer state treasurer, thank goodness, quit her office as she awaited trial, which is now scheduled for next year. Hudson Hallum, now a decidedly former state representative from Marion, resigned his post after pleading guilty to various charges of election fraud. Nothing so befit their time in public office as their leaving it.

Then there are those “public servants” who refuse to quit when the clearest conclusion of their maculate careers is that they need to. Today’s example: Mark Darr, who is still lieutenant governor of Arkansas despite a $44,000 problem with his handling of campaign funds. A problem now confirmed by investigators with the state’s ethics commission. A problem that can’t just be swept under the rug without leaving an awfully big bump.

It’s a scandal that’ll follow Mark Darr and embarrass Arkansas as long as he remains in the lieutenant governor’s office-just a heartbeat away from the governorship itself. Indeed, his official noun of address is “Governor Darr.” Disgraceful. Much like Jim Guy Tucker’s insistence on staying governor till legislators were threatening to impeach him-on the inauguration day of his successor, a long day of uncertainty that was as unnecessary as it was embarrassing.

Now it’s Mark Darr who can do the state, and his own much-tattered reputation, at least one service in office: Leave it. Now.

Yet the man refuses to resign. He won’t even promise not to run for re-election. Which means he’d make a perfect candidate at this point-for impeachment.

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Southwest Times Record, Dec. 20, 2013

Consider Organ Donation During Season Of Giving

In this season of giving, we are reminded that there can be no more difficult choice a parent can make than to donate the organs of a child who died too young.

In Saturday’s edition, we learned about the gift of life given by Jodie and Jessie McGinley of East End in 2009 and about the Mercy Fort Smith nurses who have made memorializing a tiny baby their cause.

Elijah Cole McGinley was born with multiple birth defects and survived just five days. His heartbroken parents decided that if his organs could help another family avoid the grief they experienced, they were willing to make the hard, hard choice to donate.

Recently, they learned that Elijah’s heart valve was used to save the life of a 2-day-old baby girl in Maine. Jodie McGinley said the news made their sacrifice worthwhile: “Last Monday was just verification that we did the right thing.”

Thirty volunteers from Arkansas will be in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day, part of “Team Eli,” which will help build the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade. Donate Life is a nonprofit alliance of organizations like the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency that encourage eye, tissue and organ donation. The float will feature floragraph portraits of deceased donors, including baby Eli.

ARORA’s primary mission is “to save lives by maximizing the opportunities for organ, eye and tissue donations in Arkansas,” according to its website. ARORA works to educate health-care professionals and the public about the priceless gift of organ donation.

Its website currently features the story of Whittney Edwards of Van Buren. When she was 4, Whittney experienced an aggressive bacterial infection that caused her kidneys to fail. She underwent dialysis treatment three times a week for years until she received a kidney transplant from 19-year-old Joshua Bourland, who died from injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Whittney describes Josh as her angel, “and he’s in heaven right now and watching over me,” she says. With the transplant she received, “I can just be a normal kid.”

Josh’s father, Russell Bourland of Atkins, said his son expressed the desire to be an organ donor when he was 10. Now, Mr. Bourland finds that being close to Whittney “eases the pain and helps to fill the hole in my heart.”

We do not know why some children are called home before we are ready to surrender them, but the kind of consolation Jodie McGinley and Russell Bourland feel reassure us that organ donation can be a way to turn loss into gain and heartache into life.

If you want to be an organ donor, make sure you tell your loved ones. You can register as a donor at DonateLifeArkansas.org or by making your wishes known when you renew your driver’s license or state ID.

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The Jonesboro Sun, Dec. 20, 2013

Prosecutor, judge deserve kudos in Kerley rape case

We criticize prosecutors and judges when we believe they’ve made grievous errors in their dealings with those accused of heinous crimes.

We should also recognize when they get it right, which is 90 percent of the time or better. It’s easier to criticize than recognize, but both are equally important.

That’s why we have to give a thumbs up to 2nd Judicial District Deputy Prosecutor Alan Copelin and Circuit Judge Brent Davis for removing Tommy Kerley, 28, from society for the next 30 years or so. While the lax incarceration laws in Arkansas will probably set Kerley free from state prison in 21 years, at least we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing he won’t be around to hurt anyone for a long, long time.

Kerley is the creep who attacked, held at knife-point and raped a young woman June 6 in her vehicle at The Mall at Turtle Creek. He first forced her into her car where he raped and threatened to kill her if she fought off the attack.

But fight back she did and managed to get away. However, Kerley nabbed her again and forced her into his van, where his attack continued. She continued to fight him off, getting away again only to be forced back inside her car.

During the attack, Kerley told the victim that he had been stalking her for a month and that he knew where her kids slept. Talk about a nightmare.

Turns out Kerley had gone to high school with the victim. That’s even creepier.

During Kerley’s third assault, he had put down his knife and moved to grab it when the woman continued to fight off his advances. That’s when she was able to break free again, this time running into the mall, where she contacted security and called police.

The victim’s courage and bravery to fight off Kerley probably saved her life. Kerley’s sentencing Monday is a nice Christmas present for the victim, knowing she and her family can sleep easy with Kerley locked behind bars for at least the next two decades — hopefully longer.

Kerley admitted to his monstrous crimes, accepting responsibility and keeping his victim from having to testify in front of him in court and reliving the entire experience all over again.

Still, is 30 years fair for a man who attacks, repeatedly threatens to kill and rapes a woman? Probably not. Some would opt for taking him out back and ending it with one bullet.

If he’s good in prison, Kerley likely will be back on the streets when he’s in his late 40s. Let’s hope he’s watched closely.

Judge Davis also deserves kudos for making Kerley’s sentences for rape and kidnapping run consecutively, which means the 20 years he got for rape will be followed by 10 years for kidnapping. Too often judges run the sentences concurrently, acting as if the other crimes never really occurred. Consecutive sentences would keep criminals behind bars longer and make them pay for all their crimes. It’s hard to do when most cases, like Kerley’s, are plea bargained down so as to avoid a trial.

If Arkansas can’t take more cases to trial because courts have such a backlog of cases and prosecutors are so backed up because there aren’t enough of them, then the state needs to hire more judges and prosecutors. If the state can’t keep its most violent criminals locked up long enough because prisons are overcrowded, then more prisons should be built.

Critics often use the argument that the United States has by far the most citizens behind bars of any country in the world. That’s because we lock up our most violent criminals instead of letting them run loose on the streets to reoffend.

Ironically, it’s the price of a truly free society.

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