Judges showing their true colors
Failure to comply with either request could in theory result in the jailing of Wood, or of the deputy prosecutor who handled the case for Vaden.
Wood wrote in an eight-point press release sent Wednesday that when she deals in adult criminal court the prosecutor's office, and not her own, has always prepared the type of judgment form that was necessary to send Myles Lenard Taft Jr. to the Arkansas Department of Correction in 2007, and on Thursday afternoon Wood filed an order instructing the same deputy prosecutor to produce the needed judgment and commitment order by 3 p.m., or to else show up at court and "show cause" as to "why it is not prepared."
Taft was sentenced by Wood in March 2007 to five years' ADC, though he wrote in a letter to Circuit Clerk Rhonda Long on March 20, "I have been sitting here since Feb. 26, 2007, waiting to go to ADC. So altogether I have been waiting a year and (six weeks)." According to Taft, he pleaded guilty under the impression that he was "supposed to do no more than 10 months," though Faulkner County has paid for and facilitated his incarceration for about 14 months now.
Vaden and Wood have indicated in interviews that they would hate to place a blanket of blame on the deputy prosecutor who tried Taft in a March 2007 probation revocation hearing, for the justice system's unusual failure to send the man to ADC. Both Vaden and Wood have asked that the deputy's name stay out of stories regarding Taft's habeas corpus suit at civil court against Sheriff Karl Byrd in his official capacity. The civil case against Byrd says, "There is no allegation that Byrd has committed any wrongdoing," and blames Wood for producing an order that ADC officials can't legally accept.
Vaden said Friday he takes umbrage with the order because, typically, when an attorney is served an "order to produce or show cause," the attorney can be held in contempt of court and be arrested should he not comply. Vaden said he saw the order as an unnecessary shot at his deputy instead of the elected prosecutor himself. More so, according to Vaden, the order was redundant, since Vaden had already personally agreed to file the judgment and commitment order and to be done with Taft's criminal case.
"Judge Wood told us, and we agreed: 'I think if we just get a (judgment and commitment) order, and we take care of it and what have you, then this will be the end of it.' So I told her that we'll get that order corrected and do it right," said Vaden, whose deputy according to Wood in an interview on Tuesday allegedly failed to file the order after Wood says she ordered the deputy to prepare it during Taft's revocation hearing on March 14, 2007. Vaden said Friday, "We had gone and we listened to this recording of the hearing, and then when I hear it, I say, 'Well, no judge, you didn't order somebody to prepare that order. And I said, 'OK, we'll get you an order here in a little bit. And (Wood) said, 'Well, I don't know why you can't get one in about 20 minutes.' And I said, 'We've got court, we've got other stuff to do and we've got one of our legal assistants out.' But I told her, 'I'll get you one today.' And so we all left. I'm thinking this thing's fine and will be over with: Much ado about nothing.
"And around 1 p.m. (Thursday) Judge Wood serves an order to produce on my deputy. Not on me, but on my deputy over there to bring to Judge Wood this order by 3 p.m, or to show up and do a show cause and explain why it is not prepared."
"Judge Wood should've served it on me," Vaden said. "Because I'm the one that was over there, and I'm the attorney for the state, not a deputy. And if Judge Wood's going to do that, there's a procedure a judge needs to go through. A judge doesn't have the authority anytime they want something done, anywhere, anytime at the grocery store or whatever, to just issue an order that the rest of us just follow.
"But that's what she did."
In response on Friday, Vaden filed a subpoena ordering Wood to appear and testify at Circuit Judge David Clark's court in a habeas corpus hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Monday, in regard to Taft's civil case against the sheriff's office. Vaden also filed a motion to produce transcript which Clark granted that orders Wood's court reporter "to provide an official, certified copy" of the March 14, 2007, revocation hearing proceedings, which, according to Vaden, depict Wood actually asking the deputy prosecutor or others in the courtroom if a second order needed to be filed. Vaden says the judge and deputy prosecutor suffered a conversational misunderstanding during the revocation hearing.
"The transcript doesn't ever show that she ordered us to prepare an order," Vaden said. "What happened was, Judge Wood says that for juvenile court they do two orders: One order instantly, and they do another order later. Well that's not the way we do it in adult court, and we never have. Taft was originally tried (in 2005) as an adult under Judge (Linda) Collier, who was fourth division circuit judge before Wood.
"So the problem was, I had a new deputy over there, and Judge Wood was new, and when you listen to the tape what you hear is Judge Wood making her ruling, and you can hear her typing on the tape, and then she hands this order over for them to file it like they do in her juvenile cases. And then she says, 'Is there a second order that needs to be done? Does anybody know if there's a second order that needs to be done?' My deputy says, 'Judge, no, I don't think there's another order that needs to be done,' because (the deputy) is used to us having the orders, and us preparing the orders. We (in adult criminal court) don't do two orders.
"We do the judgment and commitment, then after the trial, or if it's a plea, we have the orders there. So my deputy I know is thinking, 'There's not a second order, and I assume the judge knows what she's doing because she just did the order.' It's an honest mistake."
Vaden said of Wood, who didn't return phone calls on Friday, "If I were her, I'd want to come and vindicate myself, and that's what I'm trying to do, is give her the opportunity to explain this order. When she has this order, and has this guy sentenced to five years in ADC, but then she says she's going to have him on electronic monitor requirements, and to comply with terms of probation or what have you, I want her to explain what happened: What is your recollection on what happened? What was I supposed to do? When are you ordering me to produce this second order? Where is this stuff?"
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