Judge Griffen doesn't regret laying down on cot, will continue to fight for religious freedom

Judge Griffen speaks about religious freedom, death penalty cases

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Two months after being removed from death penalty cases in Arkansas, Judge Wendell Griffen said he will continue to fight for his religious freedoms "as long as there is fire in my body and breath in my spirit."

Judge Griffen joined local religious leaders Friday for a news conference on the Arkansas State Capitol steps to discuss not only religious freedom, but the current investigation into his role in the state's execution cases.

In April, Griffen was photographed outside of the Governor's Mansion laying down on a cot, which happened the same day he issued a temporary restraining order against the State of Arkansas from using on of three drugs used in the execution protocol. Senator Tom Cotton and other Arkansas legislators called for the judge's impeachment calling into question his ability to be "impartial and fair in death penalty cases."

But Griffen said in a blog post that he was expressing his First Amendment rights by attending a Good Friday prayer vigil outside the Governor's Mansion. The vigil happened the same time as protesters were outside the mansion objecting to the scheduled executions.

Soon after, the judge was disqualified from ruling on death penalty cases and the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission were assigned to investigate Griffen to see if he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. On May 30, both the executive director and deputy director of the commission recused themselves from the investigation.

After the news conference ended on Friday, Griffen spoke with local media about the recusals, saying he hopes for a fair and impartial investigation.

"The issue is not who is deciding, but whether the decision is fair," Griffen said. "If you change the personalities, but have the same unfair principles in different persons then all you've done is just change the costume, but kept the same actors."

Griffen then said that the violation of his religious freedom "already happened" after he was removed from death penalty cases. He said that it was "not history that can be undone."

During the interview, one reporter asked Griffen if he had any regrets about tying himself to the cot. He told the press he never had a moment of regret.

"I will go to my death with two things in my mind," he said. "There was one right place for me that day. I was there. And if I had to do it 1,000 times I'd be right back there."

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission will continue to investigate Judge Griffen to see if he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct that day.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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