MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Arkansas Supreme Court has overturned a conviction for a man who had been sentenced to more than 800 years in the 2018 shooting death of a Forrest City Police officer.
In an opinion dated March 16, 2023, the state supreme court reversed and dismissed the conviction, citing Demarcus Donnell Parker’s right to a speedy trial.
Parker was convicted in September 2020 and sentenced to two life sentences plus 835 years for the murder of Officer Oliver Johnson.
According to prosecutors, on April 28, 2018, Parker was shooting from a vehicle at rival gang members when stray bullets entered Officer Johnson’s home in West Memphis, killing him.
A jury found Parker guilty of murder in the first degree, unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle in the first degree, six counts of attempted murder in the first degree, and fifteen counts of unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle in the second degree.
In its reversal, the Supreme Court said:
“Based on the calculations from May 9, 2018, the date of his arrest, to January 6, 2020, when he filed his motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute within one year, Parker was held for a total of 405 days during which speedy trial was not tolled. This 405-day total exceeds the requisite 365-day period. … Therefore, based on our de novo review to determine whether specific periods of time are excludable under our speedy-trial rules, we hold that the State has failed to demonstrate that Parker was brought to trial within the twelve-month period required by Rule 28. … Accordingly, we are left with no choice but to reverse and dismiss. Because we reverse and dismiss on speedy-trial grounds, we decline to reach Parker’s remaining arguments on appeal.”
The dissenting judges argued against the calculations the majority judges made, and said Parker was held for 351 days – 14 days shy of the speedy trial deadline. “The State timely prosecuted Parker, and his conviction and sentence should be upheld. The majority’s holding otherwise is a tragedy. In no sense is there Justice in such a result,” said the dissent.