Man released from prison after more than 11 years, sues state over conviction
LITTLE ROCK (KATV)--A man spent 11 1/2 years in prison, but was released after Special Prosecutor, Larry Jegley, dropped the charges against him in 2010.
Gyronne Buckley, 60, was convicted of two counts of delivery of a controlled substance back in 1999, and sentenced two consecutive life sentences.
Buckley was released the same year his charges were dropped and just last December the state's Claims Commission awarded Buckley nearly half a million dollars stating he was wrongfully convicted, although a legislative subcommittee rejected this.
For 11 1/2 years he was known as inmate #115479. Buckley was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in Clark County in May of 1999, for two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine.
In 2000, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed his sentencing and he was resentenced by the Clark County Circuit Court to two consecutive terms of 28 years, one for each count.
"I prayed constantly every day, because you know it's not a pleasant environment, it's just like a man made hell," said Buckley.
Buckley was arrested in January 1999 following an investigation led by the South Central Drug Task Force. According to records, Buckley had sold crack cocaine to an undercover informant at his home in Arkadelphia.
The informant, Corey Livsey was working for Agents Keith Ray and Linda Card. Ray is the agent who admitted in court in a separate case that he gave untruthful testimony and falsified evidence.
Two transactions were caught on an undercover audio tape prosecutors played for the jury in 1999.
According o prosecutors, this audio captures two $40 transactions for crack cocaine between Buckley and Livsey. Although later, the Arkansas Supreme Court found the audio tape itself contained no conversation clearly indicating that a drug transaction was taking place.
"Police said I was the most dangerous man to have out in society," added Buckley.
Buckley had been arrested just one other time before this, and that was when he was 17, he was charged with inciting a riot. He spent most of his time incarcerated at the Cummins Unit in Lincoln County, Arkansas.
Now, he often sifts through pictures reflecting on lost time, he remembers his father who passed while he was in prison.
"My father, his last years during his illness, I wasn't around to comfort him and there was a lot of things I wanted to say to my father before he left," said Buckley.
Several years after Buckley started his prison sentence, after a federal judge reviewed this video tape, he ordered that it be released to Buckley's Attorneys, Mark Hampton and Professor Tom Sullivan.
It's this tape that was never presented to either prosecutors or Buckley's legal team in 1999. Present are Agent Ray and Card interviewing their informant, Livsey
According to Hampton, since Agent Ray had to correct Livsey, this tape could have served as impeachment evidence because it showed that him correctly testifying based on his recollection was not accurate.
Once this tape was released to all parties involved in the case, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the Clark County Circuit Court to re-try Buckley, although Special Prosecutor Larry Jegley chose to not prosecute him. He was released in 2010 and his case was expunged and sealed last year.
Just last December, the Claims Commission awarded Buckley $460,000 for a wrongful conviction. They cited that Agent Ray had failed to disclose documents and appeared to have assisted in the fabrication of untruthful trial testimony.
As KATV learned today, according to the Bureau of Legislative Research, any decisions made by the subcommittee are final because the legislative council doesn't meet this month.
"A prosecutor a jury and a judge thought he was guilty, there's no evidence in my mind that there were some mistakes made for sure," said Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, a member of the Claims Legislative Subcommittee.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel helped lawmakers to overrule the commission saying they had overstepped their boundaries.
"This is not a case where there was falsified testimony, this is not a case where there was fabricated evidence, this is not a case where there was perjury or some corrupt cop putting an innocent man in jail, there was sloppy police work and I agree with that, it was sloppy," said Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.
According to Senator Hutchinson, the Claims Commission never gave a reason why they awarded Buckley the nearly half a million dollars, although a written report from the Claims Commission states otherwise.
"Give us what you were thinking, so that we can have a good record to review and make a far more informed decision, they never do that, and in this case it would have been very helpful," said Hutchinson.
"The better alternative is for them to issue opinions and tell us what they're thinking, but if they continue to refuse to do so, that may be an answer, you're not worth your existence," Hutchinson added.
Buckley's attorneys are preparing a lawsuit on the grounds that his constitutional rights were violated. Channel 7 will continue to follow this story.