Teens plead not guilty in Weatherford case

NEWPORT, Ark. – As Derrick Heard, 16, was led into the Jackson County Courtroom, his brow was furrowed while he seemed to stare through other humans in the room as though they were made of paper.

The young man, charged with the capital murder of Newport Police Lt. Patrick Weatherford, appeared to be annoyed or put off as he first entered the crowded room Thursday morning but seemed to carry this demeanor throughout proceedings. Almost stone-faced at times, the teenager displayed little emotion and few, if any, expressions during his time in court.

Little Rock Attorney Ronald Davis, representing Heard, entered a plea of not guilty on one count of capital murder, one count of attempted capital murder, breaking or entering, theft of property and possession of a handgun by a minor. Davis did not contest or request a bond be set for Heard, as he said the underage suspect was also facing several charges in juvenile court.

Giving a possible indication as to what the defense plans, Davis requested a mental evaluation be set for Heard. While speaking to a Democrat Gazette reporter on the way out of the courtroom, the defense lawyer said a few factors he had been exposed to led him to seek that option. He did not wish to elaborate further. Davis was also asked about Heard allegedly confessing his role in the incident but seemed to dispute this, stating the confession was said to have come from Calamese – not Heard.

However, this would contradict the arrest warrant authored by Sergeant Scott Pillow of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division. The affidavit, notarized on July 24, 2017, states “Heard admitted his involvement in the death of Weatherford and his firing of gunshots at Rogers.”


Also appearing in court was Tyler Calamese, 18, who is charged with breaking or entering, theft or property and furnishing a deadly weapon to a minor in connection with the case. Calamese’s attorney requested he be given permission to live with a relative in Arkadelphia, so that he might enroll in high school to finish his senior year. Circuit Judge Harold Erwin approved of the request since Calamese is out on bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for September 14.

Judge Loses Cool

With a courtroom overflowing with patrons, press, attorneys and police, Judge Erwin’s patience seemed to be wearing thin by the time the 9 a.m. proceedings began. Due to there being no audio system in the large room, members of the press struggled to hear as attorneys brought their defendants before the judge.

The docket, alphabetically sorted, included dozens of defendants. It made its way to Calamese when the judge seemed affronted by so many individuals standing near the wooden partition on the outside of the jury box near the entrance to the courtroom. As the judge commanded patrons and their families to sit down, he specifically began to command reporters to take a seat outside of audible range of the court proceedings. The judge specifically pointed to this reporter (Stan Morris), who was standing with a KATV reporter, Marine Glisovic, and a KARK reporter, and made the command to sit down.

Refusing to concede to his order and borderline violation of the freedom of the press to operate without government restriction, Glisovic stressed to the beleaguered judge, “We’re members of the press!”

Morris informed the judge the three were unable to hear the proceedings and moving us further back would worsen that. The judge acquiesced but not without showing his displeasure. As his perturbed outburst continued, he motioned for reporters to enter the jury box with a look of disdain. Once he finished waving the press forward, he asked if all of the reporters were finally happy. He then made mention of security concerns as his reasoning.

Erwin’s display continued as one of the next defendants came forward and failed a drug test. He ordered her arrested and set her bond at $500,000 – cash only. Factually, there are individuals charged with murder in Northeast Arkansas who have lower bonds. Audibly sighing at every delay, Erwin told court officials to hurry on several occasions. In a stunning moment, he then verbally chastised a defense attorney for standing up, leaving, and stopping to shake someone’s hand upon his exit.

Erwin was reelected to his position of Division 1 judge of the Third Judicial District in May, 2014 for a term expiring in 2020. He had no opponent in his last election.

Story and photos by Stan Morris | NEA Report

Circuit judge photo taken from Arkansas judiciary website.

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