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Prosecutor claims premature leaks jeopardize case
He was once admonished over a failure to disclose evidence in a Randolph County murder trial (resulting in a mistrial)
POCAHONTAS, Ark. – Third Judicial District Prosecutor Henry Boyce released a barbed statement to the press regarding his much derided gag order over the murder case of a former state senator.
In it, he claimed he had not authored a “gag order” and then proceeded to define the “option” as what is clearly a gag order. He justified it by saying it was used to stop “distractions for law enforcement.” However, Boyce does not explain why this case needed such an order while most others do not. He does not address his relationship with the ex-husband of Collins, an ex-circuit judge who is still involved in a contentious legal case with what is the now-estate of Collins.
Here is his verbatim press release, Boyce wrote the following:
“As has already been reported last week an individual has been arrested by authorities in connection with her alleged involvement in the death of former State Senator Linda Collins. The investigation began on June 4th when her body was discovered at her residence in an advanced state of decomposition. It took investigators collaborating with the Arkansas Crime Lab Medical Examiner’s office two days to positively identify the body with dental records.
Public interest in this case immediately began generating news reports and social media activity which became a distraction to law enforcement within hours of the discovery of the body. We sought an order to seal the documentary evidence necessary to pursue the investigation without continuous interruption by the public. The order to seal is not a “gag” order as has been reported in the press. It is a judicial option available under the law in order to protect sensitive information necessary to lead to the discovery of evidence which in this case has led to the arrest of an individual for her alleged involvement of the crime.
The rules of professional conduct for Prosecuting Attorneys dictate that we discourage members of the law enforcement community from making statements of a public nature which may have the effect of jeopardizing the accused’s right to a fair trial. The biggest threat to the successful prosecution of any criminal case is the premature release of information which has the tendency, as with this case, to become distorted and ultimately has the effect of prejudicing the potential jurors who may eventually be chosen to hear the case at trial
It is my hope that in the coming weeks the media will be patient until the authorities charged with gathering evidence in this case can complete their task of gathering evidence in order to bring this case to justice. ”
Henry Boyce, Third Judicial District Prosecutor
Boyce asserts without source that the “biggest threat” to the prosecution is the premature release of information which might taint a jury pool.
But according to 2018 reporting in the UK, which does have a slightly different but similar justice process as the US, more than 900 criminal cases were dropped in one year due to failure by police or prosecutors to disclose evidence. In other words, it is the tendency of power-hungry law enforcement and prosecutorial members who believe they own information that most often results in their own failure.
During criminal proceedings, all evidence against the accused must be disclosed before it is presented in court. There are no such things as surprises, despite dramatic film portrayal showing prosecutors surprising a defendant with damning evidence. In reality, this would result in the evidence being thrown out. The accused has a right to see all evidence against him or her ahead of its presentation before a court.
It’s actually an issue Henry Boyce, as a prosecutor, has run into before.
Hiding Evidence is Bad, Henry
A man who was sentenced to death for murdering a family of four received a new trial, ruled by the Arkansas Supreme Court, after the prosecutor who handled the case – Boyce – hid exculpatory evidence from the defendant.
Billy Dale Green was granted a retrial because Boyce hid a transcript of the son, Chad Green, saying he was the one who killed the family (not Billy Dale). This statement would have taken the death penalty off of the table in the case. Lucky for Boyce, he had a selective memory issue and forgot to turn over the transcript including this statement to defense.
Unlucky for Boyce, the defense found out. Due to this, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Boyce should be investigated for possible misconduct.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in 2011:
“…Prosecutor Henry Boyce didn’t turn over the transcript to the defense, later explaining it was a “slip up” that he’d forgotten about the document and that he didn’t think it was relevant”
The Arkansas Supreme Court wasn’t convinced it was an accident. However, because prosecutors enjoy immunity under the law from consequences of their actions, even if proven with malice, Boyce continued his career as prosecutor. Billy Dale Green ended up with a life sentence, no parole.
Boyce is presently seeking election to the seat of District Judge, Division 15, which covers Jackson and Woodruff counties.