Ark. Supreme Court overturns conviction for man in 2018 murder of Forrest City police officer
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (WMC) - The Arkansas Supreme Court has reversed and dismissed Demarcus Donnell Parker’s conviction for the 2018 murder of an off-duty police officer in West Memphis after a ruling that his right to a speedy trial was violated.
In 2020, Parker received two life sentences plus 835 years for the April 28, 2018, shooting death of 25-year-old Oliver Johnson.
Johnson was a West Memphis resident and worked for the Forrest City Police Department at the time of his death. Parker was shooting from a vehicle at rival gang members when a stray bullet entered Johnson’s home and struck him, killing him.
Officers arrested Parker on May 9, 2018, and he was initially charged with capital murder and 22 additional counts related to the shooting. The state waived the death penalty.
Parker was convicted on Sept. 8, 2020, on the following charges: 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, forgery, and firearm enhancement.
He was also charged with enhancements for engaging in violent criminal group activity and, on the murder count, for committing a felony in the presence of a child.
Court records show Parker’s trial date was scheduled for Jan. 2, 2020, but the trial was delayed for months due to the pandemic. On Jan. 6, 2020, Parker filed a motion to dismiss, stating that over a year had passed since the date of his arrest, meaning his case violated Rule 28 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Parker appealed the Crittenden County Circuit Court’s conviction, making numerous allegations of error, including a violation of his right to a speedy trial.
On Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court sided with Parker and ruled that criminal procedure requires defendants be brought to trial in 365 days. Parker was held 846 days before his trial.
The ruling can be read in full here.
“When police officers do great work and then the prosecution does terrible work, it’s just like, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” said West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon. “I’m upset, I want you to understand, because I know this family personally, he was a police officer in Forrest City getting ready to make the transition to West Memphis. And this young man lost his life with his daughters in his arms.”
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