Continuance Granted in Hodge Case
A hearing in the re-sentencing of Aaron Michael Hodge was held Monday, May 22, in Craighead County Circuit Court. During the hearing, Second Judicial Pros. Atty. Scott Ellington filed a motion requesting a continuance until the Appealate Court has a chance to rul on Act 539. Afterward, the continuance was granted and his next court date was set for Monday, Sept. 11.
This marked the second time the convicted murderer had been returned to Northeast Arkansas for court action, as Hodge appeared before Judge Tonya Alexander on Friday, March 31, in order to be placed on the docket and acquire representation by the public defender's office. He was also scheduled to appear on Friday, May 12, although that hearing was cancelled due to a conflict of scheduling.
Hodge is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of triple homicide in the murders of his family at their home in Rector.
The murders of his mother Barbara Flick, stepfather David Flick and half-sister Andrea Flick occurred on Oct. 8, 1995. Hodge was tried in Craighead County and found guilty, and was sentenced on Dec. 11, 1996. He has remained in the custody of the Arkansas Departments of Corrections since.
His re-sentencing stemmed from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down in January of 2016, which expanded an earlier case concerning life sentences for those convicted as juveniles. It specifically pertained to cases where the jury was not given additional options.
"They didn't rule it was unconstitutional to sentence them to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but not giving the jury the option of to consider a lesser sentence was," Ellington explained at the previous hearing.
In response to the earlier appeal, the justices ruled 6-3 those incarcerated over the last half century should have a chance to be re-sentenced, in essence making the original ruling retroactive. As of 2015, more than 2,000 inmates nationwide were given mandatory life sentences when convicted as juveniles. According to Ellington, there were eight such individuals in the Second Judicial District, and at this point most have been resolved.
Friday's motion stemmed from legislation approved by Arkansas lawmakers during the recent session which effectively deals with the situation.
"It was filed by Senator Missy Irvin out of Mountain View, and it's an attempt to fix the unconstitutional issue by stipulating that anyone sentenced to life in prison is eligible for parole after serving 30 years. That doesn't mean they'll get parole, but they can file the motion," Ellington explained of Act 539.
Originally known as SB 294, the act went into effect earlier this year when it was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
It stipulates the current punishment for a person who commits capital murder when they are under the age of 18 as a maximum of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years. In his motion, Ellington noted since that sentence is the only one available to Hodge in this case, he should be sentenced as such.
Following the hearing, Hodge was returned to the custody of ACD for transport back to prison.