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Arkansas Supreme Court Addresses Forma Pauperis Motion for Copy of Transcript

In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court of Arkansas denied a petitioner’s pro se motion for use of transcript of the appeal of his 1992 conviction for rape and subsequent life sentence. The court treated petitioner’s motion as one seeking a copy of the record at public expense, as non-attorneys are not allowed to check out actual court records.

David Shayne Henderson attached to his petition an affidavit of indigency and request to proceed in forma pauperis. He asserted that he required the records “so he can reopen the case,” alleging, among others, inconsistences between the victim’s actual statement, what was presented at trial, and the actual truth. The victim’s statement was stipulated as true and sufficient by both sides of the aisle. Henderson alleged unspecified constitutional and statutory violations of the part of the state.

The Arkansas Supreme Court noted that indigency is of itself not sufficient to mandate providing a petitioner with a photocopy of the record at public expense; a petitioner must establish a compelling need for the record in support of an allegation contained in a timely petition for post-conviction relief, and valid grounds must be cited.

Henderson did not provide such—either the validity of a disputed witness statement (one that was not introduced as an exhibit at trial), or how the record was needed to support a timely claim to post-conviction relief. See: Henderson v. State, 2011 Ark 522 (Case No. CR 92-167).

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Related legal case

Henderson v. State