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Arkansas Attorney Sues to Gain Access to Incarcerated Client

A lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas was forced to file a lawsuit to gain access to his client in a criminal case.

Attorney Patrick Benca, who represented Antoine Ramon Jackson on a capital murder charge, filed the six-page suit on March 22, 2017 in Pulaski County Circuit Court, claiming the Arkansas Department of Correction (DOC) withheld his client’s whereabouts from him in violation of Jackson’s right to counsel and despite a state law, Arkansas Code 16-85-101, that makes it a crime for officials to prevent prisoners from speaking with their lawyers.

Benca claimed that on four occasions dating as far back as November 2016, prison staff had prevented him from talking to or meeting with Jackson when he was confined at the East Arkansas Regional Unit. A fifth meeting scheduled for January 5, 2017 was canceled because Jackson had not been transferred to the Washington County Jail as ordered by a court five days earlier. Benca learned on March 16, 2017 that Jackson was moved to a hospital, but prison officials refused to recognize Benca’s medical release waiver and denied a visit.

According to the complaint, “We were advised that no attorney visit could be made because we were not on his contact list.”

George Wilson, the head of the DOC’s medical services division, who was named as a defendant along with DOC Director Wendy Kelley, East Arkansas Regional Unit Warden Jeremy Andrews and the facility’s medical director, reportedly told Benca that since he could not reveal the hospital where Jackson was receiving care, he could not authorize an attorney visit, the lawsuit stated.

Benca was granted access to Jackson two days after he filed suit. Although eventually allowed access to his client, he said he would not immediately withdraw the complaint.