A Little Rock courtroom was the scene of a truly sad fall from grace as former Arkansas Judge Bob Sam Castleman was given 40 years for methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution conspiracy. Some ten years ago, Castleman and his son were sent to jail after they mailed a live poisonous snake to a man with whom they had a dispute. There was a real Breaking Bad quality to the trial that included a demand for life in prison after prosecutors were allowed to argue that Castleman killed a witness in the drug case even though he was never criminally charged in the case. The defense had a compelling argument that it was improper to put the death of the witness, Travis Perkins, (who was also a codefendant) into the trial. Perkins was found shot to death in an apartment in Pocahontas, Arkansas just days before he was set to testify against Castleman.
The trial also included the testimony of the son, Robert Jerrod Castleman, against his father after taking a plea. It is troubling to have a non-charged crime introduced at a trial of this kind, particularly based on the sole testimony of a government witness given a deal. Indeed, other witnesses said that the son was somewhere else during the murder.
Castleman lost his license after his 2004 conviction and served 27 months in federal prison. The earlier case involved the mailing a live copperhead snake to Albert Coy Staton, who had purchased an all-terrain vehicle from Jerrod Castleman and claimed later the vehicle needed to be repaired.
Castleman has never been charged in the 2013 death of Travis Perkins, but U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes still allowed prosecutors to paint them with the crime. The prosecutors said that Castleman, 64, killed the 34-year-old Perkins to prevent his testimony and his son said his father dressed in a trench coat and wig and drove from a West Memphis casino to Pocahontas to kill Perkins. Experts linked bullets found at Perkins’ apartment and in a tree off Castleman’s back porch.
Perkins was scheduled to change his plea to testify against Castleman.
It was the murder that allowed for a huge increase in sentencing even though he was not charged with it. The inclusion of the murder is highly controversial and troubling since it allows prosecutors to get punishment for a crime that they obviously do not believe that they have enough evidence to charge, at least at this time.
Source: News Times