Excerpts From The Opinion

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In spite of the protection, promotions, and rewards Kirk Lane has enjoyed, it hasn’t been a smooth road for him.  Pat Matrisciana stepped up to the plate and put complete faith in doing the right thing.  He gave Linda and Jean complete editorial control over the content of Obstruction of Justice: The Mena Connection, in which Dan Harmon, Richard Garrett, Jim Steed Jay Campbell, Kirk Lane, and Danny Allen were named as suspects in the murders of Kevin and Don.  Lane and Campbell sued Matrisciana for defamation.  The others did not.  At trial, the judge excluded important evidence from the jury and Matrisciana lost.  However, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision and noted ample evidence to support the allegation.  Below are excerpts from the opinion, and below that is the opinion in full.


Because of the bizarre circumstances of the deaths and a perceived lack of investigation by law enforcement entities, Linda Ives, Kevin's mother, began investigating the deaths herself, seeking reports from various law enforcement agencies through whatever means available, and prodding those agencies to pursue the investigation. Early on, she worked with Dan Harmon, who was appointed special prosecutor on the case. At one point, Harmon told Ives that the killers would be appearing before a grand jury the following day. Campbell and Lane were among the various individuals called to testify on that date, December 2, 1988.

Previously, on June 20, 1988, law enforcement officials twice interviewed Ronnie Godwin while he was incarcerated in the Jefferson County Jail. Godwin indicated that, while returning home from Gigi's nightclub on August 22 or 23, 1987, he pulled off the road when he observed a "police car that was gray in color with three antennas on the trunk and a spotlight by the driver's door sitting in the driveway to the . . . grocery store." He saw two men he believed to be police officers. One was pushing a teenage boy up against the telephone booth. Another teenage boy was lying or kneeling on the ground. The men then put the boys in the back of the car and drove over the crest of a hill near the grocery store, only to return five or ten minutes later. When the car returned, Godwin did not see the boys but saw something that looked like a garbage bag in the back seat. Godwin also provided a diagram detailing the locations of all the individuals in relation to one another, the grocery store, the phone booth, the road by which the car exited and returned, and his observation point. Godwin described "the larger of the two" officers, who was pushing the boy, as being "about 200 pounds, six foot tall, with sort of long brown hair, wearing a white or a light color shirt." The other was described as being the smaller of the two and wearing a khaki shirt. On another occasion, a person thought to be Godwin contacted the father of Don Henry and related the story to him. Godwin's statements to law enforcement officers and to Henry were all substantially similar.

At the time of the boys' deaths, Lane was an undercover detective for the narcotics division of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, previously having worked for the Benton Police Department. Campbell was a lieutenant with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department. The two worked together, and at times, their investigations would spill over into a portion of Saline County that abutted Pulaski County. Harmon told several individuals, including Ives, that the descriptions provided by Godwin fit Campbell and Lane. The car Godwin described was somewhat similar to a description provided by Alan Smith, who had heard police vehicles and walked to the scene of the boys' deaths to see what was happening. In a July 6, 1988 interview, Smith indicated that before the commotion, he observed an undercover police car in the vicinity to which Godwin referred. He said the car was blue and that the way he knew it was an undercover police car was because "[i]t had antennas, or something." State police Sergeant Barney Phillips asked Smith if he knew Lane and, although Smith had "heard of him," it appears that he would not have known him by sight.

On February 21, 1990, while incarcerated at the Garland County Jail, Mike Crook, the proprietor of Gigi's, gave a statement to Phillips. The report states that on the morning the boys' bodies were found:

 [A] Mexican looking guy, who he only knows as "Jerry," came by and told them that late last night he was sitting across from the Ranchette Grocery Store . . . trying to catch his wife with her boyfriend, when two boys walked up to the grocery store and one boy rode up on a motorcycle and the three of them were there smoking a joint.

The boy on the motorcycle then rode off. Then, "an unmarked police car pulled up and two men in plain clothes got out and . . . one of them was Kirk Lane, who used to work for the Benton Police Department, and the other guy he did not know but he was a large man." The two boys and "these two cops got into an argument and the two cops beat the boys unconscious and threw them into the car and then drove off."

Although there are discrepancies in the times, three reports placed two teenage boys at the grocery store either late the night before, or early morning of the day the boys' bodies were found.  Godwin estimated the time to be approximately 2:30 a.m. and, on the morning the bodies were found, “Jerry” told Crook that he had observed the incident “late last night.”  In addition, a person named Sandy Duncan told Mr. Henry that she saw the boys at the grocery store at approximately 4:00 a.m.

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