Ohio high court shields full autopsy reports in slaying of 8

Legal Insight 2017/12/14 10:16   Bookmark and Share
A divided Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday rejected requests for unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 4-3 that the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio does not have to release the reports with complete information.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority, said Ohio law regarding coroner records clearly exempts the redacted material as "confidential law enforcement investigatory records."

The case before the court involved seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in rural southern Ohio, on April 22, 2016.

Heavily redacted versions of the autopsy reports released last year showed all but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head, but details about any other injuries and toxicology test results weren't released.

Once a criminal investigation ends, confidential information in autopsy reports can become public records, but the process leading to a suspect can sometimes take time, O'Connor wrote.

"In order that justice might be delivered to all, patience may be required of some," the chief justice said.

The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer separately sued for access to the full final autopsies. The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which is leading the investigation, sought to shield the information, arguing that its release could compromise the investigation.

Jack Greiner, an attorney representing the newspapers, called the majority's decision "a classic case of the court making up its mind on how it wanted the case to come out and then finding a path there." He said the ruling sets a negative precedent that will allow police to put whatever they want under the "investigatory records" umbrella.
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S Carolina Rep. Quinn pleads guilty to corruption charge

Legal Insight 2017/12/13 10:16   Bookmark and Share
South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. pleaded guilty to corruption charges Wednesday, becoming the third Republican lawmaker convicted in a wide-ranging Statehouse corruption probe.

Prosecutors said they will ask for prison time for the 52-year-old former House Majority leader. Quinn faces up to a year behind bars on a charge of misconduct in office. The other two lawmakers who have pleaded guilty in the investigation have received probation.

Quinn planned to plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor misconduct in office, prosecutor David Pascoe said as Wednesday's hearing started. Pascoe agreed to drop a second charge.

Quinn broke the law by taking $4 million in unreported money from lobbyists, Pascoe said. "It wasn't about service to the people, it was about service to his pocketbook," Pascoe said.

As part of the deal, Pascoe also agreed to drop corruption charges against Quinn's Republican consultant father Richard Quinn Sr., but he must testify before a grand jury that continues to investigate legislators and others and fully cooperate with the State Law Enforcement Division. Quinn has dozens of high-powered clients in the state, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Attorney General Alan Wilson.

The consulting business, First Impressions, is also pleading guilty to not registering as a lobbyist and will pay a fine. Quinn resigned an hour before the hearing. He called his 21 years in the South Carolina House "one of the greatest honors of my life" in a letter to House Speaker Jay Lucas.

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Ex-police officer pleads guilty in daughter's hot car death

Court News 2017/12/13 10:16   Bookmark and Share
A former Mississippi police officer charged in the death of her daughter in a hot patrol car has pleaded not guilty.

The Sun Herald reports 28-year-old Cassie Barker was arraigned Monday on a charge of second-degree murder in the 3-year-old girl's death.

The former Long Beach officer is accused of leaving Cheyenne Hyer unattended in a patrol car for more than four hours while she was in another officer's home. The car's air conditioner was on but wasn't blowing cold air. Hyer was found unresponsive in the car and died Sept. 30, 2016.

Barker was fired days later and initially charged with manslaughter.
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Greek court backs extraditing Russian bitcoin suspect to US

Legal Insight 2017/12/12 10:17   Bookmark and Share
Greece's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extraditing a Russian cybercrime suspect to the United States to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency bitcoin.

Alexander Vinnik made his final appearance at an Athens court Wednesday amid an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. and Russia, who are both seeking his extradition.

Greece's justice minister will ultimately decide on whether Vinnik will be sent to Russia or the U.S.

The case was heard amid growing global interest in virtual currencies and their underlying blockchain technology, fuelled by the ongoing boom in the price of bitcoin.

The 38-year-old former bitcoin platform operator denies any wrongdoing but is not contesting the Russian request on less serious charges.

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.

Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, said bitcoin's growing acceptance by mainstream markets makes criminal cases surrounding the currency more significant.

"For bitcoin to continue to attract regulated and institutional investors it will need to operate within the law," he told the AP.

"The United States, with the support of evidence from various cyber sleuths, is arguing that Vinnik and BTC-e were two of the biggest bad actors in the crypto-currency industry. Bringing bad actors to justice will help bitcoin move beyond its tainted history."

Vinnik was arrested at a northern Greek holiday resort in July and a lower court has already approved his extradition to the U.S.

Ilias Spyrliadis, a lawyer for Vinnik's defense, said they would formally respond after Wednesday's decision is published, in about one week.

"The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States," the lawyer said. "Our client has not made any response. He listened to the ruling as it was read out ... It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent."
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UN court hears appeal in Serbian lawmaker's acquittal

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/12/11 10:17   Bookmark and Share
A prosecutor urged U.N. judges Wednesday to overturn the acquittals of a prominent Serbian ultranationalist on atrocity charges, saying that a failure to do so would inflict lasting damage to the legacy of the groundbreaking war crimes tribunal.

Prosecutor Mathias Marcussen told a five-judge appeals panel that the 2016 acquittals of Vojislav Seselj on nine war crimes and crimes against humanity charges were so deeply flawed that they must be reversed or a new trial ordered.

"Justice has not been done," Marcussen said. He argued that the three-judge trial bench that found Seselj not guilty at the end of his marathon trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia made critical errors of fact and law and failed to properly evaluate all the evidence.

At trial, prosecutors accused Seselj of crimes including persecution, murder and torture and demanded a 28-year sentence for his support of Serb paramilitaries during the region's bitter, bloody wars in the early 1990s. Prosecutors argue that Seselj's actions were part of a plan to drive Croats and Muslims out of large areas of Croatia and Bosnia that leaders in Belgrade considered Serb territory.

Marcussen said that allowing Seselj's acquittals to stand would be "not only an affront to the victims of the alleged crimes, it would also seriously undermine the credibility" of the tribunal and the institution called the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals which has been established to deal with appeals and other legal issues left pending when ad hoc tribunals like the Yugoslav court close their doors for good.

A tribunal that prosecuted cases arising from Rwanda's genocide has already closed and the Yugoslav tribunal formally shuts down at the end of December. Seselj's appeal is being handled by the new mechanism.

Seselj, now a Serbian lawmaker, did not attend Wednesday's hearing. Judges gave him 10 days to respond in writing after he receives a transcript of the hearing.
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Comedian Artie Lange arrested for skipping court

Court Watch 2017/12/10 10:17   Bookmark and Share
Comedian Artie Lange has been arrested for skipping a court appearance.

NJ.com reports Lange was arrested Tuesday night at his home in Hoboken. Authorities say Lange failed to appear in Superior Court in Essex County for charges stemming from a drug arrest earlier this year.

Police said they found Lange with a bag of heroin during a traffic stop in May. Lange faces charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance and drug paraphernalia in the case.

Lange's arrest follows a strange incident over the weekend in which the comedian tweeted a picture of himself with a swollen nose. Hoboken police responded to Lange's home and he later apologized.

Lange wrote in a tweet that he missed court because of a "bad communication" with his lawyer.

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