AG wants death-row prisoner’s mental fitness exam called off

Legal Business 2022/04/16 15:48   Bookmark and Share
Prosecutors have asked the Arizona Supreme Court to call off an upcoming hearing scheduled by a lower-court judge to determine the mental fitness of a prisoner to be executed in what would be the state’s first use of the death penalty in nearly eight years.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office told the state’s highest court in a filing Wednesday that the May 3 mental competency hearing scheduled in Pinal County for death-row prisoner Clarence Dixon is likely to delay his May 11 execution. Dixon was sentenced to death for his murder conviction in the 1977 killing of Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin.

The prosecutors are seeking to throw out the lower court’s order that concluded defense lawyers had shown reasonable grounds for planning a hearing over whether Dixon is psychologically fit.

Dixon’s lawyers have said their client erroneously believes he will be executed because police at Northern Arizona University wrongfully arrested him in a previous case — a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. His attorneys concede he was in fact lawfully arrested then by Flagstaff police.
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Abortion restriction bill signed by Florida Gov. DeSantis

Legal Insight 2022/04/12 15:49   Bookmark and Share
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law Thursday as the state joined a growing conservative push to restrict access ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit the procedure nationwide.

The new law marks a significant blow to abortion access in the South, where Florida has provided wider access to the procedure than its regional neighbors.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

“This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation,” DeSantis said as he signed the bill at the “Nación de Fe” (“Nation of Faith”), an evangelical church in the city of Kissimmee that serves members of the Latino population.

DeSantis, a Republican rising star and potential 2024 presidential candidate, signed the measure after several women delivered speeches about how they chose not to have abortions or, in the case of one, regretted having done so.

Some of the people in attendance, including young children, stood behind the speakers holding signs saying “Choose life,” while those who spoke stood at a podium to which was affixed a sign displaying an infant’s feet and a heartbeat reading, “Protect Life.”

Debate over the proposal grew deeply personal and revealing inside the Florida legislature, with lawmakers recalling their own abortions and experiences with sexual assault in often tearful speeches on the House and Senate floors.
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Mexico high court OKs preference for state power plants

Headline Legal News 2022/04/09 15:01   Bookmark and Share
Mexico’s Supreme Court deemed constitutional Thursday a controversial energy law pushed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that gives government-owned power plants preference over private competitors.

The law took effect in March 2021, but a number of private energy companies sought injunctions blocking enforcement. With the law ruled constitutional, the injunctions will now have to be resolved.

The law establishes that electricity must be bought first from government power plants, which use primarily coal, oil and diesel to produce energy. If demand requires it, additional electricity could be purchased from private wind, solar and natural gas plants.

Jesús Ramírez, presidential spokesman, celebrated the court’s decision. “History will judge those who betray the country and the interests of Mexican people,” he said via Twitter.

Critics, including the United States government, maintain the law will undermine competition in the sector, hurt the environment and violate free trade agreements.


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Groups seek to stop gold mine exploratory drilling in Idaho

Legal Insight 2022/04/04 15:00   Bookmark and Share
Environmental groups are renewing efforts to stop exploratory drilling by a Canadian mining company hoping to build a gold mine in Idaho west of Yellowstone National Park.

The Idaho Conservation League and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, in documents filed in federal court last month against the U.S. Forest Service, ask that the case involving Excellon Idaho Gold’s Kilgore Gold Exploration Project in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Clark County be reopened.

Excellon Idaho Gold is a subsidiary of Toronto, Ontario-based Excellon Resources Inc.

The company says the area contains at least 825,000 ounces (23.4 million grams) of gold near the surface, and potentially more deeper. The company said it is looking at possibly building an open-pit mine if exploration finds that the gold is mostly near the surface, or an underground mine if the gold is deeper.

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Judge won’t halt execution over intellectual disability

Court News 2022/03/29 16:21   Bookmark and Share
A judge on Tuesday dismissed a motion to declare a Tennessee death row inmate intellectually disabled, a move that would have prohibited his upcoming execution.

Senior Judge Walter Kurtz wrote that federal courts had previously determined Byron Black was not intellectually disabled and therefore was ineligible to have the decision considered once again. The 45-page decision comes despite agreement between Nashville’s district attorney and Black’s lawyers that he is intellectually disabled and should not be put to death.

Black is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 18 for his murder convictions in the April 1988 killings of his girlfriend and her two young daughters.

Black’s attorneys had argued the 65-year-old should be spared under a 2021 law that made Tennessee’s prohibition against executing people with intellectual disability retroactive, pointing out there is a different standard in place now than in 2004 — when the court found that Black didn’t meet the now-obsolete definition of “mental retardation.” Previously, Tennessee had no mechanism for an inmate to reopen a case to press an intellectual disability claim.

However, Kurtz ultimately concluded that the new state law does not apply to death row inmates who had previously received a ruling from a prior court.

“This Court fails to see how the federal courts’ resolution of petitioner’s intellectual disability claim can be seen as anything other than an adjudication on the merits under the legal and medical principles which are embodied in the most recent version of (Tennessee law),”Kurtz wrote. “Given the above, the Court finds that Mr. Black had a full and fair previous adjudication on the merits of his intellectual disability claim.”

Black was convicted by a Nashville court in the deaths of girlfriend Angela Clay, 29, and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6. Prosecutors said he was in a jealous rage when he shot the three at their home. At the time, Black was on work release while serving time for shooting and wounding Clay’s estranged husband.

Earlier this month, District Attorney Glenn Funk — Nashville’s lead prosecutor — announced that he agreed with Black’s legal team that the inmate was intellectually disabled and should instead face a sentence of life in prison.

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Retired judges will hear divorce cases to clear backlog

Legal Insight 2022/03/25 16:22   Bookmark and Share
The Maine court system will assign retired judges to divorce proceedings to clear a growing backlog of more than 6,000 cases that have been delayed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program began last week and will assign the former judges as referees to divorce cases where both sides involved have lawyers. The referees would work to resolve the cases without a trial, The Bangor Daily News reported Tuesday.

“The goal is to add capacity in the short term to allow us to address the backlog without adding work to existing personnel,” Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill said.

Judges who volunteer as referees will be paid the same full-day $350 stipend amount as other active retired judges who work in the court system.

According to Alyson Cummings, an employee for the administrative office of the courts, the cost of the program and the number of cases the judges will handle have not been determined yet.
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