Conservatives fault Arkansas court for halting executions

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/04/20 11:12   Bookmark and Share
Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in nearly 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.

The court voted Wednesday to halt the execution of an inmate facing lethal injection Thursday night, two days after justices stayed the executions of two other inmates. The series of 4-3 decisions blocking the start of what had been an unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days were only the latest in recent years preventing this deeply Republican state from resuming capital punishment.

The possibility that justices could continue sparing the lives of the remaining killers scheduled to die this month has left death penalty supporters including Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson frustrated and critical of the high court.

"I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court's review," Hutchinson said in a statement after the Wednesday ruling.

Since the last execution in 2005, the state Supreme Court has at least twice forced Arkansas to rewrite its death penalty law. One of those cases spared Don Davis, who again received a stay Monday night. The legal setbacks at one point prompted the state's previous attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, to declare Arkansas' death penalty system "broken."

But unlike the earlier decisions, this stay came from a court that had shifted to the right in recent elections. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million last year on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. Arkansas was among a number of states where conservative groups spent millions on such efforts.
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Not guilty pleas entered for accused in Canada polygamy case

Court News 2017/04/19 11:12   Bookmark and Share
The trial of two Canadian men from a fundamentalist sect that allows men to have multiple wives opened Tuesday with not guilty pleas being entered on charges of practicing polygamy.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler each face one count of polygamy. Both men have served as bishops for the religious settlement of Bountiful, British Columbia which follows the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, often referred to as the FLDS.

Oler is accused of having four wives. He pleaded not guilty. Blackmore remained mute and Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said a not guilty plea would be entered on his behalf. Blackmore is accused of marrying 24 women over 25 years.

Blackmore's lawyer, Blair Suffredine, said outside court his client chose to say nothing for religious reasons.

"He doesn't want to deny his faith. He doesn't feel guilty," Suffredine said. "The technical way around that is don't say anything and they'll enter the plea not guilty."

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson told the court his case includes marriage records seized from the church's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas, which were used in 2010 to sentence leader Warren Jeffs to life in a U.S. prison for sexually assaulting two young girls.
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Austrian court: ex-Croatian general guilty of embezzlement

Court News 2017/04/18 11:13   Bookmark and Share
An Austrian court has found a former Croatian general guilty of embezzling millions of euros and sentenced him and an associate to two years in prison.

The court in the southern city of Klagenfurt determined Wednesday that the ex-general, Vladimir Zagorec, and Guenter Striedinger were involved in diverting loans from the now-defunct Hypo Alpe Adria Bank. Striedinger was a bank board member.

Judge Michaele Sanin said the damages caused by the two amounted to over 17 million euros ( $18 million.)

The bank was nationalized to prevent bankruptcy in 2009 and its assets are being sold to pay off creditors.

Lawyers for both men say they are appealing the verdict and sentence.

A third man whom the court did not name also was found guilty and given a suspended prison term.

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Ohio high court will review full autopsies from 8 slayings

Legal Interview 2017/04/17 11:13   Bookmark and Share
The Ohio Supreme Court wants to see unredacted autopsy reports from eight slayings in one family as justices consider media lawsuits seeking access to those full reports from the year-old, unsolved case.

The court on Wednesday ordered the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio to submit the reports within two weeks for justices to review outside of public view.

The case involves seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon last April.

The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer separately sued for access to the full autopsies.

Authorities want to shield information, arguing that its release could compromise the investigation. The coroner also says victims' relatives raised concerns about sharing details of how their loved ones died.
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Court document: Hawaii mother’s body parts found in freezer

Politics 2017/04/16 11:13   Bookmark and Share
A Hawaii man accused of killing his mother months ago stuffed her dismembered body parts in seven plastic bags in the kitchen freezer of the Waikiki apartment they shared, according to court documents made public Monday.

Yu Wei Gong has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Liu Yun Gong.

He called 911 on April 11 and said: “’I killed my Mom,’” according to a detective’s affidavit supporting an arrest warrant. When officers arrived and could not find the woman, Gong told them she was “in the fridge,” the complaint said.  

An officer found what appeared to be body parts.

“Another covered object in the freezer felt to a different officer like a human leg and foot,” the complaint said.

Yu Wei Gong didn’t speak or enter a plea during a brief court appearance Monday. Deputy Public Defender Diamond Grace requested a Mandarin interpreter for his preliminary hearing, scheduled for Wednesday. He remained in custody with bail set at $2 million.

Grace didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment after the hearing.

Authorities say Yu Wei Gong told officers that he accidentally killed his mother in September after she became angry when the 26-year-old said he wanted to work instead of going to school.

Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Rachel Lange determined Liu Yun Gong had suffered blunt force injuries to the head, the complaint said. Her identity was confirmed by comparing fingerprints to those on file under her Hawaii driver’s license.

The manager of the apartment building where they lived told police he had not seen the man’s mother since before Christmas, the complaint said.

It said Liu Yun Gong did not show up for work on Aug. 21, 2016. When a supervisor called her phone, it went unanswered. Yu Wei Gong called the supervisor the next day, saying his mother was on another Hawaiian island and had left her phone at home.

Three women watched the hearing and said outside court they wanted to support Gong spiritually because he had attended their church.
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2 inmates seek execution stays from Arkansas high court

Headline Legal News 2017/04/14 01:18   Bookmark and Share
The first two inmates facing lethal injection under Arkansas' unprecedented multiple execution plan are seeking a stay from the state Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Don Davis and Bruce Ward asked justices Wednesday to block their executions, scheduled for Monday, while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants. The U.S. high court is set to hold oral arguments in that case April 24, a week after the two are set to be put to death.

The inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts in their cases.

The two men are among seven inmates Arkansas plans to put to death over a 10-day period. The filing is among a flurry of lawsuits aimed at halting the executions.
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