Slain girl’s grandmother wants caseworkers deemed ‘reckless’

Legal Business 2021/04/28 14:03   Bookmark and Share
The grandmother of a 2-year-old girl who was beaten and starved to death wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit against three caseworkers who oversaw the girl’s care, and has taken her case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

During oral arguments Wednesday, justices questioned the responsibility the state’s children’s service agency has for protecting children as its caseworkers investigate allegations of abuse.

The child prompting the case, Glenara Bates, weighed under 14 pounds ? almost half the recommended weight for a 2-year-old girl?when she died in March 2015, and Hamilton County authorities said she was beaten by her parents, with visible belt and bite marks among other injuries.

Her father, Glen Bates, was sentenced to death the following year, but his conviction and sentence were later overturned after the state high court said a juror who made racially biased comments on a jury questionnaire should not have been seated in the trial of Bates, who is Black. A new trial is scheduled for January.

The girl’s mother was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

After Glenara’s death, the girl’s maternal grandmother, Desena Bradley, sued three Hamilton County caseworkers, saying they missed obvious signs of abuse. Three weeks after caseworkers declared the girl “happy and healthy” during a March 2015 visit, she was dead, according to Desena Bradley’s complaint in the Ohio Supreme Court.

“According to the coroner, Glenara had been brutalized for months on end before her death,” Rachel Bloomekatz, an attorney representing the grandmother, said in a November court filing. “But somehow, Glenara’s bruises, scars, bite marks, whip marks, and gaunt, under-fed body completely eluded the caseworkers.”

State law provides case workers immunity from such lawsuits unless they were found to have acted “in a wanton or reckless manner.” Lower courts rejected the grandmother’s claims, saying she hadn’t provided enough evidence that the immunity should be lifted.

Desena Bradley appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which held oral arguments Wednesday. A decision isn’t expected for months. It’s unclear from court records whether Desena Bradley stepped in on behalf of her granddaughter when she was alive.

Hamilton County officials wants the high court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the girl was killed by her parents and not by county workers. There’s no evidence the caseworkers acted maliciously or in bad faith, county attorneys said.

top

Nevada inmate fighting on several fronts to avoid execution

Court News 2021/04/24 14:15   Bookmark and Share
A convicted Nevada mass murderer is mounting a range of legal challenges to a bid to schedule his execution in early June, including questioning whether the district attorney in Las Vegas really wants the lethal injection carried out at a decommissioned prison in Carson City.

Prosecutor Alexander Chen on Friday said that’s a mistake that will be corrected in court filings next week.

Attorneys for Zane Michael Floyd filed new documents this week asking a state court judge to halt the process at least long enough to determine if the state’s lethal injection procedure would be unconstitutionally cruel and inhumane, and to force prisons officials to show they have the three drugs they would use.

“We would add to that the opportunity to present clemency on behalf of our client,” Floyd’s attorney, Brad Levenson, said in an email. “We are indeed litigating in state and federal court on many serious issues.”

District Attorney Steve Wolfson didn’t immediately respond to messages about documents that Levenson filed Wednesday.

One seeks a stay of execution. The other opposes Wolfson’s request for Clark County District Judge Michael Villani to issue a warrant to set Floyd’s execution date the week beginning June 7.

The prosecutor’s April 15 application for a death warrant specifies that the execution should be “within the limits of the State Prison, located at or near Carson City.”

Villani has scheduled court hearings on May 14. Floyd, 45, was sentenced in 2000 to die for killing four people with a shotgun and badly wounding a fifth in a Las Vegas supermarket in 1999.

He is one of 65 inmates housed on death row at Ely State Prison, a facility 250 miles (402 kilometers) north of Las Vegas and some 260 miles (418 kilometers) east of Carson City where a new lethal injection chamber was built in 2016 at a cost of about $860,000. It has never been used.

Floyd’s attorneys want a judge to force state Department of Corrections officials to say if they’ve changed a procedure posted in July 2018 for a lethal injection that was later called off; to prove they have the drugs they would use; and to demonstrate that witnesses would not be exposed to COVID-19.
top

Supreme Court rejects defendant’s appeal in 2015 slaying

Court Watch 2021/04/20 14:37   Bookmark and Share
The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the life prison sentence given to a man who plotted the slaying of his ex-girlfriend, a 22-year-old Rapid City woman.

Jonathan Klinetobe pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Klinetobe was originally facing the death penalty in connection with the fatal stabbing of Jessica Rehfeld in 2015.

Prosecutors said Klinetobe was upset that Rehfeld broke up with him and convinced two other men to kidnap and kill her.

In his appeal, Klinetobe argued the judge who sentenced him abused her discretion and that the life term violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the Rapid City Journal  reported.

The justices unanimously rejected both arguments. Klinetobe convinced Richard Hirth and David Schneider to kill Rehfeld after he made up a story that the Hell’s Angels would pay an $80,000 bounty since she had information on the motorcycle gang, according to prosecutors.

After Hirth and Schneider kidnapped and stabbed her to death while pretending to give her a ride to work, Klinetobe helped them bury her body in the woods near Rockerville, officials said.

Two weeks later, he hired Garland Brown and Michael Frye to help him dig up Rehfeld’s body from the shallow grave and bury her farther into the woods and deeper underground. Everyone but Hirth has pleaded guilty and been sentenced.
top

Alaska denied oil check benefits to gay couples, dependents

Headline Legal News 2021/04/17 18:57   Bookmark and Share
Alaska discriminated against some same-sex spouses for years in wrongfully denying them benefits by claiming their unions were not recognized even after courts struck down same-sex marriage bans, court documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

The agency that determines eligibility for the yearly oil wealth check paid to nearly all Alaska residents denied a dividend for same-sex spouses or dependents of military members stationed in other states for five years after a federal court invalidated Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2014, and the Supreme Court legalized the unions nationwide in June 2015, the documents show.

In one email from July 2019, a same-sex spouse living out-of-state with his military husband was denied a check because “unfortunately the state of Alaska doesn’t recognize same sex marriage yet,” employee Marissa Requa wrote to a colleague, ending the sentence with a frown face emoji.

This Permanent Fund Dividend Division practice continued until Denali Smith, who was denied benefits appealed and asked the state to start including her lawyer in its correspondence.

Smith later sued the state, seeking an order declaring that state officials violated the federal court decision and Smith’s constitutional rights to equal protection and due process

Smith and the state on Wednesday settled the lawsuit. Alaska admitted denying benefits to same-sex military spouses and dependents for five years in violation of the permanent injunction put in place by the 2014 U.S. District Court decision. The state also vowed to no longer use the outdated state law, to deny military spouses and dependents oil checks going forward, and updated enforcement regulations.

There were no financial terms to the settlement. In fact, Smith had to pay $400 out of pocket to file the federal lawsuit to get her oil check, and her attorney worked pro bono.

In Alaska, the oil wealth check is seen as an entitlement that people use to buy things like new TVs or snowmobiles, fund college savings accounts or, in rural Alaska, weather high heating and food costs. The nest-egg fund, seeded with oil money, has grown into billions of dollars. A portion traditionally goes toward the checks, but the amount varies. Last year, nearly every single resident received $992. The year before, the amount was $1,606.

About 800 pages of emails provided by the state for the lawsuit show a clear misunderstanding or outright disregard of the 2014 precedent and reluctance to reach out to the attorney general’s office for guidance.
top

Mississippi marijuana program hinges on initiative arguments

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/04/13 13:55   Bookmark and Share
The Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit that’s trying to block a voter-approved medical marijuana program by arguing that the the issue should not have been on the ballot.

Arguments were not about marijuana. Instead, they were about Mississippi’s initiative process.

Voters in November approved Initiative 65, which requires the state Health Department to establish a medical marijuana program by the middle of this year. The department is working to create a program, even as the legal fight continues.

To get Initiative 65 on the statewide ballot, organizers gathered signatures from the five congressional districts that Mississippi used during the 1990s. They did that based on legal advice issued years ago by the state attorney general’s office.

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed a lawsuit days before the election, contending that the state’s initiative process is outdated.

The Mississippi Constitution says petitioners must gather an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts. The state dropped from five congressional districts to four after the 2000 Census, but the constitution’s language about initiatives was not updated. Butler’s lawsuit argues that this creates a mathematical impossibility with four districts because the constitution still specifies that no more than one-fifth of the signatures may come from any single district.

In papers filed Dec. 28 and in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, state attorneys argued that Mississippi has two sets of congressional districts ? one set used for congressional elections and one set used for other purposes.

Attorneys for Butler argued that the only purpose of a congressional district is to have geographical boundaries for electing U.S. House members.

Butler opposed Initiative 65 because it limits a city’s ability to regulate the location of medical marijuana businesses.

The Health Department, the Mississippi Municipal League and some others filed briefs supporting Butler’s lawsuit. The Health Department argued that Initiative 65 seeks to transform the department “into something it is not,” even as the department is stretched because of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the legislative session that recently ended, the Senate tried to create rules for a state medical marijuana program, but the House defeated the effort. Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell of DeSoto County said the proposal was a backstop to have a program in place in case the Supreme Court agrees with Butler and invalidates Initiative 65. But supporters of Initiative 65 balked at the Senate’s proposal, saying they saw it as an attempt to usurp the will of the voters.
top

Husband of high court candidate begins prison sentence

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/04/08 14:47   Bookmark and Share
The husband of a Pennsylvania appellate court judge who is running for the state’s highest court began serving a prison sentence Tuesday in a long-running case, authorities said.

Charles McCullough’s incarceration comes as voters decide whether to back his wife in her bid for an open seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough is seeking the Republican nomination in May 18′s primary election against two fellow Republican judges.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court denied Charles McCullough’s latest appeals. He is currently representing himself.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office said McCullough reported as ordered Tuesday morning and was taken into custody to begin serving a state sentence of 2-1/2 to 5 years in prison.

The 66-year-old McCullough, a former Allegheny County councilman, was convicted of theft and misappropriation of funds in 2015 for using his power of attorney to take $50,000 from the trust fund of an elderly woman.

He spent the money in 2006 and 2007, using $40,000 for campaign contributions and sending the other $10,000 to a charity, according to court records.

McCullough was charged in 2009. He had argued at his trial that he had the widow’s approval to use the money and had remained free on appeal since his sentencing.

top









Disclaimer: Nothing posted on this blog is intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. Blog postings and hosted comments are available for general educational purposes only and should not be used to assess a specific legal situation. Nothing submitted as a comment is confidential. Nor does any comment on a blog post create an attorney-client relationship. The presence of hyperlinks to other third-party websites does not imply that the firm endorses those websites.

Web Design For Small Law Firms