Iran faces US in international court over asset seizure

Court News 2022/09/19 14:33   Bookmark and Share
Iran told the United Nations’ highest court on Monday that Washington’s confiscation of some $2 billion in assets from Iranian state bank accounts to compensate bombing victims was an attempt to destabilize the Iranian government and a violation of international law.

In 2016, Tehran filed a suit at the International Court of Justice after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled money held in Iran’s central bank could be used to compensate the 241 victims of a 1983 bombing of a U.S. military base in Lebanon believed linked to Iran.

Hearings in the case opened Monday in the Hague-based court, starting with Iran’s arguments. The proceedings will continue with opening statements by Washington on Wednesday.

At stake are $1.75 billion in bonds, plus accumulated interest, belonging to the Iranian state but held in a Citibank account in New York.

In 1983, a suicide bomber in a truck loaded with military-grade explosives attacked U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American troops and 58 French soldiers.

While Iran long has denied being involved, a U.S. District Court judge found Tehran responsible in 2003. That ruling said Iran’s ambassador to Syria at the time called “a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and instructed him to instigate the Marine barracks bombing.”

The international court ruled it had jurisdiction to hear the case in 2019, rejecting an argument from the U.S. that its national security interests superseded the 1955 Treaty of Amity, which promised friendship and cooperation between the two countries.
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Judge rules teen was justified in shooting assailant 7 times

Court News 2022/08/23 09:35   Bookmark and Share
A Georgia judge has dismissed a murder charge against a teen after concluding that he was legally justified in shooting a man seven times in 2021 because the man was trying to kidnap him.

The Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus reports that Muscogee County Superior Court Judge John Martin dismissed charges Wednesday against the unnamed teen at the behest of prosecutors who concluded from witnesses and video footage that the boy had a right to defend himself to stop a forcible felony under Georgia’s “stand your ground” law.

The boy, then 16, shot and killed Iverson Gilyard in August 2021 at a Columbus park. The newspaper withheld the boy’s name because he was a juvenile and has now been cleared of charges.

The boy was indicted as an adult in February for murder, aggravated assault, and possessing a gun while committing a felony. But prosecutors later concluded that Gilyard was the primary aggressor, entering the park and hitting the boy over the head with a handgun three times as the boy tried to get away.

Assistant District Attorney Robin Anthony said Gilyard, 22, also threatened to shoot the teen, saying “I’m going to bust you in the kidney.” When parents at the park complained, Anthony said Gilyard told the teen to follow him, stuck the gun in his waistband, and said, “You’d better not run, either.” Anthony said when Gilyard turned to walk away, the teen took a gun from his backpack and shot Gilyard. The 22-year-old was shot seven times, four times in the back, his family has said.
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Court reinstates ban on lobster gear to protect right whales

Court News 2022/07/13 10:49   Bookmark and Share
A federal circuit court has reinstated a ban on lobster fishing gear in a nearly 1,000-square-mile area off New England to try to protect endangered whales.

The National Marine Fisheries Service issued new regulations last year that prohibited lobster fishing with vertical buoy lines in part of the fall and winter in the area, which is in federal waters off Maine’s coast. The ruling was intended to prevent North Atlantic right whales, which number less than 340, from becoming entangled in the lines.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine issued a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the rules. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston vacated that ruling Tuesday.

The circuit court sent the case back to the district court level, but noted in its ruling that it does not think the lobster fishing groups that sued to stop the regulations are likely to succeed because Congress has clearly instructed the fisheries service to protect the whales.

“Although this does not mean the balance will always come out on the side of an endangered marine mammal, it does leave plaintiffs beating against the tide, with no more success than they had before,” the court ruled.

The ruling was the second by a federal court in favor of right whale protection in the past week. A U.S. District judge ruled last week that the federal government hasn’t done enough to protect the whales from entanglement in lobster fishing gear, which can be lethal, and new rules are needed to protect the species from extinction.
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Court reinstates ban on lobster gear to protect right whales

Court News 2022/07/13 10:48   Bookmark and Share
A federal circuit court has reinstated a ban on lobster fishing gear in a nearly 1,000-square-mile area off New England to try to protect endangered whales.

The National Marine Fisheries Service issued new regulations last year that prohibited lobster fishing with vertical buoy lines in part of the fall and winter in the area, which is in federal waters off Maine’s coast. The ruling was intended to prevent North Atlantic right whales, which number less than 340, from becoming entangled in the lines.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine issued a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the rules. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston vacated that ruling Tuesday.

The circuit court sent the case back to the district court level, but noted in its ruling that it does not think the lobster fishing groups that sued to stop the regulations are likely to succeed because Congress has clearly instructed the fisheries service to protect the whales.

“Although this does not mean the balance will always come out on the side of an endangered marine mammal, it does leave plaintiffs beating against the tide, with no more success than they had before,” the court ruled.

The ruling was the second by a federal court in favor of right whale protection in the past week. A U.S. District judge ruled last week that the federal government hasn’t done enough to protect the whales from entanglement in lobster fishing gear, which can be lethal, and new rules are needed to protect the species from extinction.
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Supreme Court rules against Navajo Nation member

Court News 2022/06/13 18:08   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Native Americans prosecuted in certain tribal courts can also be prosecuted based on the same incident in federal court, which can result in longer sentences.

The 6-3 ruling is in keeping with an earlier ruling from the 1970s that said the same about a more widely used type of tribal court.

The case before the justices involved a Navajo Nation member, Merle Denezpi, accused of rape. He served nearly five months in jail after being charged with assault and battery in what is called a Court of Indian Offenses, a court that deals exclusively with alleged Native American offenders.

Under federal law Courts of Indian Offenses can only impose sentences of generally up to a year. The man was later prosecuted in federal court and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He said the Constitution’s “Double Jeopardy” clause should have barred the second prosecution.

But the justices disagreed.

“Denezpi’s single act led to separate prosecutions for violations of a tribal ordinance and a federal statute. Because the Tribe and the Federal Government are distinct sovereigns, those” offenses are not the same, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for a majority of the court. “Denezpi’s second prosecution therefore did not offend the Double Jeopardy Clause.”

The Biden administration had argued for that result as had several states, which said barring federal prosecutions in similar cases could allow defendants to escape harsh sentences.

The case before the justices involves a tribal court system that has become increasingly rare over the last century. Courts of Indian Offenses were created in the late 1800s during a period when the federal government’s policy toward Native Americans was to encourage assimilation. Prosecutors are federal officers answerable to federal authorities, not tribal authorities.

Federal policy toward Native Americans shifted in the mid-1930s, however, to emphasize a greater respect for tribes’ native ways. As part of that, the government has encouraged tribes to create their own tribal courts, and the number of Courts of Indian Offenses has steadily decreased. Today there are five regional Courts of Indian Offenses that serve 16 tribes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. They are generally tribes with a small number of members or limited resources. Nationwide there are more than 570 federally recognized tribes.

The court said in 1978 that the Double Jeopardy clause did not bar the federal government from prosecuting a Native person in federal court after a tribal court prosecution, so the only question for the court this time was whether the rule should be different for Courts of Indian Offenses.

In July 2017, Denezpi traveled with a female member of the Navajo Nation to Towaoc, Colorado, which is a part of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. While there, Denezpi raped the woman.

Denezpi was first charged in a Court of Indian Offenses with assault and battery, among other things. He eventually agreed to a so-called Alford plea in the case, not admitting guilt but acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence that he would likely be convicted at trial. He was sentenced to time served, 140 days in jail. His prosecution in federal court followed.
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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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