Groups sue seeking court oversight of Chicago police reforms

Headline Legal News 2017/06/14 09:23   Bookmark and Share
Several leading community groups filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Chicago Wednesday in a bid to bypass or even scuttle a draft agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice that seeks to reform the nation's second largest police force without federal court oversight.

The more than 100-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago argues that an overhaul of Chicago's 12,000-officer force in the wake of a damning civil rights report in January can't work without the intense scrutiny of a court-appointed monitor answerable to a judge.

"Absent federal court supervision, nothing will improve," the lawsuit says. "It is clear that federal court intervention is essential to end the historical and on-going pattern and practice of excessive force by police officers in Chicago."

While President Donald Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has expressed skepticism about court involvement, President Barack Obama's administration saw it as vital to successful reforms. Obama's Justice Department typically took a city reform plan to a judge to make it legally binding in the form of a consent decree.

Wednesday's lawsuit — which names Black Lives Matters Chicago among the plaintiffs — asks for a federal court to intervene and order sweeping reforms to end the "abusive policies and practices undergirding the alleged constitutional and state law violations."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration said earlier this month that a draft deal negotiated by the city and the Justice Department — one that foresees a monitor not selected by a court — is being reviewed in Washington. Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malle cautioned last week that "there is no agreement at this time."

A lead attorney in the new lawsuit, Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor and outspoken advocate for far-reaching police reforms, said in a telephone interview that reports about the draft influenced the decision to sue now.
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Doctor arrested at Trump hotel on gun charges due in court

Headline Legal News 2017/06/01 10:38   Bookmark and Share
The tip received by police was vague, but potentially dire: a Pennsylvania physician was on his way to the nation's capital with a carload of weapons, planning to visit the president.

As a result, Bryan Moles, 43, of Edinboro, Pennsylvania, was arrested on weapons charges after checking in to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, a few blocks from the White House.

He is expected to make an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon.

While the Secret Service interviewed Moles and determined he posed no threat to the president or anyone else they protect, D.C.'s police chief said the tip averted a potential disaster.

"I was very concerned about this circumstance," Chief Peter Newsham said. When people come to the District "armed with those types of weapons, it's a serious concern. ... He doesn't have a really good reason for being here."

Moles was charged with carrying a pistol without a license and having unregistered ammunition. A police report said authorities seized a Glock 23 pistol, a Bushmaster assault-style rifle and 90 rounds of ammunition from Moles' vehicle.

Newsham added that the department does not presently have enough evidence to charge Moles with making threats.

Newsham declined to comment on what may have motivated Moles. He said he did not have a license to carry firearms in the District, which has strict gun laws. He did not know whether he was licensed to carry in Pennsylvania.
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Court: Russian hacker can be extradited to US or Russia

Headline Legal News 2017/05/27 10:38   Bookmark and Share
A Czech court ruled Tuesday that a Russian man who faces charges of hacking computers at American companies can be extradited either to the United States or Russia — and the suspect immediately appealed his possible extradition to the United States.

Czech authorities arrested Yevgeniy Nikulin in Prague on Oct. 5 in cooperation with the FBI after Interpol issued an international warrant. He is accused of hacking computers and stealing information from LinkedIn, Dropbox and other companies.

Moscow also wants him extradited on a separate charge of internet theft in 2009. Russian officials had previously said they were working to prevent his extradition to the U.S.

Judge Jaroslav Pytloun ruled Tuesday that the extradition requests from both countries meet all the necessary legal conditions.

The 29-year-old has denied wrongdoing.

"I'm innocent," Nikulin said through a translator at the hearing Tuesday. "I haven't done anything illegal. I have nothing to do with that."

Nikulin appealed his extradition to the United States. He has three days to decide if he will agree to being extradited to Russia.

Justice Minister Robert Pelikan will have the final say on where Nikulin goes after Prague's High Court decides on his appeal.

Nikulin's defense lawyers have rejected the U.S. charges, saying they are based on one FBI agent, and suggested the U.S. was seeking him for political reasons — to use him as a pawn in the investigation into alleged Russian hacking in the U.S. election.

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4th Arkansas inmate executed in 8 days lurches on gurney

Headline Legal News 2017/05/01 08:38   Bookmark and Share
Arkansas executed its fourth inmate in eight days Thursday night, wrapping up an accelerated schedule with a lethal injection that left the prisoner lurching and convulsing 20 times before he died.

Kenneth Williams, 38, was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m., 13 minutes after the execution began at the Cummins Unit prison at Varner.

Arkansas had scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period before one of its lethal injection drugs expires on Sunday. That would have been the most in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, but courts issued stays for four of the inmates.

The four lethal injections that were carried out included Monday's first double execution in the United States since 2000.

"I extend my sincerest of apologies to the families I have senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones," Williams said in a final statement he read from the death chamber. "... I was more than wrong. The crimes I perpetrated against you all was senseless, extremely hurtful and inexcusable."

Williams also spoke in tongues, the unintelligible but language-like speech used in some religions. But his prayer faded off as the sedative midazolam took effect. His final words were, "The words that I speak will forever be, will forever ..." before he fell silent.

The inmate breathed heavily through his nose until just after three minutes into his execution, when his chest leaped forward in a series of what seemed like involuntary movements. His right hand never clenched and his face remained what one media witness called "serene."

After the jerking, Williams breathed through his mouth and moaned or groaned once — during a consciousness check — until falling still seven minutes into the lethal injection.

Williams was sentenced to death for killing a former deputy warden, Cecil Boren, after he escaped from prison in 1999. At the time of his escape in a 500-gallon barrel of hog slop, Williams was less than three weeks into a life term for the death of a college cheerleader.
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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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Newest justice joins high court amid competing caricatures

Headline Legal News 2017/04/11 09:04   Bookmark and Share
Somewhere between the Republican caricature of the next justice of the Supreme Court as a folksy family guy and the Democrats' demonization of him as a cold-hearted automaton, stands Neil Gorsuch.

Largely unknown six months ago, Gorsuch has seen his life story, personality and professional career explored in excruciating detail since he was nominated by President Donald Trump 10 weeks ago.

The portrait that emerges is more nuanced than the extremes drawn by his supporters and critics.

Gorsuch is widely regarded as a warm and collegial family man, boss and jurist, loyal to his employees and kind to those of differing viewpoints. He also has been shown to be a judge who takes such a "rigidly neutral" approach to the law that it can lead to dispassionate rulings with sometimes brutal results.

Four times during his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch invoked a "breakfast table" analogy, telling senators that good judges set aside what they have to eat — and their personal views — before they leave the house in the morning to apply the law and nothing else to the facts of the cases at hand. It was all part of Gorsuch's artful effort to reveal as little as possible of his own opinions.

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