Italy frees man convicted of 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/11/28 14:55   Bookmark and Share
The only person convicted in the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher was freed Tuesday after serving most of his 16-year prison sentence, his lawyer said.

Attorney Fabrizio Ballarini said Rudy Guede’s planned Jan. 4 release had been moved up a few weeks by a judge and he was freed on Tuesday. He will continue to work in the library at the Viterbo-based Center for Criminology Studies, Ballarini said in an email.

Guede had already been granted permission to leave prison during the day to work at the center while he served his sentence for the 2007 murder of 21-year-old Kercher.

The case in the university city of Perugia gained international notoriety after Kercher’s American roommate, Amanda Knox, and Knox’s then-boyfriend were placed under suspicion. Both were initially convicted, but Italy’s highest court threw out the convictions in 2015 after a series of flip-flop decisions.

Guede was originally convicted in a fast-track trial procedure. He has denied killing Kercher.
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Tunisian trial shines light on use of military courts

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/11/24 15:27   Bookmark and Share
A few days after Tunisia’s president froze parliament and took on sweeping powers in July, a dozen men in unmarked vehicles and civilian clothes barged into politician Yassine Ayari’s family home overnight and took him away in his pajamas.

“These men weren’t wearing uniforms and they didn’t have a warrant,” Ayari told The Associated Press. “It was violent. My 4-year-old son still has nightmares about it.”

A 40-year-old computer engineer-turned-corruption fighter, Ayari will stand trial again in a military court on Monday, accused of insulting the presidency and defaming the army. It is the latest in a series of trials that shine a light on Tunisia’s use of military courts to push through convictions against civilians. Rights groups say the practice has accelerated since President Kais Saied’s seizure of power in July, and warn that its use further threatens hard-won freedoms amid Tunisia’s democratic backsliding.

The charges Ayari faces relate to Facebook posts in which he criticized Saied, calling him a “pharaoh” and his measures a “military coup.” Ayari intends to remain silent in court to protest the whole judicial process, according to his lawyer, Malek Ben Amor.

Amnesty International is warning of an “alarming increase” in Tunisian military courts targeting civilians: In the past three months, it says, 10 civilians have been investigated or prosecuted by military tribunals, while four civilians are facing trial for criticizing the president.

That’s especially worrying because Tunisia was long considered the only democratic success story to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings a decade ago, and was long seen as a model for the region.
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International Criminal Court to probe abuses in Venezuela

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/11/08 14:52   Bookmark and Share
The International Criminal Court is opening a formal investigation into allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings committed by Venezuelan security forces under President Nicolás Maduro’s rule, the first time a country in Latin America is facing scrutiny for possible crimes against humanity from the court.

The opening of the probe was announced Wednesday by ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan at the end of a three-day trip to Caracas.

Standing alongside Maduro, Khan said he was aware of the political “fault lines” and “geopolitical divisions” that exist in Venezuela. But he said his job was to uphold the principles of legality and the rule of law, not settle scores.

“I ask everybody now, as we move forward to this new stage, to give my office the space to do its work,” he said. “I will take a dim view of any efforts to politicize the independent work of my office.”

While Khan didn’t outline the scope of the ICC’s investigation, it follows a lengthy preliminary probe started in February 2018 — later backed by Canada and five Latin American governments opposed to Maduro — that focused on allegations of excessive force, arbitrary detention and torture by security forces during a crackdown on antigovernment protests in 2017.

Human rights groups and the U.S.-backed opposition immediately celebrated the decision. Since its creation two decades ago, the ICC has mostly focused on atrocities committed in Africa.

“This is a turning point,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch. “Not only does it provide hope to the many victims of Maduro’s government but it also is a reality check that Maduro himself could be held accountable for crimes committed by his security forces and others with total impunity in the name of the Bolivarian revolution.”

It could be years before any criminal charges are presented as part of the ICC’s investigation.

Maduro said he disagreed with Khan’s criteria in choosing to open the probe. But he expressed optimism that a three-page “letter of understanding” he signed with the prosecutor that would allow Venezuelan authorities to carry out their own proceedings in search of justice, something allowed under the Rome statute that created the ICC.
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Video: Officer shoots Illinois inmate after struggle for gun

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/11/01 10:54   Bookmark and Share

Illinois State Police have released video footage showing a tense scene involving an inmate’s attack on a correctional officer at a courthouse and another officer firing his weapon at the inmate and injuring him.

Authorities said 55-year-old Fredrick Goss was at the Jefferson County Courthouse earlier this month for a trial. He was uncuffed while being transported in a wheelchair to trial where he was to be unrestrained.

Footage of the incident, released Friday on an Illinois State Police Facebook page, appeared to show Goss grabbing an officer’s gun and struggling with him before a deputy stepped in and shot Goss, who was hospitalized.

Police did not release further details about his injuries.

The correctional officer had minor injuries while the deputy wasn’t hurt, according to state police.

“To protect the life of the correctional officer and himself, the deputy confronted the armed inmate and was forced to fire his weapon,” police said in a news release. “The inmate was injured by the gunfire. Immediate assistance was requested.”

Goss was facing trial for an armed robbery and exchanging gunfire with police.

A message left Sunday for Matt Vaughn, a public defender in Jefferson County who has represented Goss, wasn’t immediately returned.

Online court records show the case is scheduled for a Nov. 30 status hearing.
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Appellate court sets hearing in South Carolina abortion case

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/10/11 15:29   Bookmark and Share
An appellate court is set to debate a lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s abortion law about a week after the U.S. Supreme Court considers a similar measure in Mississippi.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has tentatively calendared the South Carolina case for oral arguments the week of Dec. 6, according to an order from the court posted Friday.

Planned Parenthood is suing South Carolina to over the measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this year and requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a so-called “fetal heartbeat.” If cardiac activity — which can typically be detected about six weeks into pregnancy — is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.

Opponents have argued many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. And, they argue, with such an early deadline, the law gives women little time to consider whether to have an abortion.

Medical experts say the cardiac activity is not an actual heartbeat but rather an initial flutter of electric activity within cells in an embryo. They say the heart doesn’t begin to form until the fetus is at least nine weeks old, and they decry efforts to promote abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.

A judge has blocked South Carolina’s law from going into effect pending the outcome of a challenge to Mississippi’s new abortion law, which the U.S. Supreme Court expects to hear Dec. 1.

Mississippi wants the high court to uphold its ban on most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, telling the court it should overrule the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion and the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that prevents states from banning abortion before viability.
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Arkansas court: State can’t enforce ban on mask mandates

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/10/01 13:08   Bookmark and Share
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday said it wouldn’t allow the state to enforce its ban on mask mandates by schools and other government bodies, while lawmakers clashed over efforts to prohibit businesses from requiring employees get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a one-page order, justices denied the request by the state to stay the August decision blocking enforcement of Arkansas’ mandate ban.

More than 100 school districts and charter schools have approved mask requirements since the ruling against the law. The requirements cover more than half the state’s public school students.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the law but later said he regretted that decision, had separately asked the court to deny the request to stay the ruling.

“I am gratified with the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling allowing the decision of Judge Fox to stand,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “Judge Fox determined the law was unconstitutional and allowed local school districts to make their own decisions on masks.”

Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she was disappointed with the ruling.

“I will wholeheartedly defend Arkansas law as this appeal progresses,” she said in a statement.

The ruling came the same day the majority-Republican Senate voted to send eight bills limiting or prohibiting employer vaccine mandates back to a committee following complaints that they were rushed through a day earlier without public comment.
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