Mom sentenced in Australian court for drowning 3 children

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/06/02 10:38   Bookmark and Share
A mother who drowned three of her children and attempted to kill a fourth by driving the family car into an Australian lake was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years and six months in prison.

Akon Guode, 37, drove a SUV carrying four of her seven children into the lake in Melbourne in April 2015. Her 5-year-old daughter Alual survived after passersby pulled her from the partially submerged car.

But Guodes' 16-month-old son Bol and 4-year-old twins, Hanger and her brother Madit, died.

Victoria state Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry said he would have sentenced Goude to life in prison if she had not pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder.

"People don't understand why you did what you did," the judge said. "In my opinion, your actions were the product of extreme desperation," he added.

Goude wept and wailed through her sentencing hearing as the judge outlined her crimes and her troubled life that led to it.

Born one of 16 children in 1979, she fled Sudan's civil war in which her husband died and arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2006.

The judge set a non-parole period of 20 years and said she will likely be deported on release. Her hometown, the city of Wau, is now in South Sudan, which became an independent country in 2011. It's not clear to which country she will be deported.
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Danish teenager found guilty of terrorism, sentence pending

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/05/18 00:16   Bookmark and Share

A Danish court on Tuesday convicted a teenage girl of attempted terrorism for planning bomb attacks against two schools.

Holbaek District Court judge Peder Christensen says the 17-year-old, who wasn't identified, was also convicted of assaulting an employee in the juvenile incarceration facility where she had been held during the trial.

Christensen said the girl had converted to Islam and intended to carry out attacks, including one on a Jewish school, when she was 15. He said she possessed chemicals to make the explosive known as TATP. It also appeared she had online contacts with radical militants.

The teenager was arrested Jan. 13, 2016. The court said the bombings were not carried out because she was arrested before she could take action, and that she had not received any orders to blow up her former school, Holbaek, 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Copenhagen, and Copenhagen's Jewish Caroline School.

Her lawyer, Mette Gritt Stage, had said her client had been bullied at school and is a confused teenager seeking attention.

After the guilty ruling, Stage said her client "was very, very saddened."

Three letters were found in her cell in late April and read in court. In one, the teenager wrote that she deliberately didn't wear a headscarf "to fool the disbelievers" to think she had not converted to Islam.

In another letter to a Danish-Turkish man who had been sentenced to six years in prison and had his Danish citizenship stripped off for joining radical Islamic State militants in Syria, she wrote that she stabbed the employee in the incarceration facility because he had been a soldier in Iraq, adding "I couldn't accept this."

The court is expected to announce sentencing on Thursday. Prosecutors are requesting her incarceration at a mental institution.
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Appeal in boy's burp arrest case relies on Gorsuch dissent

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/05/13 21:36   Bookmark and Share
One of Neil Gorsuch's sharpest dissents as an appeals court judge came just six months before he was nominated for the Supreme Court.

That's when he sided with a New Mexico seventh-grader who was handcuffed and arrested after his teacher said the student had disrupted gym class with fake burps.

Nearly a year later, Gorsuch sits on the nation's higher court and the boy's mother is asking the justices to take up her appeal. She's using Gorsuch's words to argue that she has a right to sue the officer who arrested her son.

The court could act as early as Monday, either to deny the case or take more time to decide.

Justices typically withdraw from cases they heard before joining the Supreme Court, which means Gorsuch probably would not have any role in considering this one. But that hasn't stopped lawyers for the mother from featuring his stinging dissent prominently in legal papers. Gorsuch said arresting a "class clown" for burping was going "a step too far."

"If a seventh-grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what's a teacher to do?" Gorsuch wrote. "Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal's office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that's too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen-year-old to the principal's office, an arrest would be a better idea."

Whether the Supreme Court ultimately takes the case or not may have nothing to do with Gorsuch. The justices have repeatedly turned away disputes over school disciplinary policies. Or they may decide it's not important enough for the court to intervene.

The appeal comes as some school districts have been rolling back "zero tolerance" discipline policies that expanded in the 1990s. The shift is aimed at preventing students from getting caught up in the criminal justice system.
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Judge rejects effort to block Confederate statue's removal

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/05/12 21:36   Bookmark and Share
A last-ditch effort to block the removal of a monument to a Confederate general in New Orleans was rejected Wednesday by a Louisiana judge who turned away arguments that the city doesn't own the statue or the land on which it sits.

"This has gone on an inordinate amount of time," Judge Kern Reese said as he outlined reasons for his refusal to grant an injunction protecting the statue of Gen. P.G.T Beauregard. It was a reference to state and federal court battles that delayed removal of the Beauregard monument and three others for more than a year.

The huge bronze image of Beauregard on horseback sits in the center of a traffic circle at the entrance to New Orleans City Park. Those who don't want it removed argued that it belongs to a park board and, therefore, the city has no authority to remove it.

Reese's rejection of an injunction means the city can remove the statue pending further proceedings in his court. Richard Marksbury, a New Orleans resident and monument supporter, said he may go to an appeal court to block removal.

The Beauregard statue, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and one of Confederate President Jefferson Davis are slated for removal. A fourth structure, the Liberty Place monument, was removed late last month. It honored whites who battled a biracial Reconstruction-era government in New Orleans.

The Liberty Place monument was taken down without advance notice in the dead of night by workers in masks and body armor. City officials have been secretive about removal plans due to threats of violence against those tasked with taking down the structures.

In Reese's court, Franklin Jones, an attorney for Marksbury, cited documents asserting that the independent, state-supervised board that oversees City Park owns the Beauregard statue and the tract of land on which it sits. Adam Swensek, an assistant city attorney, noted court precedents holding otherwise and said delays in removing the monuments only prolong a controversy that has resulted in tense confrontations between pro- and anti-monument groups at monument sites.

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Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman returns to court in drug case

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/05/05 16:45   Bookmark and Share
Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is returning to a Brooklyn courtroom Friday, a day after a judge rejected his request to be allowed in the general inmate population.

The 59-year-old defendant famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico lost his bid Thursday to relax the terms of his confinement at a lower Manhattan lockup when U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan concluded that solitary confinement was appropriate.

Cogan said the U.S. government had good justifications for applying tough jail conditions on a man who escaped twice, including once through a mile-long tunnel stretching from the shower in his cell. But Cogan relaxed the restrictions known as Special Administrative Measures enough for Guzman to communicate with his wife through written questions and answers.

His lawyers said in a statement that it was "devastating" for Guzman and his wife that they will not be allowed jail visits.

Guzman was brought to the U.S. in January to face charges that he oversaw a multi-billion dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings. He has pleaded not guilty.
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Trump repeats criticism of court that halted 1st travel ban

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/04/28 08:39   Bookmark and Share
President Donald Trump is once again taking aim at a federal appeals court district that covers Western states, saying he is considering breaking up a circuit that is a longtime target of Republicans and is where his first travel ban was halted.

Yet it would take congressional action to break up the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans have introduced bills this year to do just that.

Asked Wednesday during a White House interview by the Washington Examiner if he'd thought about proposals to break up the court, Trump replied, "Absolutely, I have."

"There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It's outrageous," he told the Examiner. He accused critics of appealing to the 9th district "because they know that's like, semi-automatic."

The comments echoed his Twitter criticism of the court Wednesday morning.

Trump called U.S. District Judge William Orrick's preliminary injunction against his order stripping money from so-called sanctuary cities "ridiculous" on Twitter. He said he planned to take that case to the Supreme Court. However, an administration appeal of the district court's decision must go first to the 9th Circuit.

Republicans have talked for years about splitting the circuit into two appellate courts, but earlier legislative proposals have failed, most recently in 2005. Those battles have often pitted lawmakers from California against members from smaller, more conservative states.

Critics say the court has a liberal slant, a high caseload and distances that are too far for judges to travel. The circuit is the largest of the federal appellate courts, representing 20 percent of the U.S. population. It includes California, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The circuit has 29 judges, many more than the 5th, which is the next largest circuit with 17 judges. It was created in 1891 when the American West was much less populated.

Democrats have opposed the split. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was a leading opponent in the 2005 push, which she said was politically motivated. She has suggested adding judges to the court instead.

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