Missouri Supreme Court rejects request to stop execution

Legal Business 2017/08/16 08:38   Bookmark and Share
The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a motion from attorneys seeking to halt the execution of a man scheduled to die next week but did not explain its decision.

Attorneys for Marcellus Williams had asked the state Supreme Court and Gov. Eric Greitens to stop the punishment, citing DNA evidence that they say exonerates him. Williams, 48, is scheduled to die by injection Aug. 22 for fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle in 1998 during a robbery at her University City home.

In a filing to the Missouri Supreme Court and a clemency request to the Republican governor, Williams' attorneys said testing conducted in December using techniques that were not available at the time of the killing shows DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man, but not Williams.

"That means in our mind the actual killer is not him," one of Williams' lawyers, Kent Gipson, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday ahead of the court's decision. "It certainly would give most reasonable people pause to say, 'Should you be executing somebody when you've got reasonable evidence suggesting another man did it?'"

After the ruling, Gipson told St. Louis Public Radio that he was surprised by the quick decision and planned to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Certainly something involving a claim of innocence that is this substantial, you would think they would at least write an opinion or at least a short opinion giving the reasons why they denied it," Gipson said, "because that makes it more difficult to take it up to a higher court because they don't know exactly on what basis the ruling was made."

Loree Anne Paradise, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley, said the office remains confident that Williams is guilty based on other evidence in the case. Greitens' spokesman, Parker Briden, declined comment, saying only that the claim will need further review.

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Academic accused in Chicago killing due in California court

Legal Business 2017/08/08 08:44   Bookmark and Share
A Northwestern University microbiologist suspected in the stabbing death of a 26-year-old Chicago man is due in a California courtroom.

Wyndham Lathem and Oxford University financial officer, Andrew Warren, were sought in a cross-country chase on first-degree murder charges in the death of Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau. His body was found July 27 in an apartment near downtown Chicago.

Lathem and Warren were fugitives for more than a week before separately turning themselves in to California authorities. They have yet to be charged.

The 42-year-old Lathem is being held without bail in Alameda County. His court appearance is Monday in the city of Pleasanton.

Attorney Barry Sheppard says he expects Lathem to waive extradition. He also urged the public to wait until all the facts are released before making judgments.

Mental health court established for offenders on probation

A specialized court has been established in Pinal County to give defendants with mental problems an alternative path and keep them out of the criminal justice system.

Presiding Judge Stephen McCarville signed an administrative order last month calling for the establishment of Mental Health Treatment Court. It’s a therapeutic, post-sentence court for defendants placed on supervised probation.

People screened with a mental illness are referred to the court by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office or the county’s probation department. Then the court’s staff reviews the defendant’s case to determine whether the person’s situation is appropriate for the program, the Casa Grande Dispatch reported.

The offender undergoes outpatient treatment at a mental health facility while checking in with the court on a weekly basis. If defendants don’t follow the terms of the treatment, then they’re subject to having their probation revoked.

The goal is to keep people with mental disabilities out of the criminal justice system, Pinal County Superior Court Administrator Todd Zweig said. The number of probationers with mental health conditions has been increasing in the county, he added, prompting the need for this type of service.
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North Carolina Court to Rule on Law on Gov's Elections Role

Legal Business 2017/07/19 22:47   Bookmark and Share
North Carolina's highest court is speeding up a final decision on whether Republican legislators could strip down the election oversight powers of the state's new Democratic governor.

The state Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up Gov. Roy Cooper's lawsuit against state legislative leaders. The decision bypasses an intermediate appeals court and schedules a Supreme Court hearing on Aug. 28.

GOP lawmakers have sought to dilute Cooper's powers since he narrowly beat incumbent GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last year.

The contested law takes away Cooper's ability to appoint a majority of the state elections board and make every county's elections board a Democratic majority. The law would make a Republican head of the decision-making state board in presidential election years when most people vote and ballot disputes are hottest.
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Court: Ohio E-School Can't Delay Repayment of $60M to State

Legal Business 2017/06/07 15:56   Bookmark and Share
ECOT's reported enrollment of 15,000 Ohio students makes it one of the largest online charter schools in the U.S.

Democrats jumped on the court's decision to pile criticism on the school, which has struggled for years against attacks on its enrollment practices and student performance ratings.

"This sham, unaccountable school is a clear waste of taxpayer money and needs to be shut down," said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Betty Sutton. "The main thing that they seem to do well is shower Republican candidates and committees with political donations instead of educating children. Unfortunately, it is a symptom of a much larger disease facing Ohio's education system."

ECOT spokesman Neil Clark said the school didn't get a fair shake in court. He took particular aim at one of the three deciding judges, Gary Tyack, as being biased against the school, online learning and school choice.

"Today, Judge Tyack confirmed that he would put his agenda before the law," Clark said in a statement. "He is desperate to destroy ECOT and is unwilling to even wait for the judicial system to play out before advancing his vendetta."

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor rebuked Tyack after oral arguments were held in the case before the state's high court. She wrote that his comments against the school, its founder and online education were derogatory, extrajudicial, unnecessary and unacceptable.

The school's efforts to revisit the issue of Tyack's impartiality came as it braced for Monday's important school board vote, which comes amid the long-running legal dispute over what attendance-tracking practices should be used to determine state funding.

A state hearing officer ruled against the school in its appeal of the state Education Department's determination that the school owes $64 million for enrollment that can't be justified due to lack of documentation.

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In one state, abused animals get a legal voice in court

Legal Business 2017/06/02 10:37   Bookmark and Share
Many states have victim's advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched across the nation for signs of success.

There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut — seven lawyers and a UConn law professor, working with her students. It's up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases.

"Every state has the problem of overburdened courts that understandably prioritize human cases over animal cases in allocating resources," said University of Connecticut professor Jessica Rubin, a specialist in animal law. "Here's a way to help."

The American Kennel Club, though, opposed the legislation, saying it could result in confusion over who is responsible for an animal and limit the rights of animal owners, including in cases in which someone else is charged with the abuse.

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8 judges on Venezuela's Supreme Court hit with US sanctions

Legal Business 2017/05/22 00:15   Bookmark and Share
The U.S. imposed a new round of sanctions on high-level Venezuelan officials, this time targeting eight Supreme Court judges that Washington accused of damaging their nation's democracy by steadily stripping the opposition-controlled congress of any authority.

The executive order issued Thursday marked the second time the U.S. has sanctioned leaders of Venezuela's socialist government since Donald Trump became president this year. In February, the U.S. announced it was freezing the assets of Vice President Tareck El Aissami, accusing him of playing a major role in international drug trafficking.

Those blacklisted under the latest decree include Maikel Moreno, the president of the government-packed Supreme Court, as well as all seven justices who signed a ruling in late March nullifying congress. The ruling was later partially reversed amid a surge of international criticism, but it sparked a protest movement that has seen almost daily street demonstrations for nearly two months — sometimes violent unrest that recorded its 45th death Thursday.

"By imposing these targeted sanctions, the United States is supporting the Venezuelan people in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance in their country," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez decried the U.S. sanctions on Twitter as "outrageous and unacceptable." She said the order was one more example of U.S. attempts to destabilize Venezuela's government, adding that Maduro strongly backs the Supreme Court magistrates who are "victims of U.S. imperial power."

Trump's administration has repeatedly raised concerns that Maduro is moving toward one-party, authoritarian rule. Earlier Thursday, the U.S. leader expressed dismay about Venezuela's troubles, asking aloud how a nation holding the world's largest oil reserves could be stricken by so much poverty and turmoil.
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