NC high court reviews death penalty of man who beheaded wife

Legal Insight 2017/09/29 19:06   Bookmark and Share
North Carolina's highest court is reviewing whether justice means the death penalty for a survivor of El Salvador's blood-soaked civil war of the 1980s who strangled and then decapitated his estranged wife.

The state's Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday on whether the state can execute 41-year-old Juan Carlos Rodriguez of Winston-Salem for the 2010 murder of his wife, Maria. The high court automatically reviews death cases.

North Carolina is rare among southern states in that it hasn't had an execution in more than a decade because of various legal challenges. While the state has continued to suffer 500 to 600 murders a year, prosecutors have sought the death penalty only a handful of times each year and juries have condemned killers in only a fraction of those cases.

Rodriguez's children told investigators their father beat and bloodied Maria Rodriguez after she told them she was leaving in November 2010. He tossed the woman's still-breathing body over his shoulder, placed her in his vehicle, and said he was taking her to a hospital. Maria's body and severed head were found at different locations three weeks later, after Juan was already jailed for her kidnapping.

Justices are holding hearings in the case for the second time in almost exactly a year. Monday's hearing comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this spring that states needed to use current medical standards in deciding whether a killer is so mentally disabled he can't be executed. The U.S. constitution bans "cruel and unusual punishments," and that has been interpreted to prohibit executing people with severe mental shortcomings.

Rodriguez's IQ was estimated several times at below 70, a threshold for significantly impaired intellectual functioning. But accused killers in North Carolina also must show significant inability to adapt to daily life and that their mental handicaps were evident before adulthood.

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Kenya Supreme Court says why it annulled presidential poll

Legal Insight 2017/09/21 03:11   Bookmark and Share
Kenya's Supreme Court is delivering its full judgment on why it annulled President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election in August.

The court annulled Kenyatta's victory in the August 8 election saying there were irregularities and illegalities, in response to opposition leader Raila Odinga's petition challenging the official results that Kenyatta won with 54 percent of the vote. The electoral commission has set Oct. 17 as the date for a fresh election. Kenya's Chief Justice David Maraga said Tuesday that since the September 1 judgment nullifying the election results, there have been attempts to intimidate judges.

Kenyatta has called the Supreme Court judges "crooks" and warned of unspecified action against the judiciary if he is re-elected next month. Kenyatta's supporters demonstrated outside the Supreme Court Tuesday ahead of the full judgment on Wednesday.
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Palestinian court extends activist's detention by 4 days

Legal Insight 2017/09/16 03:14   Bookmark and Share
A Palestinian court has extended the detention of a prominent activist who criticized the autonomy government of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Farid al-Atrash, the lawyer of Issa Amro, said Thursday that the court had extended his client's detention for four days.

He says Amro is being held under a recent edict that allows the government to crack down on social media critics. In a Facebook post, Amro criticized the detention of a local journalist who called for Abbas' detention.

"This is a black day in the history of the Palestinian judicial system and for Palestinian freedom of expression," al-Atrash said.

Amro was detained on Monday and has been on a hunger strike since then. Amro, 35, also faces charges in an Israeli military court. His trial is to resume in October.
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Court: Cherokee Freedmen have right to tribal citizenship

Legal Insight 2017/09/01 00:37   Bookmark and Share
Descendants of black slaves, known as freedmen, who were once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation have a right to tribal citizenship under a ruling handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled Wednesday in a long-standing dispute between the Cherokee Freedmen and the second largest tribe in the United States.

Freedmen have long argued that the Treaty of 1866, signed between the U.S. government and the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based Cherokees, gave them and their descendants "all the rights of native Cherokees." There are around 3,000 freedmen descendants today.

But Cherokee leaders have argued the tribe has the fundamental right to determine its citizens, and in 2007 more than three-fourths of Cherokee voters approved an amendment to remove the Freedmen from tribal rolls.

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Dispute over rights to Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan goes to court

Legal Insight 2017/08/28 00:37   Bookmark and Share
Tom Clancy's widow wants a court to rule that the author's estate is the exclusive owner of the rights to his famous character Jack Ryan.

News media outlets report that Alexandra Clancy's lawsuit says that the author's estate should be the sole beneficiary of any posthumous books featuring the character who was first introduced in "The Hunt for Red October."

Alexandra Clancy is suing the personal representative of Clancy's estate, J.W. Thompson Webb, for allowing other entities to profit from posthumous book revenues. Clancy's first wife, Wanda King, is a partial owner of those other entities.

The lawsuit says: "Tom Clancy made Jack Ryan; and in a sense, Jack Ryan made Tom Clancy."

The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court in Baltimore. Tom Clancy died in 2013.
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Supreme Court justice blocks ruling on redrawing Texas districts

Legal Insight 2017/08/26 00:38   Bookmark and Share
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Monday temporarily halted enforcement of a lower-court ruling that required two Texas congressional districts to be redrawn.

Responding to an appeal by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Alito halted action on the order and gave those who challenged the districts until Sept. 5 to address the points raised by Paxton’s appeal.

Sept. 5 is the day the three-judge court was to hold a hearing in San Antonio on redrawing the districts, including one based in Travis County and another that includes Bastrop County.

The court ruled two weeks ago that the districts were created by the Republican-controlled Legislature to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, who tend to favor Democrats.


Top NC court weighs lawmakers stripping of governor's powers

North Carolina's highest court on Monday tackled the question of how far the Republican-led legislature can go to minimize new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's ability to pursue goals that helped him get elected last year by reshaping state government.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by Cooper that claims legislators violated North Carolina's constitution this spring by passing a law diminishing the governor's role in managing elections.

It's the first time the high court has waded into the ongoing political battle between lawmakers and Cooper that began after he narrowly beat incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory last November. GOP lawmakers have sought to diminish Cooper's powers ever since.

The governor's lawyers told the seven-member court that the General Assembly violated the constitution's separation of powers requirement by reshaping the state elections board in ways that entrench Republican advantage. Elections boards are examples of the types of bodies that implement laws, functions that the state constitution requires from governors.
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