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DA: Criminal charges possible in boy's Uzi death
Legal Interview | 2008/10/30 02:43
A prosecutor said Tuesday he is investigating whether criminal charges should be filed after an 8-year-old boy accidentally killed himself while firing an Uzi submachine gun at a gun fair in western Massachusetts.

Christopher Bizilj (Bah-SEAL) of Ashford, Conn., shot himself in the head when he lost control of the 9mm micro submachine gun as it recoiled while he was firing at a pumpkin. Police have said the shooting at the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo at the Westfield Sportsman's Club on Sunday was an accident.

Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett said he is investigating whether the gun fair violated the state's firearms law by allowing the boy to fire the machine gun, and also whether it was "a reckless or wanton act to allow an 8-year-old to use a fully loaded automatic weapon."



Corruption trial begins for 'America's sheriff'
Headline News | 2008/10/30 02:41
Former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona was a sharp, inspiring leader consumed by greed, a prosecutor said Wednesday as the federal corruption trial began for the lawman nicknamed "America's sheriff."

The three-term sheriff took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gifts and illegal loans for himself, his mistress and a close group of friends in exchange for political favors, get-out-jail-free cards and the power of his office, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Sagel told jurors.

"This is the case of the two Michael Caronas: Sheriff Michael Carona, the bright, articulate, charismatic man who went from being the underdog candidate," Sagel said. "Then there's the Michael Carona ... who declared, 'We're going to be so rich, we're going to make so much money.'"

The square-jawed Carona, once dubbed "America's sheriff" by CNN's Larry King after vowing to hunt down a child abductor, sat stoically through the prosecutor's opening statement.

Carona, 53, has vigorously denied charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and witness tampering.

Also charged are his alleged mistress, who has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and bankruptcy fraud; and his wife, who has pleaded not guilty to a single count of conspiracy.



Hot-button social issues highlight state ballots
Top Legal News | 2008/10/29 02:42

Social issues so volatile that the presidential campaigns sidestepped them will be on the ballots in several states next week, including measures that would criminalize most abortions, outlaw affirmative action and ban same-sex marriage in California, one of only three states that allows it.

In all, there are 153 proposals on ballots in 36 states.

In Washington, voters will decide whether to join Oregon as the only states offering terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide. Massachusetts has three distinctive measures on its ballot — to ban dog racing, ease marijuana laws and scrap the state income tax, a step that could unleash budgetary tumult.

The main presidential rivals, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, have rarely made proactive comments during the campaign about same-sex marriage or affirmative action — issues on which the public is deeply divided. Abortion also has seemed like an uncomfortable topic for them at times, although Obama makes clear he supports abortion rights and McCain says he would like to ban most abortions.

But in a half-dozen states, these three issues are front and center.



McCain, GOP gain ground on Obama ads in key states
Politics & Law | 2008/10/28 02:45
After weeks of being out-advertised by Barack Obama, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and the Republican Party are nearly matching the Democratic nominee ad for ad in key battleground markets.

Ad spending and ad placement data obtained from Democratic and Republican operatives show that in the closing days of the campaign the Republican voice has grown louder in states such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

For instance, Obama had been scheduled to buy about $2.5 million in Florida ads for the last week of the campaign. McCain is now set to spend about $1.6 million and the Republican National Committee added $1.5 million to their buy in the state this week. Obama appears to have added more weight to his ads since.

The ad war is especially noticeable in Florida's central corridor, which includes Tampa, Orlando and West Palm Beach.

Those near-parity levels in crucial states come with a price. McCain has had to trim back his ads in Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, giving Obama even greater edges there.

A map of the states where McCain and the RNC are spending their money also illustrates the defensive nature of their 11th hour strategy. Except for Pennsylvania, the McCain-GOP focus was on trying to hold states that President Bush won in 2004.



Authors, publishers settle suit against Google
Politics & Law | 2008/10/28 02:44
Eager to cool the debate over copyrighted text online and anxious to make some money, Google and the publishing industry announced Tuesday that they have settled their three-year legal battle over the Internet giant's book search program.

Under an agreement reached by Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, librarians and the public will have an easier time tracking down millions of out-of-print books. At the same time, Google and the book business will have greater opportunities for online sales.

"We're trying to create a new structure where there will be more access to out-of-print books, with benefits both to readers and researchers and to the rights holders of those books — authors and publishers," Richard Sarnoff, chairman of the publishers association, said Tuesday in an interview.

"This is an extraordinary accomplishment," Paul N. Courant, university librarian for the University of Michigan, said in a statement. "It will now be possible, even easy, for anyone to access these great collections from anywhere in the United States."



Chicago torture victims face uphill legal battle
Legal Watch | 2008/10/28 02:42
Melvin Jones says he screamed and begged for mercy as Chicago police touched metal clips to his feet and thighs, churned a hand-cranked device and sent shock waves of electricity through his body more than 25 years ago.

He says he was told the torture would stop when he confessed to murder.

Jones is among the dozens of alleged torture victims who have little hope of winning compensation, despite the arrest this week of a former police commander who officials say lied about the abuse.

Some have already completed prison terms for crimes they claim they confessed to only after police beat or electrocuted them. More than 20 remain in prison.

But the indictment of former police Lt. Jon Burge — while a moral victory — is unlikely to spring anyone from prison soon or prompt any quick settlement of claims for damages, lawyers for alleged torture victims say.

The state attorney general's office hasn't agreed to new trials for those claiming coerced confessions and the city opposes paying damages to alleged victims, they say.



Senate Democrats subpoena Mukasey over detainees
Opinions | 2008/10/22 02:44
Senate Democrats on Tuesday subpoenaed Attorney General Michael Mukasey for testimony and documents about the Justice Department's legal advice to the White House on detention and interrogation policies since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., complained to Mukasey that after five years of efforts to glean the information, the committee still has seen only a fraction of the documents it is seeking.

"There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials from this committee," Leahy wrote in a letter to Mukasey that accompanied the subpoena.

The Justice Department blasted the subpoena as a partisan move.

"We have worked in good faith over the past several months to see that the Judiciary Committee's legitimate oversight requests were being met in a manner consistent with the Justice Department's equally legitimate and long-standing need to provide confidential legal advice within the executive branch," department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. "We will now assess our next steps."



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