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Man run down, 50 years after killing girl in hit-and-run
Legal Interview | 2018/06/02 06:56
A Vietnam War veteran who confessed five years ago to killing a 4-year-old girl in a 1968 hit-and-run was trying to protect children when a woman drove her car onto a baseball field in Maine during a game, striking and killing him.

Screaming bystanders and ballplayers fled as Carol Sharrow, of Sanford, Maine, drove through an open gate onto the field Friday night, police said. Video shows the car driving around the infield, turning over home plate and then heading toward the stands behind third base.

Douglas Parkhurst, of West Newfield, was near the park's main gate before he was hit and Sharrow sped away, police said. Parkhurst died on the way to the hospital and no one else was hurt.

"It was awful," said Sanford resident, Karyn Bean, who said she saw Parkhurst being struck. "A car driving through the gate hitting a man who was pushing kids out of the way, then her driving up the road easily doing 50 to 60 miles per hour past us.

"It felt awful because we couldn't do anything."

Sharrow was scheduled to appear in court later Monday to face a manslaughter charge. She was to have an attorney appointed to represent her then.

Sharrow has two previous drunken driving convictions in Maine and New Hampshire, according to Sanford police Det. Sgt. Matthew Jones. Authorities have declined to say whether alcohol was involved on Friday.

Parkhurst was never charged in the hit-and-run death that killed Carolee Ashby on Halloween night in 1968. The statute of limitations had long run out when Parkhurst walked into a police station in 2013 and confessed after two interviews with investigators.

In his four-page confession obtained by the Syracuse Post-Standard during its reporting about the case, Parkhurst said he and his brother had been drinking before he hit the girl. He said his brother was passed out in the back seat.


Court to consider fraud investigator in NFL concussion case
Legal Interview | 2018/05/12 06:58
A federal judge in Philadelphia is scheduled to hear arguments in the NFL's request for a special investigator to look into what the league says are fraudulent claims in a $1 billion concussion settlement.

The league last month cited an independent study it said found that more than 400 claims had been recommended for denial based on evidence of fraud by attorneys, doctors and former players.

Plaintiffs' lawyers contend the league is not awarding settlement funds fast enough. So far, $227 million in claims have been awarded.

The league says attempts to scam the system are responsible for delays. The NFL has asked that the investigator be granted subpoena power.

League officials say a special investigator would help ensure the integrity of the settlement. Arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.



Court: Montana minimizes impact of mining near Yellowstone
Legal Interview | 2018/05/09 06:58
A gold exploration proposal near Yellowstone National Park faced a significant setback as a judge blamed Montana officials for understating the potential for mining to harm land, water and wildlife.

The ruling released Friday means the Montana Department of Environmental Quality would have to conduct a lengthy environmental review before Lucky Minerals can proceed.

The Vancouver, Canada, company received approval last year to begin searching for gold, copper and other minerals at 23 locations in Emigrant Gulch, a picturesque area of steep mountains and dense forest in south-central Montana's Paradise Valley. It has a long history of small-scale mining.

The results of the exploration work would guide the company's future plans for commercial-scale mining.

Environmental groups sued over the project last year on behalf of local residents, who are concerned mining could reduce tourism and pollute the nearby Yellowstone River.

State Judge Brenda R. Gilbert agreed with the environmentalists that state officials gave too much deference to the company in considering the project and ignored evidence that water supplies could be damaged.

The agency also should have looked more closely at the project's impacts on grizzly bears and wolverines and considered the broader implications if Lucky Minerals expands onto federal lands, Gilbert said.


Supreme Court allows Arkansas to enforce abortion restrictions
Legal Interview | 2018/05/09 06:57
The Supreme Court is allowing Arkansas to put into effect restrictions on how abortion pills are administered. Critics of a challenged state law say it could effectively end medication abortions in the state.

The justices did not comment Tuesday in rejecting an appeal from the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arkansas that asked the court to review an appeals court ruling and reinstate a lower court order that had blocked the law from taking effect. The law says doctors who provide abortion pills must hold a contract with another physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital and who would agree to handle complications.

The law is similar to a provision in Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the court order barring enforcement of the law, but put its ruling on hold while Planned Parenthood appealed to the Supreme Court.

The legal fight over the law is not over, but the state is now free to enforce it, at least for the time being. Planned Parenthood has said that if the law stands, Arkansas would be the only state where women would not have access to a pair of drugs that end pregnancies: mifepristone, which makes it difficult for a fetus to attach to the uterine wall, and misoprostol, which causes the body to expel it, similar to a miscarriage.

The organization offers pills to end pregnancies at clinics in Fayetteville and Little Rock but says it cannot find any Arkansas obstetrician willing to handle hospital admissions. Preventing women from obtaining medication abortions would create an undue burden on their right to an abortion, Planned Parenthood says. Undue burden is the standard set by the Supreme Court to measure whether restrictions go too far in limiting women who want an abortion.


Supreme Court hearing case about online sales tax collection
Legal Interview | 2018/04/11 03:05
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether a rule it announced decades ago in a case involving a catalog retailer should still apply in the age of the internet.

The case on Tuesday focuses on businesses' collection of sales tax on online purchases. Right now, under the decades-old Supreme Court rule, if a business is shipping a product to a state where it doesn't have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn't have to collect the state's sales tax. Customers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves, but the vast majority don't.

States say that as a result of the rule and the growth of internet shopping, they're losing billions of dollars in tax revenue every year. More than 40 states are asking the Supreme Court to abandon the rule.

Large retailers such as Apple, Macy's, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. But other online sellers that only have a physical presence in a few states can sidestep charging customers sales tax when they're shipping to addresses outside those states.

Sellers who defend the current rule say collecting sales tax nationwide is complex and costly, especially for small sellers. That complexity was a concern for the Supreme Court when it announced the physical presence rule in a case involving a catalog retailer in 1967, a rule it reaffirmed in 1992. But states say software has now made collecting sales tax easy.

The case the court is hearing has to do with a law passed by South Dakota in 2016, a law designed to challenge the Supreme Court's physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect and turn over sales tax to the state.

The state wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg. The state has conceded in court, however, that it can only win by persuading the Supreme Court to do away with its current physical presence rule.



Court hears case alleging unconstitutional 6th District gerrymander
Legal Interview | 2018/03/29 02:34
U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed frustration with partisan gerrymandering on Wednesday as they heard arguments in a case challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

The case, which alleges a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland at the same time justices are considering the constitutionality of an alleged Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin, has some legal experts wondering whether the justices might be on the verge of establishing a standard that would allow judicial intervention in partisan gerrymandering cases for the first time in the court’s history.

The 6th District challenge was brought by seven Maryland residents, including three from Frederick County, who argue that the district — which includes southwestern parts of Frederick County and the city of Frederick — was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Democrats and punish Republicans during the reapportionment process after the 2010 census.

The justices heard arguments in the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case in October, but have not yet released an opinion.

The Maryland and Wisconsin cases both focus on unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, but there are some important differences. The Maryland case challenges the redrawing of a single federal district to favor Democrats, while the Wisconsin case is based on the statewide redrawing of Wisconsin State Assembly districts to favor Republicans.



Arkansas wants court to dissolve stay for death row prisoner
Legal Interview | 2018/03/19 02:31
Lawyers for the state of Arkansas argued Friday that the state prison director has long had the power to determine a death row inmate's sanity and that now isn't the time to change the way it moves the prisoners closer to their executions.

The arguments came in the case of Jack Greene, whose November execution was halted by the Arkansas Supreme Court so it could review his attorneys' arguments that the state correction director, Wendy Kelley, should not be deciding whether he is competent enough to be executed.

Greene's lawyers say doctors have found Greene delusional but Kelley has chosen to rely on outdated assessments of Greene's mental health in determining whether he's eligible to be executed. Greene's lawyers also have argued that Kelley shouldn't be making the determination because her boss, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, sets execution dates.

In papers filed at the state Supreme Court on Friday, assistant attorney general Kathryn Henry wrote that states are entitled to set the guidelines for review, as long as there is a "basic fairness." She also claims that, under the Arkansas Constitution, Greene cannot sue Kelley.

While previous court decisions didn't define "basic fairness," the presumption is that an inmate who is sane at his trial is sane until his execution, Henry wrote. "Only after 'a substantial threshold showing of insanity'" can an inmate win a review — and that review can be "far less formal than a trial," she wrote.

Against his lawyers' advice, Greene has insisted in a number of venues that he is not insane. State lawyers say that is reason enough for justices to dissolve the stay that was issued shortly before Greene's scheduled execution last Nov. 9.

A week before the execution date, a circuit judge said she couldn't hold a hearing on Greene's competence because, under state law, Kelley had the "exclusive authority" to determine whether the inmate was sane enough to be executed. The Arkansas Supreme Court later voted 5-2 to issue a stay and take Greene's case for review, rejecting state arguments.


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