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Lawyers want Supreme Court to block Texas from executing man
Legal Interview | 2017/10/20 14:00
Attorneys for an inmate convicted in a prison guard's death are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his Thursday evening execution.

Robert Pruett's lawyers want justices to review whether lower courts properly denied a federal civil rights lawsuit that sought additional DNA testing in the case. They are also questioning whether a prisoner who claims actual innocence, as Pruett does, can be put to death.

If the execution is carried out Thursday, Pruett would be the sixth prisoner executed this year in Texas, which carries out the death penalty more than any other state. Texas put seven inmates to death last year. His execution would be the 20th nationally, matching the U.S. total for all of 2016.

Pruett avoided execution in April 2015, when a state judge halted his punishment just hours before he could have been taken to the death chamber. His lawyers had convinced the judge that new DNA tests needed to be conducted on the steel rod used to stab the 37-year-old Nagle.

The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but uncovered DNA on the rod from an unknown female who authorities said likely handled the shank during the appeals process after the original tests in 2002.

In June, Pruett's execution was rescheduled for October. Pruett's attorneys then unsuccessfully sought more DNA testing and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in August, arguing Pruett had been denied due process. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit last week, and Pruett's attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.


Pakistan court to decide on accusations against PM's family
Legal Interview | 2017/04/21 01:38
Under tight security, Pakistan's top court is to deliver a much-awaited decision on Thursday on corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family which could determine his political future.

If the Supreme Court announces punitive measures against Sharif or his family members as part of the decision, it may lead to a crisis in government. In 2012, the same court convicted then-Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.

Thursday's decision will be the outcome of petitions from opposition lawmakers dating back to documents leaked in 2016 from a Panama-based law firm that indicated Sharif's sons owned several offshore companies.

Sharif's family has acknowledged owning offshore businesses.

The opposition wants Sharif, in power since 2013, to resign over tax evasion and concealing foreign investment. Sharif has defended his financial record.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb told reporters the government will "accept the court decision."

Naeemul Haq, a spokesman for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose party is leading the petition, said the decision will be an "historic one."

Lawyer A.K. Dogar, who is not involved in the probe by the Supreme Court or the petition, said the decision could determine the political fate of Sharif.

Senior opposition politician Mehnaz Rafi, from Khan's party, told The Associated Press she hopes the decision will help recover tax money from Sharif's family and others who set up offshore companies to evade taxes. If the court finds Sharif's family evaded paying taxes, she said he should resign as he will no longer have "moral authority to remain in power."

The prime minister has insisted his father built up the family business before Sharif entered politics in the 1980s. Sharif says he established a steel mill abroad while he was exiled to Saudi Arabia by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999.


Airport shooting suspect due for Florida court appearance
Legal Interview | 2017/01/08 12:31
The Iraq war veteran accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding six at a crowded Florida airport baggage claim is due for his first court appearance.

Esteban Santiago is scheduled to be in Fort Lauderdale federal court Monday morning. The 26-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska, faces airport violence and firearms charges that could mean the death penalty if he's convicted.

The initial hearing Monday is likely to focus on ensuring Santiago has a lawyer and setting future dates. Santiago has been held without bail since his arrest after Friday's shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The FBI has says Santiago flew on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Florida with a handgun in his checked bag. Agents say he retrieved the gun and emerged from an airport bathroom firing.


Justice Thomas: Honor Scalia by reining in government
Legal Interview | 2016/12/03 21:43
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is calling fellow conservatives to continue the work of the late Justice Antonin Scalia to keep the power of the courts and other branches of government in check.

Thomas tells 1,700 people at a dinner in honor of Scalia that the Supreme Court has too often granted rights to people that are not found in the Constitution. He cited the decision in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal across the country.

Thomas said he and his longtime friend and colleague formed an "odd couple" of a white New Yorker and a black man from Georgia.

He paraphrased Lincoln's Gettysburg address to exhort the audience to "be dedicated to the unfinished business for which Justice Scalia gave his last full measure of devotion."



Court rejects challenge to Michigan's emergency manager law
Legal Interview | 2016/09/15 22:50
An appeals court on Monday rejected a challenge to Michigan's emergency manager law, saying Gov. Rick Snyder's remedy for distressed communities doesn't violate the constitutional rights of residents.

Emergency managers have exceptional power to run city halls and school districts, while elected officials typically are pushed aside for 18 months or more while finances are fixed. The most significant use of emergency management occurred in Detroit, where Snyder appointed bankruptcy expert Kevyn Orr in 2013. Orr seved for two years.

Critics who sued argued that the law violated a variety of rights — free speech, voting, even protections against slavery — especially in cities with large black populations.

The law might not be the "perfect remedy" but it's "rationally related" to turning around local governments, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 3-0 decision.

"The emergency manager's powers may be vast, but so are the problems in financially distressed localities, and the elected officials of those localities are most often the ones who ... led the localities into their difficult situations," the court said in upholding a decision by U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.



Supreme Court to swear in large group of deaf lawyers
Legal Interview | 2016/04/12 08:43
Mobile phones ordinarily are strictly forbidden in the marble courtroom of the nation's highest court, but the justices are making an exception next week when roughly a dozen deaf and hard-of-hearing lawyers will be admitted to the Supreme Court bar.

The lawyers will use their phones to see a real-time transcript as they take part in an April 19 swearing-in ceremony featuring the largest group of hearing-impaired attorneys ever admitted at one time to practice before the high court.

Advocates for deaf lawyers say they hope the event will encourage others with disabilities to pursue legal careers.

"We wanted to do an event that would help break down stereotypes and demonstrate clearly that deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals can achieve anything they set their minds to," said Anat Maytal, a New York lawyer and president of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association.

Nearly 4,000 lawyers join the Supreme Court bar each year, though the vast majority will never actually represent a client there. Membership requires a $200 fee, membership in a state bar for three years and sponsorship by two current Supreme Court bar members.



African-American voters see court fight as affront to Obama
Legal Interview | 2016/02/27 22:08
Watching the fight unfold between President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans over who should choose the next Supreme Court justice, Michael A. Bowden got angry at what he saw at the latest affront to the first black president.

And then his thoughts turned from Washington to his own state.

Obama won't be on the ballot this fall, but Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey will ? and Bowden has made defeating him in November a priority.

"This kind of thing really burns me to the core," said Bowden, a 56-year-old Air Force veteran from Philadelphia. "I've already started planting the seed in people's heads that Sen. Toomey is one of those people in lockstep with the Republicans. This could give him a wake-up call that he could be vulnerable as well."

Democrats are pressuring senators in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Illinois and Wisconsin to back down from their refusal to confirm or even consider Obama's nominee to succeed the late Antonin Scalia or face the consequences in November. In some states, they may get help from African-Americans who see the court battle as the latest GOP snub of Obama ? one rooted in racism, which could galvanize a crucial component of the Democratic voting bloc.



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