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Alabama asks US Supreme Court to let execution proceed
Legal News | 2017/06/07 18:07
Alabama’s attorney general on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let an execution proceed this week, arguing that questions about a lethal injection drug have been settled by the courts.

Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office asked the justices to let the state proceed with Thursday’s scheduled execution of Robert Melson who was convicted of killing three Gadsden restaurant employees during a 1994 robbery.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week granted a stay as it considers appeals from Melson and other inmates who contend that a sedative used by Alabama called midazolam will not render them unconscious before other drugs stop their lungs and heart. The state argues there was no reason to grant the stay since midazolam’s use in lethal injections has been upheld by the high court, and the court has let executions proceed using midazolam in Alabama and Arkansas.

“Alabama has already carried out three executions using this protocol, including one less than two weeks ago in which this court, and the Eleventh Circuit, denied a stay,” lawyers with the attorney general’s office wrote in the motion

“If the stay is allowed to stand, Melson’s execution will be delayed many months, if not years. The State, the victims’ families, and the surviving victim in this case have waited long enough for justice to be delivered. This Court should vacate the lower court’s stay,” attorneys for the state wrote.

Melson is one of several inmates who filed lawsuits, which were consolidated, arguing that the state’s execution method is unconstitutional. A federal judge in March dismissed the lawsuits, and the inmates appealed to the 11th Circuit saying the judge dismissed their claims prematurely.

A three-judge panel of 11th Circuit judges did not indicate whether they thought the inmates would succeed in their appeals. Rather, the judges wrote Friday that they were staying Melson’s execution to avoid the “untenable” prejudging of the inmates’ cases.

Midazolam is supposed to prevent an inmate from feeling pain, but several executions in which inmates lurched or moved have raised questions about its use. An Arkansas inmate in April lurched about 20 times during a lethal injection. Melson’s lawyers wrote in a Friday motion that Alabama “botched” a December execution in which inmate Ronald Bert Smith coughed and moved for the first 13 minutes.

“Mr. Smith’s botched execution supports the argument that midazolam is a vastly different drug than pentobarbital. It does not anesthetize the condemned inmate, and because it does not anesthetize, defendants’ use of potassium chloride is unconstitutional,” Melson’s attorneys wrote last week.





Kim Jong Nam murder suspect asks her parents to pray for her
Legal News | 2017/06/02 01:49
 suspect in the poisoning death of the North Korean leader's half brother wrote to her parents from jail, asking them to pray for her but saying "don't think about me too much."

Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian mother who worked in Malaysia, appeared in court Tuesday along with a second suspect, Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam. Their trial was formally transferred to the High Court as the lower court had no jurisdiction to hear a murder case.

They are the only people who have been arrested in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam at the Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13.
Kim Jong Nam murder suspect asks her parents to pray for her

The suspects are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim's face in the crowded airport terminal; he died soon afterward. The women have said they were duped into thinking they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera show.

Yusron Ambary, counsellor at the Indonesian Embassy, said Siti wrote a letter to her parents recently, asking them not to worry about her.

"I am in good health. Just pray. Don't think about me too much. Keep healthy and pray at night. I have a lot of people helping me. The embassy officials always come to see me, my lawyers also. Don't worry. Pray for me so that the case will be over soon and I can go back home. Send my love to my son Rio," he read from the letter to reporters outside the courtroom.

Armed escorts accompanied the women, who smiled at their embassy representatives as they were brought to the dock.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said the date for their first appearance in the High Court would usually be within a month. The suspects would then enter pleas and the trial would have to start within 90 days, Iskandar said.

The court was also informed that lawyer Jagjit Singh was appointed by the North Korean Embassy to monitor the case for them. Singh told reporters later that he was engaged to "protect the interest" of the North Korean government. He didn't elaborate.

Police have said four North Korean suspects fled Malaysia the day of the attack. Defense lawyers fear the women will be scapegoats because other people believed to have knowledge of the case left the country.



Ohio Supreme Court justice backs legalizing marijuana
Legal News | 2017/05/19 14:41
An Ohio Supreme Court justice who’s mulling a run for governor thinks it’s time for the state to decriminalize marijuana.

Justice William O’Neill, the lone Democrat holding an Ohio statewide office, said making marijuana legal is working in Colorado and doing it in Ohio would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in sales taxes.

O’Neill announced earlier this year that he’s considering stepping down and making a run for governor, but he doesn’t plan on making a decision until the end of the year.

In a speech mixed with his analysis of last year’s presidential election and thoughts about problems facing the state, O’Neill said he not only wants to legalize marijuana but also release all non-violent marijuana offenders from prison.
 
Doing those two things would generate an estimated $350 million to both combat drug addiction and create a mental health network run by the state, he told members of the Wayne County Democratic Party on Friday night.

“The time has come for new thinking,” O’Neill said in his prepared remarks. “We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco and imprison people for smoking grass.”

He said the Democratic Party needs new ideas in 2018 if it wants to knock off Republicans who control all branches of Ohio government.

O’Neill wants to see the Ohio Department of Mental Health re-open the network of state hospitals that were closed decades ago and change how the state deals with addiction.

“Treat addiction like the disease it is in the name of compassion,” he said.

There’s already a crowded field lining up on both sides of the governor’s race.

For the Democrats, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni are making runs.

The field on the Republican side includes U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Secretary of State Jon Husted while Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Attorney General Mike DeWine are widely expected to seek the GOP nomination.


Court pauses criminal case against Texas' attorney general
Legal News | 2017/05/17 14:41
A state appeals court has temporarily halted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's criminal case on securities fraud charges as he presses for a new judge.

The ruling Tuesday comes as Paxton is scheduled to stand trial in Houston in September on felony accusations that he misled investors in a tech startup. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals is now putting the case on hold while it considers Paxton's demand for a new judge. The Republican has sought to remove state District Judge George Gallagher after the trial was moved from Paxton's hometown near Dallas.

The court didn't indicate when it will make a final decision. If convicted, Paxton faces five to 99 years in prison.


Judge rejects effort to block Confederate statue's removal
Legal News | 2017/05/13 13:19
A last-ditch effort to block the removal of a monument to a Confederate general in New Orleans was rejected Wednesday by a Louisiana judge who turned away arguments that the city doesn't own the statue or the land on which it sits.

"This has gone on an inordinate amount of time," Judge Kern Reese said as he outlined reasons for his refusal to grant an injunction protecting the statue of Gen. P.G.T Beauregard. It was a reference to state and federal court battles that delayed removal of the Beauregard monument and three others for more than a year.

The huge bronze image of Beauregard on horseback sits in the center of a traffic circle at the entrance to New Orleans City Park. Those who don't want it removed argued that it belongs to a park board and, therefore, the city has no authority to remove it.

Reese's rejection of an injunction means the city can remove the statue pending further proceedings in his court. Richard Marksbury, a New Orleans resident and monument supporter, said he may go to an appeal court to block removal.

The Beauregard statue, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and one of Confederate President Jefferson Davis are slated for removal. A fourth structure, the Liberty Place monument, was removed late last month. It honored whites who battled a biracial Reconstruction-era government in New Orleans.

The Liberty Place monument was taken down without advance notice in the dead of night by workers in masks and body armor. City officials have been secretive about removal plans due to threats of violence against those tasked with taking down the structures.

In Reese's court, Franklin Jones, an attorney for Marksbury, cited documents asserting that the independent, state-supervised board that oversees City Park owns the Beauregard statue and the tract of land on which it sits. Adam Swensek, an assistant city attorney, noted court precedents holding otherwise and said delays in removing the monuments only prolong a controversy that has resulted in tense confrontations between pro- and anti-monument groups at monument sites.


Indiana high court: Immigration status inadmissible at trial
Legal News | 2017/05/06 13:17
The immigration status of a Mexican native who is suing over lost wages in a workplace injury case should not be considered at trial because it can cause unfair prejudice, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.

The state's high court reversed a lower court ruling that the immigration status of Noe Escamilla was admissible in his lawsuit against an Indianapolis construction company. Escamilla, who entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico with his parents at age 15, married a U.S. citizen and has three children who are also American citizens, his attorney has said.

"Indiana's tort trials should be about making injured parties whole — not about federal immigration policies and laws," the high court said in a 5-0 ruling written by Chief Justice Loretta Rush and issued Thursday.

Escamilla sued Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. for lost future wages after he slipped on ice in 2010 and severely injured his back while helping to lift a heavy masonry capstone at Wabash College in Crawfordsville. Court documents say a doctor found Escamilla's injury left him unable to lift more than 20 pounds, effectively ending his career as a masonry laborer.

Because Escamilla is a lawful resident of Mexico, Shiel Sexton argued that any lost wages he is able to claim should be based on the rate of pay available in Mexico, and not U.S. wages. A Montgomery County trial court ruled in Shiel Sexton's favor, finding that two witnesses who reviewed Escamilla's U.S. tax returns could not testify about his lost earnings and that his immigration status could be entered as evidence.






Justices turn away GM appeal over ignition switches
Legal News | 2017/04/23 13:34
The Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal from General Motors Co. seeking to block dozens of lawsuits over faulty ignition switches that could expose the company to billions of dollars in additional claims.

The justices without comment left in place a lower court ruling that said the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy did not shield it from liability in the cases.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that GM remains responsible for ignition-switch injuries and deaths that occurred pre-bankruptcy because the company knew about the problem for more than a decade but kept it secret from the bankruptcy court.

The company had argued that well-established bankruptcy law allowed the newly reorganized GM to obtain the old company's assets "free and clear" of liabilities.

GM recalled 2.6 million small cars worldwide in 2014 to replace defective switches that played a role in at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries, according to a victims' fund set up by GM and administered by attorney Kenneth Feinberg.

The automaker has paid nearly $875 million to settle death and injury claims related to the switches. That includes $600 million from Feinberg's fund and $275 million to settle 1,385 separate claims. It also has paid $300 million to settle shareholder lawsuits. But many others are pursuing their claims in court.

After it emerged from the government-funded bankruptcy, the company referred to as New GM was indemnified against most claims made against the pre-bankruptcy company, known as Old GM. A bankruptcy court sided with the company in 2015, ruling that most claims against Old GM could not be pursued.

But the appeals court in Manhattan overturned most of that decision and said hundreds of pre-bankruptcy claims could go forward.


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