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Court halts execution of Alabama inmate with dementia
Legal Watch | 2018/01/16 02:48
The U.S. Supreme Court has halted the execution of an Alabama inmate whose attorneys argue that dementia has left the 67-year-old unable to remember killing a police officer three decades ago.

Justices issued a stay Thursday night, the same evening that Vernon Madison was scheduled to receive a lethal injection at a southwest Alabama prison. The court delayed the execution to consider whether to further review the case.

Madison was sentenced to death for the 1985 killing of Mobile police Officer Julius Schulte, who had responded to a call about a missing child made by Madison's then-girlfriend. Prosecutors have said that Madison crept up and shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police car.

Madison's attorneys argued that strokes and dementia have left Madison unable to remember killing Schulte or fully understand his looming execution. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that condemned inmates must have a "rational understanding" that they are about to be executed and why.

"We are thrilled that the court stopped this execution tonight. Killing a fragile man suffering from dementia is unnecessary and cruel," attorney Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative, said Thursday after the stay was granted.

The Alabama attorney general's office opposed the stay, arguing that a state court has ruled Madison competent and Madison has presented nothing that would reverse the finding.



Ohio high court shields full autopsy reports in slaying of 8
Legal Watch | 2017/12/14 19:11
A divided Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday rejected requests for unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 4-3 that the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio does not have to release the reports with complete information.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority, said Ohio law regarding coroner records clearly exempts the redacted material as "confidential law enforcement investigatory records."

The case before the court involved seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in rural southern Ohio, on April 22, 2016.

Heavily redacted versions of the autopsy reports released last year showed all but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head, but details about any other injuries and toxicology test results weren't released.

Once a criminal investigation ends, confidential information in autopsy reports can become public records, but the process leading to a suspect can sometimes take time, O'Connor wrote.

"In order that justice might be delivered to all, patience may be required of some," the chief justice said.

The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer separately sued for access to the full final autopsies. The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which is leading the investigation, sought to shield the information, arguing that its release could compromise the investigation.

Jack Greiner, an attorney representing the newspapers, called the majority's decision "a classic case of the court making up its mind on how it wanted the case to come out and then finding a path there." He said the ruling sets a negative precedent that will allow police to put whatever they want under the "investigatory records" umbrella.



Greek court backs extraditing Russian bitcoin suspect to US
Legal Watch | 2017/12/12 03:10
Greece's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extraditing a Russian cybercrime suspect to the United States to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency bitcoin.

Alexander Vinnik made his final appearance at an Athens court Wednesday amid an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. and Russia, who are both seeking his extradition.

Greece's justice minister will ultimately decide on whether Vinnik will be sent to Russia or the U.S.

The case was heard amid growing global interest in virtual currencies and their underlying blockchain technology, fuelled by the ongoing boom in the price of bitcoin.

The 38-year-old former bitcoin platform operator denies any wrongdoing but is not contesting the Russian request on less serious charges.

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.

Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, said bitcoin's growing acceptance by mainstream markets makes criminal cases surrounding the currency more significant.

"For bitcoin to continue to attract regulated and institutional investors it will need to operate within the law," he told the AP.

"The United States, with the support of evidence from various cyber sleuths, is arguing that Vinnik and BTC-e were two of the biggest bad actors in the crypto-currency industry. Bringing bad actors to justice will help bitcoin move beyond its tainted history."

Vinnik was arrested at a northern Greek holiday resort in July and a lower court has already approved his extradition to the U.S.

Ilias Spyrliadis, a lawyer for Vinnik's defense, said they would formally respond after Wednesday's decision is published, in about one week.

"The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States," the lawyer said. "Our client has not made any response. He listened to the ruling as it was read out ... It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent."


Ex-police officer pleads guilty in daughter's hot car death
Legal Watch | 2017/12/11 03:11
A former Mississippi police officer charged in the death of her daughter in a hot patrol car has pleaded not guilty.

The Sun Herald reports 28-year-old Cassie Barker was arraigned Monday on a charge of second-degree murder in the 3-year-old girl's death.

The former Long Beach officer is accused of leaving Cheyenne Hyer unattended in a patrol car for more than four hours while she was in another officer's home. The car's air conditioner was on but wasn't blowing cold air. Hyer was found unresponsive in the car and died Sept. 30, 2016.

Barker was fired days later and initially charged with manslaughter.


Comedian Artie Lange arrested for skipping court
Legal Watch | 2017/12/08 03:10
Comedian Artie Lange has been arrested for skipping a court appearance.

NJ.com reports Lange was arrested Tuesday night at his home in Hoboken. Authorities say Lange failed to appear in Superior Court in Essex County for charges stemming from a drug arrest earlier this year.

Police said they found Lange with a bag of heroin during a traffic stop in May. Lange faces charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance and drug paraphernalia in the case.

Lange's arrest follows a strange incident over the weekend in which the comedian tweeted a picture of himself with a swollen nose. Hoboken police responded to Lange's home and he later apologized.

Lange wrote in a tweet that he missed court because of a "bad communication" with his lawyer.



Supreme Court declines gay rights work discrimination case
Legal Watch | 2017/12/06 03:10
The Supreme Court is leaving in place a lower court ruling that a federal employment discrimination law doesn't protect a person against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

The court on Monday declined to take up the question of whether a law that bars workplace discrimination "because of...sex" covers discrimination against someone because of their sexual orientation.

President Barack Obama's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took the view that it does. But President Donald Trump's administration has argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on gender but doesn't cover sexual orientation. Federal appeals courts are split on the issue. That means the issue is likely to come to the court again.

The case the Supreme Court declined to take involved Jameka Evans, a gay woman who worked as a hospital security officer in Georgia. Lower courts said she couldn't use Title VII to sue for discrimination.

The Supreme Court didn't explain why it was declining to hear the case. But the hospital where Evans worked, Georgia Regional Hospital, told the court there were technical legal problems with the case.


Liberia court says presidential runoff vote can go ahead
Legal Watch | 2017/11/26 03:08
Liberia's supreme court has cleared the way for the presidential runoff election to go forward, saying there was not enough evidence to support allegations of fraud.

The second-round vote between soccer star George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai had been put on hold after the Liberty Party alleged first-round voting irregularities.

But the court said Thursday those violations were not sufficient to overturn the vote's outcome.

No date has been set for the runoff vote. The National Elections Commission has been ordered to clean up its voter roll.

The Liberty Party's candidate was not among the top two finishers in the first round held Oct. 10.

Voters are choosing a replacement for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female leader and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.



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