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Supreme Court to consider Louisiana's non-unanimous juries
Lawyer Blog News | 2019/03/18 23:15
The Supreme Court will consider banning non-unanimous juries in criminal cases in Louisiana, the only state that still allows them.

The justices said Monday they will hear an appeal from a man who was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury's 10-2 vote. First-degree murder charges already require a unanimous jury to convict.

Oregon voters recently approved a state constitutional amendment that ended Oregon's use of divided juries to convict some criminal defendants.

The high court also is agreeing Monday to decide whether states can eliminate the so-called insanity defense for criminal defendants without violating the Constitution.

The appeal comes from a Kansas man who has been sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, their two daughters and the wife's grandmother. The cases will be argued in the fall.


Smollett team: Court cameras would show state's flimsy case
Employment Law | 2019/03/16 06:15
A lawyer for Jussie Smollett said Tuesday that she would welcome cameras in the courtroom during the “Empire” actor’s trial on charges accusing him of lying to the police, saying there has been a lot of leaked misinformation and cameras would allow the public to “see the evidence and the lack thereof.”

Attorney Tina Glandian made the comments during a brief hearing Tuesday in Cook County criminal court during which both sides agreed that cameras would be allowed at the next hearing in the case, which is scheduled for Thursday. During that hearing, the case will be assigned to a trial judge who will then likely ask Smollett to enter a plea.

During the hearing, which was held after local news organizations requested that cameras be allowed in the courtroom, Judge LeRoy Martin, Jr. said that the new judge will decide whether or not to allow cameras in the courtroom during subsequent hearings and the trial.

After the hearing, Glandian told reporters that evidence has been presented against Smollett that is “demonstrably false.”

“We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett and we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out,” she said.

Smollett was charged last month with one count of misconduct —the felony in Illinois that people are charged with when accused of lying to police — because he allegedly lied to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two masked men in downtown Chicago on Jan. 29. Last week, a grand jury indicted him on 16 counts of the same crime.

Prosecutors allege that Smollett, who is black and gay, enlisted the help of two other black men and staged the Jan. 29 attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career. Those men have admitted to police that they took part in the staged attack for Smollett, who paid them $3,500.

Smollett’s attorneys have called 16 counts “prosecutorial overkill.” The actor, who is free on bond, maintains his innocence.


Court reinstates late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/03/15 20:19
Massachusetts' highest court on Wednesday reinstated the late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction, which was erased after the former NFL star killed himself in prison.

The Supreme Judicial Court also scrapped the legal principle that wiped out Hernandez's conviction for future cases, calling it "outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life."

"We are pleased justice is served in this case, the antiquated practice of vacating a valid conviction is being eliminated and the victim's family can get the closure they deserve," Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said in a tweet.

Hernandez was convicted in 2015 of killing semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Two years later, the 27-year-old killed himself in his prison cell days after being acquitted of most charges in a separate double-murder case.

A judge threw out Hernandez's conviction that year, citing the legal principle that holds that a defendant convicted at trial who dies before an appeal is heard should no longer be considered guilty in the eyes of the law, thereby returning the case to its pretrial status.



Court raises concerns over power lines by historic Jamestown
Employment Law | 2019/03/11 18:20
A federal appeals court raised concerns Friday that power lines with towers nearly as high as the Statue of Liberty could spoil the view in one of the nation's most historically rich areas, a stretch of river in Virginia where England founded its first permanent settlement.

The power lines cross the James River near Jamestown Island. And they began transmitting 500,000 volts of electricity on Tuesday.

Despite the project's completion, the court directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a full environmental impact statement for the project. The agency previously deemed it to be unnecessary.

The appeals court found that the Corps failed to fully consider the project's impact before issuing a permit to Dominion Energy. The ruling also said the Corps failed to resolve concerns that were raised in many of the 50,000 public comments that were submitted and by other federal agencies over the years.

For instance, the National Park Service has said utility lines should be run underground in the area, allowing people to experience views similar to what English explorer John Smith saw in the early 1600s.


N Carolina governor signs law keeping Court of Appeals at 15
Business Law Info | 2019/03/11 01:18
North Carolina's intermediate-level appeals court will stay at 15 judges as Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation that repeals a 2017 law that would have reduced the seats to 12 over time.

Cooper announced Thursday that he had signed the law , which Republicans controlling the General Assembly approved quickly over the past several days.

GOP leaders said they sought the repeal because it would end litigation Cooper filed challenging the previous law. The Republicans won the first legal round, but oral arguments at the state Supreme Court were next.

The 2017 law would have prevented the governor from appointing replacements for the next three court vacancies due to retirement or other reasons because the seats would be eliminated instead. The first such vacancy would have occurred at the end of March.


TigerSwan appeals attorney fees ruling to state's high court
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/03/09 02:19
A North Carolina security company that won a court case in the wake of protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline is continuing to pursue reimbursement of its attorney fees.

North Dakota's Private Investigative and Security Board sued TigerSwan in 2017, alleging the company that handled security for the pipeline developer illegally operated without a state license.

Judge John Grinsteiner ultimately dismissed the case, but he also rejected TigerSwan's request for reimbursement of at least $165,000 in attorney fees. Grinsteiner said the board's case wasn't frivolous even though the board lost. TigerSwan has appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The board has appealed the dismissal of its case to the state Supreme Court and also is seeking up to $2 million in fines against TigerSwan through an administrative complaint.


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