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CA - Death Penalty Jury Instructions Upheld
Court Feed News | 2006/11/13 17:52

The US Supreme Court on Monday upheld California's "catch-all" jury instruction for death penalty cases, ruling that the instructions provide adequate opportunity for jurors to weigh evidence that favors the defendant. In a 5-4 decision in Ayers v. Belamontes, the Court reinstated Belamontes' conviction for first degree murder in the killing of a 19 year old woman during a burglary. Belamontes had appealed his death penalty sentence, arguing that the jury instructions did not require the jury to consider all mitigating factors, including his probable future conduct in prison. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated the sentence and California prosecutors appealed to have his sentence reinstated.



ACLU to Congress- Investigate Rumsfeld Immediately
U.S. Legal News | 2006/11/10 17:31

NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded Donald Rumsfeld's resignation from his post as Defense Secretary, and called on Congress to investigate the gross abuse of power committed under his watch.

"Donald Rumsfeld's resignation is a step in the right direction," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. "Rumsfeld is responsible for the torture and abuse of detainees in U. S. military custody and must be held accountable for the failures that occurred on his watch. He has placed the blame on junior military members and has been nothing but derelict in his duty. Congress must initiate an immediate and exhaustive investigation into his six-year-long record of unlawful activity, violations of the rule of law and complicity in the executive branch abuse of power."

As a result of the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. In March 2005, the ACLU and Human Rights First filed the first federal lawsuit naming Rumsfeld and other top U.S. officials in the ongoing torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan that has tarnished America's reputation. A hearing in that case, Ali v. Rumsfeld, is scheduled for December 8. In June 2006, the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruled that the Bush administration policy on detention, orchestrated by Rumsfeld, was illegal.

The ACLU has also filed a lawsuit to uncover details of Pentagon surveillance of peace groups and law-abiding Americans who have attended anti-war protests. The documents obtained by the ACLU reveal that the Pentagon shared information on activists with other government agencies through the Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database, which was intended to track groups or individuals with links to terrorism.



Democrats Sweep of US Congress is Election Triumph
Law & Politics | 2006/11/09 18:07

(VOA) - The Democratic Party appears to have regained control of both houses of the U.S. Congress from President Bush's Republican Party.

American media reports say that challenger Jim Webb has defeated Republican incumbent George Allen in the Senate race in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is the last Senate race from Tuesday's mid-term elections to be decided.

Allen has not yet conceded defeat, but major newspapers and television networks report that Webb holds more than a 7,000 vote lead.

Opposition Democrats have already swept to victory in the U.S. House of Representatives. Projections show that the party holds a majority of 229 seats in the 435-seat chamber.

If Webb indeed wins in Virginia, Democrats and Republicans will each hold 49 of the Senate's 100 seats. Two independents, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have pledged to vote with the Democrats, tipping the balance in the Senate to Democratic Party control.

The Democratic Party victory comes on the back of voter frustration with the war in Iraq and several political scandals. And it sets the stage for a number of policy battles with the White House. The Democrats have not controlled both chambers of Congress in 12 years.

President Bush has expressed disappointment with the election results, but he called on both political parties to work together. He is meeting separately Thursday, with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.

Opinion polls showed that dissatisfaction with President Bush and his handling of the Iraq war drove many voters to vote for Democrats.

Meanwhile, California Democrat Nancy Pelosi is poised to become the first female Speaker of the House. She has pledged to work with congressional Republicans.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of the U.S. state of Nevada said the message from the electorate was clear, and that Americans voted for change.



2007 Changes Widen Tax Brackets, Expand Benefits
Lawyer News | 2006/11/09 18:04

WASHINGTON — Personal exemptions and standard deductions will rise, tax brackets will widen and income limits for IRAs will increase in 2007, thanks to inflation adjustments announced today by the Internal Revenue Service.

By law, the dollar amounts for a variety of tax provisions must be revised each year to keep pace with inflation. As a result, more than three dozen tax benefits, affecting virtually every taxpayer, are being adjusted for 2007. Key changes affecting 2007 returns, filed by most taxpayers in early 2008, include the following:

  • The value of each personal and dependency exemption, available to most taxpayers, will be $3,400, up $100 from 2006.
  • The new standard deduction will be $10,700 for married couples filing a joint return (up $400), $5,350 for singles and married individuals filing separately (up $200) and $7,850 for heads of household (up $300). Nearly two out of three taxpayers take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing deductions, such as mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes.
  • Tax-bracket thresholds will increase for each filing status. For a married couple filing a joint return, for example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15-percent bracket from the 25-percent bracket will be $63,700, up from $61,300 in 2006.

In 2007, for the first time, inflation adjustments will raise the income limits that apply to the retirement savings contributions credit, contributions to a Roth IRA and deductible contributions to a traditional IRA where the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work.  



BP Settles Suit Over 2 Refinery Deaths
Business Law Info | 2006/11/09 17:56

The world's third largest publicly traded oil company BP Plc, agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a woman whose parents died in a Texas refinery explosion, woman's lawyer said.

Though the terms of the agreement were confidential, BP set aside $1.6 billion to resolve the claims.

The London based BP, has acknowledged safety shortcomings at the plant, and settled about 1,000 suits, including all death claims except the two filed by Eva Rowe, 22. She lost both her parents in the explosion and has refused to settle unless BP agrees to change safety procedures and equipment.

Roddy Kennedy, who heads BP's press office in London, said he couldn't comment on the reported settlement. BP will pay money to community groups as part of the settlement, attorney Brent Coon said.

If if the trial had gone forward, BP faced unlimited damages and harm to its reputation. The March 23, 2005, explosion killed 15 and injured hundreds at its Texas City, Texas, refinery led to more than 1,300 suits against BP, a record fine from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a finding by another safety agency that the company endangered workers by cutting costs.

The evidence to be introduced, including an internal study showing the company ignored safety problems at the Texas City refinery, could have produced sizable punitive damages. The trial was set to begin with jury selection today.

Breaking Legal News.com
Sheryl Jones
Staff Writer



Abortion ban fails in South Dakota
U.S. Legal News | 2006/11/08 17:36

South Dakota voters Tuesday rejected a controversial law banning most abortions  passed by the state legislature earlier this year. With 818 out of 818 precincts reporting Wednesday, the final unofficial results for Referred Law 6 were:

NO 185948 56%
YES 148666 44%

The abortion ban, seen as a direct challenge to the US Supreme Court's abortion precedents, was placed on the South Dakota ballot after an advocacy group gathered more than 37,000 signatures on a petition to force a referendum. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had already upheld a preliminary injunction against the law's enforcement pending a lawsuit.



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