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Girl appeals Slender Man stabbing to Wisconsin Supreme Court
Legal Career News | 2020/09/13 22:13
One of two girls convicted of stabbing a classmate to please the horror character Slender Man asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday to rule that the case should have been tried in juvenile court.

Morgan Geyser and Anisa Weier attacked their friend, Payton Leutner, in a Waukesha County park following a sleepover in 2014. Geyser stabbed Leutner 19 times, as Weier encouraged her, leaving the girl to die. All three girls were 12 at the time.

Leutner survived the attack. Geyser pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree intentional homicide in adult court in a deal with prosecutors to avoid prison. She was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Weier pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree intentional homicide in adult court. She was also found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Geyser was ordered to spend 40 years in a mental health institution, and Weier was committed to one for 25 years. Geyser’s attorney, Matthew Pinx, argued in his petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday that Geyser thought she had to kill Lautner or Slender Man would kill her or kill her family. She was acting in self-defense and should have been charged with attempted second-degree intentional homicide in juvenile court, Pinx argued.

He also maintained that Geyser gave statements to detectives before she was read her rights, and she couldn’t really understand what rights she gave up when she agreed to speak alone with a detective while she was in custody and confessed to the stabbing.

The state Department of Justice is defending Geyser’s conviction. Department spokeswoman Gillian Drummond had no immediate comment. Last month, the 2nd District Court of Appeals rejected  the argument that Geyser’s case was overcharged and belonged in juvenile court.


Judges: Trump can’t exclude people from district drawings
Legal Career News | 2020/09/11 17:00
Saying the president had exceeded his authority, a panel of three federal judges on Thursday blocked an order from President Donald Trump that tried to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted when congressional districts are redrawn.

The federal judges in New York, in granting an injunction, said the presidential order issued in late July was unlawful. The judges prohibited Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the U.S. Census Bureau, from excluding people in the country illegally when handing in 2020 census figures used to calculate how many congressional seats each state gets.

According to the judges, the presidential order violated laws governing the execution of the once-a-decade census and also the process for redrawing congressional districts known as apportionment by requiring that two sets of numbers be presented ? one with the total count and the other minus people living in the country illegally.

The judges said that those in the country illegally qualify as people to be counted in the states they reside. They declined to say whether the order violated the Constitution.

“Throughout the Nation’s history, the figures used to determine the apportionment of Congress ? in the language of the current statutes, the ‘total population’ and the ‘whole number of persons’ in each State ? have included every person residing in the United States at the time of the census, whether citizen or non-citizen and whether living here with legal status or without,” the judges wrote.

Opponents of the order said it was an effort to suppress the growing political power of Latinos in the U.S. and to discriminate against immigrant communities of color. They also said undocumented residents use the nation’s roads, parks and other public amenities and should be taken into account for any distribution of federal resources.

The lawsuits challenging the presidential order in New York were brought by a coalition of cities, civil rights groups and states led by New York. Because the lawsuits dealt with questions about apportionment, it was heard by a three-judge panel that allows the decision to be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The judges agreed with the coalition that the order created confusion among undocumented residents over whether they should participate in the 2020 census, deterring participation and jeopardizing the quality of the census data. That harm to the census was a sufficient basis for their ruling and they didn’t need to rely on the speculation that a state would be hurt by possibly losing a congressional seat if people in the country illegally were excluded from apportionment, the judges said.


Alaska court rules police need aerial surveillance warrants
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/09/10 00:02
The Alaska Court of Appeals has ruled law enforcement officers cannot use cameras and drones for aerial searches of property without a warrant.

The court acknowledged police have a legal right to fly over property, but the use of observational technology violates the right to privacy guaranteed in the Alaska Constitution, KTVF-TV reported  Monday.

“An officer’s use of vision-enhancing technology should be deemed a ’search’ if the technology allows the officer to make observations that are significantly more detailed than what an unaided human eye would be able to see at the same distance,” the ruling said.

Maria Bahr, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Law, said in an email the state is deciding whether to seek a review by the Alaska Supreme Court. She noted the Supreme Court is not obligated to accept any possible petition for review of the case.

The Fairbanks Police Department uses drones, but it said the ruling is unlikely to affect their work.

“Our policy has always been, if you think you need a search warrant we should probably get one, especially if we are already going to be somewhere with the intent of looking into private property,” said Officer Jason Pace, who flies the department’s drones.

The ruling stems from a 2012 case in which Alaska State Troopers received a tip about marijuana being grown on a property near Fairbanks.

Troopers could not confirm the report because of thick trees obscuring the view. But then they used a helicopter to take photos with a telephoto camera lens.

Troopers used the images to apply for a search warrant and arrest John William McKelvey.

McKelvey’s attorney, Robert John, filed a motion to suppress evidence, claiming that taking photos from the air to obtain a warrant invaded his client’s right to privacy.

The trial court rejected the argument, and McKelvey was found guilty on two charges. The case was heard by the Alaska Court of Appeals in 2018.

John said the appeal ruling confirmed police in the air “can only investigate with their naked eye. They cannot employ technology. They cannot employ drones.”


Saudi court issues final verdicts in Khashoggi killing
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/09/07 16:41
A Saudi court issued final verdicts on Monday in the case of slain Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi after his son, who still resides in the kingdom, announced pardons that spared five of the convicted individuals from execution.

While the trial draws to its conclusion in Saudi Arabia, the case continues to cast a shadow over the international standing of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose associates have been sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.K. for their alleged involvement in the brutal killing, which took place inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Riyadh Criminal Court’s final verdicts were announced by Saudi Arabia’s state television, which aired few details about the eight Saudi nationals and did not name them. The court ordered a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the five. Another individual received a 10-year sentence, and two others were ordered to serve seven years in prison.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment on Oct. 2, 2018 to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiance, who waited outside. The team included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, and individuals who worked directly for the crown prince’s office, according to Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found. Turkey apparently had the consulate bugged and shared audio of the killing with the C.I.A., among others.

Western intelligence agencies, as well as the U.S. Congress, have said the crown prince bears ultimate responsibility for the killing and that an operation of this magnitude could not have happened without his knowledge.

The 35-year-old prince denies any knowledge of the operation and has condemned the killing. He continues to have the support of his father, King Salman, and remains popular among Saudi youth at home. He also maintains the support of President Donald Trump, who has defended U.S.-Saudi ties in the face of the international outcry over the slaying.



Census Bureau must temporarily halt winding down operations
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/09/05 23:41
The U.S. Census Bureau for now must stop following a plan that would have it winding down operations in order to finish the 2020 census at the end of September, according to a federal judge's order.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, issued a temporary restraining order late Saturday against the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department, which oversees the agency. The order stops the Census Bureau from winding down operations until a court hearing is held on Sept. 17.

The once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident helps determine how $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed and how many congressional seats each state gets in a process known as apportionment.

The temporary restraining order was requested by a coalition of cities, counties and civil rights groups that had sued the Census Bureau, demanding it restore its previous plan for finishing the census at the end of October, instead of using a revised plan to end operations at the end of September. The coalition had argued the earlier deadline would cause the Census Bureau to overlook minority communities in the census, leading to an inaccurate count.

Because of the pandemic, the Census Bureau pushed back ending the count from the end of July to the end of October and asked Congress to extend the deadline for turning in the apportionment numbers from December, as required by law, into next spring. When the Republican-controlled Senate failed to take up the request, the bureau was forced to create a revised schedule that had the census ending in September, according to the statistical agency.

The lawsuit contends the Census Bureau changed the schedule to accommodate a directive from President Donald Trump to exclude people in the country illegally from the numbers used in redrawing congressional districts. The revised plan would have the Census Bureau handing in the apportionment numbers at the end of December, under the control of the Trump administration, no matter who wins the election in November.

More than a half dozen other lawsuits have been filed in tandem across the country, challenging Trump’s memorandum as unconstitutional and an attempt to limit the power of Latinos and immigrants of color during apportionment.

“The court rightfully recognized the Trump administration’s attempted short-circuiting of our nation’s census as an imminent threat to the completion of a fair and accurate process,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups that brought the San Jose lawsuit.


Slovakia court set to give verdict in reporter's slaying
Business Law Info | 2020/09/04 03:03
A court in Slovakia is expected to issue a verdict Thursday in the slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee, a crime that shocked the country and led a government to fall.

The state prosecution has requested 25-year prison terms for three remaining defendants, one of them a businessman accused of masterminding the killings. They all pleaded not guilty to murdering journalist Jan Kuciak, and fiancee Martina Kusnirova, both aged 27.

But the trial at the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok, which handles Slovakia's most serious cases, might not be coming to an end, yet.

A three-judge tribunal originally was set to deliver a verdict in early August but delayed its decision, citing a need for more time.

Prosecutors submitted additional evidence on Monday. The panel could decide to postpone the verdict again to give them a chance to present the evidence in court.

Kuciak was shot in the chest and Kusnirova was shot in the head at their home in the town of Velka Maca, east of Bratislava, on Feb. 21, 2018.

The killings prompted major street protests unseen since the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. The ensuing political crisis led to the collapse of a coalition government headed by populist Prime Minister Robert Fico and to the dismissal of the national police chief.

Kuciak had been writing about alleged ties between the Italian mafia and people close to Fico when he was killed, and also wrote about corruption scandals linked to Fico’s leftist Smer - Social Democracy party.


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