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High court declines to take Pennsylvania rap artist’s case
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/04/13 23:46
The Supreme Court is declining to take the case of a Pennsylvania rapper who was convicted of threatening police officers in one of his songs.

The high court declined on Monday to take the case of Jamal Knox, known as Mayhem Mal. In 2012, he and rapper Rashee Beasley were arrested by Pittsburgh police on gun and drug charges. A song they later wrote about the arrest contains phrases including “Let’s kill these cops cuz they don’t do us no good.”

Both were charged with terroristic threats and other crimes.

Knox argued that the song was protected by the First Amendment, but he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to one to three years in prison. Pennsylvania’s highest court upheld his convictions.



Texas’ high court keeps execution drug supplier secret
Employment Law | 2019/04/12 23:47
A supplier of Texas’ execution drugs can remain secret under a court ruling Friday that upheld risks of “physical harm” to the pharmacy, ending what state officials called a threat to the entire U.S. death penalty system.

The decision by the Texas Supreme Court, where Republicans hold every seat on the bench, doesn’t change operations at the nation’s busiest death chamber because state lawmakers banned the disclosure of drug suppliers for executions starting in 2015.

A lawsuit filed a year earlier by condemned Texas inmates argued that the supplier’s identity was needed to verify the quality of the drugs and spare them from unconstitutional pain and suffering. Lower courts went on to reject Texas’ claims that releasing the name would physically endanger pharmacy employees at the hands of death-penalty opponents.

Now, however, the state’s highest court has found the risks valid and ordered the identity of the supplier to stay under wraps.

“The voters of Texas have expressed their judgment that the death penalty is necessary, and this decision preserves Texas’ ability to carry out executions mandated by state law,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

The court deciding that a “substantial” risk of harm exists appeared to largely hinge on an email sent to an Oklahoma pharmacy in which the sender suggested they enhance security and referenced the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

“I’m speechless with the absurdity of them relying on that singular fact to close, to keep in secret how Texas essentially carries out its execution,” said Maurie Levin, a defense attorney who helped bring the original lawsuit.

The availability of execution drugs has become an issue in many death penalty states after traditional pharmaceutical makers refused to sell their products to prison agencies for execution use. Similar lawsuits about drug provider identities have been argued in other capital punishment states.


Media lawyers in Australian court over Cardinal gag order
U.S. Legal News | 2019/04/10 23:48
Dozens of high-profile Australian journalists and major media organizations were represented by lawyers in a court on Monday on charges relating to breaches of a gag order on reporting about Cardinal George Pell's convictions for sexually molesting two choirboys.

Reporting in any format accessible from Australia about the former Vatican economy chief's convictions in a Melbourne court in December was banned by a judge's suppression order that was not lifted until February.

Such suppression orders are common in the Australian and British judicial systems, and breaches can result in jail terms. But the enormous international interest in a criminal trial with global ramifications has highlighted the difficulty in enforcing such orders in the digital world.

Lawyers representing 23 journalists, producers and broadcasters as well as 13 media organizations that employ them appeared in the Victoria state Supreme Court for the first time on charges including breaching the suppression order and sub judice contempt, which is the publishing of material that could interfere with the administration of justice. Some are also charged with scandalizing the court by undermining public confidence in the judiciary as well as aiding and abetting foreign media outlets in breaching the suppression order.

Media lawyer Matthew Collins told the court that convictions could have a chilling effect on open justice in Australia. He described the prosecutions as unprecedented under Australian law.

"This is as serious as it gets in terms of convictions, fines and jail time," Collins said. Justice John Dixon urged lawyers to consider whether all 36 people and companies would face a single trial or whether there should be 36 trials.

He ordered prosecutors to file detailed statements of claim against all those charged by May 20 and defense lawyers to file responses by June 21.


Court finds WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange guilty
U.S. Legal News | 2019/04/06 23:50
Court in Britain finds WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange guilty of breaching his bail conditions.

Police arrested Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday, after the South American nation decided to revoke the political asylum that had given him sanctuary for almost seven years.

London police said they were invited into the embassy by Ecuador’s ambassador. Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 after he was released on bail while facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations that have since been dropped.

Assange has been under U.S. Justice Department scrutiny for years for Wikileaks’ role in publishing thousands of government secrets and was an important figure in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as investigators examined how WikiLeaks obtained emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Democratic groups.

Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, said his government made a “sovereign decision” to revoke Assange’s political asylum due to “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life.”

“Today I announce that that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” Moreno said in a video released on Twitter.

Video posted online by Ruptly, a news service of Russia Today, showed several men in suits carrying Assange out of the embassy building and loading him into a police van while uniformed British police officers formed a passageway. Assange sported a full beard and slicked-back grey hair.



Texas bans clergy from executions after Supreme Court ruling
Class Action News | 2019/04/04 22:43
Texas prisons will no longer allow clergy in the death chamber after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the scheduled execution of a man who argued his religious freedom would be violated if his Buddhist spiritual adviser couldn’t accompany him.

Effective immediately, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will only permit prison security staff into the execution chamber, a spokesman said Wednesday. The policy change comes in response to the high court’s ruling staying the execution of Patrick Murphy, a member of the “Texas 7” gang of escaped prisoners.

Texas previously allowed state-employed clergy to accompany inmates into the room where they’d be executed, but its prison staff included only Christian and Muslim clerics.

In light of this policy, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Texas couldn’t move forward with Murphy’s punishment unless his Buddhist adviser or another Buddhist reverend of the state’s choosing accompanied him.

One of Murphy’s lawyers, David Dow, said the policy change does not address their full legal argument and mistakes the main thrust of the court’s decision.

“Their arbitrary and, at least for now, hostile response to all religion reveals a real need for close judicial oversight of the execution protocol,” Dow said

Murphy’s attorneys told the high court that executing him without his spiritual adviser in the room would violate the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The 57-year-old — who was among a group of inmates who escaped from a Texas prison in 2000 and then committed numerous robberies, including one where a police officer was fatally shot — became a Buddhist while in prison nearly a decade ago.



Spacey’s lawyers returning to court in bar groping case
Court Feed News | 2019/04/04 22:43
A judge will consider motions filed by lawyers for Kevin Spacey, who’s charged with groping an 18-year-old man on Nantucket in 2016.

The Oscar-winning former “House of Cards” actor won’t be present for Thursday’s hearing at Nantucket District Court.

Spacey’s attorneys have been seeking to preserve phone and electronic records between the man — who says Spacey unzipped his pants and fondled him — and the man’s girlfriend at the time. The assault allegedly occurred at a restaurant on the island off Cape Cod where the young man worked as a busboy.

Spacey pleaded not guilty in January to felony indecent assault and battery. His lawyers have called the accusations “patently false.”

It’s the first criminal case brought against Spacey after several sexual misconduct allegations crippled his career in 2017.


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