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Court says convicted serial rapist should be released
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/07/11 23:57
A convicted serial rapist should be allowed to be released into the community under supervision, the Minnesota state Court of Appeals ruled Monday, saying the state did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Thomas Duvall should remain in treatment.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said Monday that she will appeal the provisional discharge of Duvall, in a case that once set off a political firestorm as lawmakers were considering changes to the state's treatment program for sex offenders.

"I have grave concerns about this decision," Piper said in a statement. "Three experts have previously testified that Thomas Duvall is not ready for life in the community and that he presents far too great a risk to public safety. I share that view and will exhaust every possible avenue of appeal."

Duvall, 62, has spent the last 30 years locked up for the violent rapes of teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, he bound a Brooklyn Park girl with an electrical cord and raped her repeatedly over several hours while hitting her with a hammer. He was civilly committed as a psychopathic personality in 1991 and sent to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

Duvall has been in treatment since 2001 and was diagnosed as a sexual sadist. He has been in the final stages of the program since 2010, living outside the security perimeter at the facility in St. Peter, going on regular supervised community outings, volunteering at a thrift store, attending community support groups and preparing for transition into the community.


Supreme Court enjoys relatively high public confidence
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/07/09 23:54
The next Supreme Court justice will join the bench at a time when the public has more confidence in the high court than in Congress or the presidency.

A Gallup survey in June found 37 percent of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the court, while another 42 percent have "some" confidence. Only 18 percent have little or no confidence in the court.

Those are sterling marks compared with the court's neighbor on Capitol Hill: Just 11 percent of Americans say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress and nearly half say they have little or no confidence in the nation's legislature.

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, confidence in the White House is on par with that of the Supreme Court - though 44 percent of Americans have little or no confidence in it.

While the public's overall view of the court has remained steady over the past decade, there's been a shift this year as Republicans and GOP-leaning independents were more likely to express confidence in the court than Democrats and left-leaning independents were.

That change comes after a just-concluded term in which retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with conservative-leaning justices on rulings that blessed President Donald Trump's ban on travel from several Muslim nations, placed new limits on public-employee unions and struck down a California law aimed at regulating anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, among others.

Trump's choice - a former Kennedy clerk, Brett Kavanaugh, who currently sits on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit - will almost certainly push the court to the right. More Americans believe the court is "too conservative" than say it's "too liberal," according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted after Kennedy announced his plans to step down.



Kansas Supreme Court sends DNA request back to lower court
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/06/10 02:07
The Kansas Supreme Court has remanded a convicted man's request for DNA testing back to Leavenworth County District Court for further review.

The court on Friday reversed earlier rulings by a district judge and the Kansas Court of Appeals that denied the request from 39-year-old Gregory Mark George Jr., who is serving time for rape, aggravated robbery and aggravated intimidation of a witness.

The Leavenworth Times reports George was convicted of raping a clerk during a robbery at a Lansing convenience store in 2004.

In 2013, George filed a petition for DNA testing of hairs that were collected as part of his case but were never tested.

The state Supreme Court ruling asks a district judge to determine whether the requested testing might produce evidence that could help exonerate George.


Detroit-area couple in court over control of frozen embryos
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/06/07 09:22
with her former partner for control.

Gloria Karungi and Ronaldlee Ejalu have a daughter who has sickle cell disease. Karungi believes if she can bear another child with one of the embryos, bone marrow cells from that sibling could potentially cure the girl's blood illness.

But Ejalu must give his consent, according to a contract with an in vitro fertilization clinic, and he's not interested. Karungi and Ejalu never married and are no longer together.

Oakland County Judge Lisa Langton last year said she didn't have the authority to wade into the embryo dispute; she was simply determining financial support and parenting time for the couple's daughter. But the Michigan appeals court sent the case back to Langton for more work, including an evidentiary hearing if necessary.

Karungi "wants to cure her daughter and is seeking the embryos to that end. ... Without the embryos coming to term, that child has no ability to be cured," the woman's attorney, Dan Marsh, said in a court filing.

Ejalu's lawyer, Dan Weberman, said he'll argue again that a Family Division judge has no role in what's basically a contract quarrel. He also said it's misleading for Karungi to claim that cells from a sibling are the only cure for the 7-year-old girl.

"They want to paint a picture like she's on her death bed," Weberman told The Associated Press. "She's in school. She's a happy girl. She gets treatment once a month."

Ejalu no longer believes that using frozen embryos is a good idea.

"He doesn't feel ethically that a life should be created for human tissue harvesting. That's somewhat mind-boggling," Weberman said.

Under orders from the appeals court, Langton on June 20 again will hear arguments on whether she has jurisdiction over contested property held by unmarried parties. But in the meantime, the judge has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on Karungi's request to have a lawyer appointed as guardian over the embryos.


Lohan fails to convince court her image is in video game
Criminal Law Updates | 2018/03/28 18:39
It looks like "Game Over" for actress Lindsay Lohan in her state court fight against a software company for using what she claims is a likeness of her in a video game.

Lohan's lawyer argued before New York's top court that Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. violated her right to privacy by incorporating "look-a-like" images of her in the game "Grand Theft Auto V."

But the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the satirical representations of "a modern, beach-going" young woman are not identifiable as Lohan. The court affirmed a ruling from a lower state appeals court dismissing her lawsuit.

Similar claims against Take-Two by "Mob Wives" television star Karen Gravano also were dismissed in a separate ruling.

A message left with Lohan's lawyer wasn't immediately returned.


NC high court reviews death penalty of man who beheaded wife
Criminal Law Updates | 2017/10/10 16:53
North Carolina's highest court is reviewing whether justice means the death penalty for a survivor of El Salvador's blood-soaked civil war of the 1980s who strangled and then decapitated his estranged wife.

The state's Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday on whether the state can execute 41-year-old Juan Carlos Rodriguez of Winston-Salem for the 2010 murder of his wife, Maria. The high court automatically reviews death cases.

North Carolina is rare among southern states in that it hasn't had an execution in more than a decade because of various legal challenges. While the state has continued to suffer 500 to 600 murders a year, prosecutors have sought the death penalty only a handful of times each year and juries have condemned killers in only a fraction of those cases.

Rodriguez's children told investigators their father beat and bloodied Maria Rodriguez after she told them she was leaving in November 2010. He tossed the woman's still-breathing body over his shoulder, placed her in his vehicle, and said he was taking her to a hospital. Maria's body and severed head were found at different locations three weeks later, after Juan was already jailed for her kidnapping.

Justices are holding hearings in the case for the second time in almost exactly a year. Monday's hearing comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this spring that states needed to use current medical standards in deciding whether a killer is so mentally disabled he can't be executed. The U.S. constitution bans "cruel and unusual punishments," and that has been interpreted to prohibit executing people with severe mental shortcomings.

Rodriguez's IQ was estimated several times at below 70, a threshold for significantly impaired intellectual functioning. But accused killers in North Carolina also must show significant inability to adapt to daily life and that their mental handicaps were evident before adulthood.


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