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UN court hears appeal in Serbian lawmaker's acquittal
Headline News | 2017/12/11 11:08
A prosecutor urged U.N. judges Wednesday to overturn the acquittals of a prominent Serbian ultranationalist on atrocity charges, saying that a failure to do so would inflict lasting damage to the legacy of the groundbreaking war crimes tribunal.

Prosecutor Mathias Marcussen told a five-judge appeals panel that the 2016 acquittals of Vojislav Seselj on nine war crimes and crimes against humanity charges were so deeply flawed that they must be reversed or a new trial ordered.

"Justice has not been done," Marcussen said. He argued that the three-judge trial bench that found Seselj not guilty at the end of his marathon trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia made critical errors of fact and law and failed to properly evaluate all the evidence.

At trial, prosecutors accused Seselj of crimes including persecution, murder and torture and demanded a 28-year sentence for his support of Serb paramilitaries during the region's bitter, bloody wars in the early 1990s. Prosecutors argue that Seselj's actions were part of a plan to drive Croats and Muslims out of large areas of Croatia and Bosnia that leaders in Belgrade considered Serb territory.

Marcussen said that allowing Seselj's acquittals to stand would be "not only an affront to the victims of the alleged crimes, it would also seriously undermine the credibility" of the tribunal and the institution called the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals which has been established to deal with appeals and other legal issues left pending when ad hoc tribunals like the Yugoslav court close their doors for good.

A tribunal that prosecuted cases arising from Rwanda's genocide has already closed and the Yugoslav tribunal formally shuts down at the end of December. Seselj's appeal is being handled by the new mechanism.

Seselj, now a Serbian lawmaker, did not attend Wednesday's hearing. Judges gave him 10 days to respond in writing after he receives a transcript of the hearing.


Trump choosing white men as judges, highest rate in decades
Headline News | 2017/11/11 05:51
President Donald Trump is nominating white men to America's federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a judiciary that reflects the nation's diversity.

So far, 91 percent of Trump's nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.

The shift could prove to be one of Trump's most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.



Ohio court won't hear case in seizure of exotic animals
Headline News | 2017/10/24 08:21
Another court has dealt a blow to an Ohio man who is trying to get his six tigers and several other exotic animals back from the state.

The Ohio Supreme Court earlier this month said it would not hear an appeal in the case involving the owner of a roadside animal sanctuary near Toledo.

Ohio took custody of 11 animals from Kenny Hetrick in January 2015 after officials say he ignored warnings that he needed a permit.

Hetrick argues he was treated differently than other exotic animal owners and has asked the courts to force the state to give him a permit and return the animals.

The tigers, bear, leopard and cougar are now being kept in out-of-state sanctuaries during the state's appeal.


Bosnian court acquits ex-Srebrenica commander of war crimes
Headline News | 2017/10/08 23:52
Bosnia's war crimes court on Monday acquitted the wartime commander of Srebrenica, who was accused of committing atrocities against Serbs during the 1992-95 Balkan conflict.

The acquittal of Naser Oric immediately prompted anger from Serbian leaders, with Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin saying the court ruling "threatens security, trust and reconciliation in the whole of the Balkans."

Oric was accused of war crimes against three Serb prisoners of war who were slain in villages around the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in the early days of the conflict. A panel of judges presiding over the trial ruled Monday the prosecution did not present evidence proving the case against Oric.
 
Oric had previously been tried by a U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where he was also acquitted in 2008.




With 2 in 3 months, Ohio executions could be back on track
Headline News | 2017/09/18 01:16
Court rulings favorable to the state and the outcome of two executions in three months indicate Ohio could be on track to resume putting inmates to death regularly.

The state executed child killer Ronald Phillips in July and double killer Gary Otte on Wednesday in the state death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Witnesses said Phillips did not appear to be distressed. Otte’s chest rose and fell several times over two minutes in a fashion similar to some executions, though the movement appeared to go on longer than in the past.

Otte’s lawyers believe he suffered a phenomenon known as air hunger and plan to continue their challenge of Ohio’s use of a sedative called midazolam.

“My concerns were that he was obstructing, he was suffering air hunger, trying desperately to get air, and there were tears running down his face, which indicated to me that he was feeling pain or sensations,” federal public defender Carol Wright said after Wednesday’s execution.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said the procedure “was carried out in compliance with the execution policy and without complication.”

The next and last execution scheduled this year is Nov. 15, when the state plans to put Alva Campbell to death. A jury found Campbell, 69, guilty of killing 18-year-old Charles Dials 20 years ago after Campbell, who was in a wheelchair while feigning paralysis, escaped from a court hearing.

Ohio is scheduled to execute four people next year, including Cleveland R. Jackson, of Lima, and six in 2019. Nine men were executed in 2010, the most since Ohio resumed putting inmates to death in 1999.


Chicago's lawsuit over sanctuary city threat goes to court
Headline News | 2017/09/11 18:12
Chicago is asking a federal judge to block President Donald Trump's administration from following through on its threat to withhold public safety grants to so-called sanctuary cities.

Attorneys for the city will be in court Monday to argue their case. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said Chicago won't "be blackmailed" into changing its values as a city welcoming of immigrants.

Trump's policy stands to withhold public safety grants unless cities agree to tougher enforcement of immigrations laws. Chicago is among several cities refusing to cooperate.

Chicago sued the U.S. Department of Justice last month, arguing the new federal requirements are unconstitutional.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned that Chicago would forfeit its rights to the federal funds if it insists on violating the "rule of law."



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