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Court extends halt in Louisiana executions after judge dies
U.S. Legal News | 2018/01/14 13:59
A court order blocking Louisiana from carrying out any executions has been extended indefinitely after the death of the federal judge who issued it.

A lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocols has kept death sentences on hold since 2014. U.S. District Judge James Brady, who died Dec. 9 after a brief illness, oversaw the lawsuit and agreed to order the temporary stay of all executions.

Brady's order was due to expire next Monday, but U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick agreed Thursday to extend it until another judge is assigned to the lawsuit.

Louisiana has 72 inmates on death row, according to state corrections department spokesman Ken Pastorick. The state's last execution was in January 2010, when it carried out a death sentence for Gerald Bordelon, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2002.

Drug shortages have forced the corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010. Under the state's current execution protocols, its primary method is a single-drug injection of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative. The alternative method is a two-drug combination of the painkiller hydromorphone and the sedative midazolam.

The most recent order that Brady issued to halt executions — at the request of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry — is limited to death row inmates who are plaintiffs in the litigation. But others can join the lawsuit if an execution date is set by the courts.



Michigan High Court to Hear Arguments on Guns in Schools
U.S. Legal News | 2017/12/29 13:54
Michigan's high court is expected to weigh in next year on whether school districts can ban anyone not in law enforcement from carrying guns onto school grounds.

The Michigan Supreme Court last week invited school districts and gun rights groups in a disputed lower-court decision to file written arguments. Oral arguments are expected in coming months, though a hearing date hasn't been set, the Detroit News reported.

The legal battle stems from a 2016 appellate court ruling that public schools can ban guns from their premises, citing more than two dozen state laws with language referencing "weapon-free school zones." The ruling rejected a challenge by gun rights groups and parents who are licensed to carry firearms.

Gun rights advocates said the court was wrong to find Ann Arbor Public Schools and the Clio Area School District aren't in conflict with state law, which prohibits local governments from regulating gun possession.

The Ann Arbor district banned all guns on school property and school-sponsored activities in 2015 after Ulysses Wong, a parent, openly carried a firearm into a high school music concert. Under the district's rules, bringing a gun into the school would constitute an emergency and result in evacuation or other response strategies.


Indiana Supreme Court considers eavesdropping case
U.S. Legal News | 2017/12/25 13:53
The Indiana Supreme Court has taken up an eavesdropping case that could result in a new state standard to determine when prosecutorial misconduct is so egregious that a criminal suspect can no longer be made to stand trial.

The court heard arguments last week in a case involving a Long Beach murder suspect, John Larkin, whose supposedly private conversation with his attorney in a police interrogation room was recorded. The video was then viewed by LaPorte Chief Deputy Prosecutor Robert Neary, who ordered a transcript of the conversation and gave it to a special prosecutor handling the murder case.

Last month, the Supreme Court suspended Neary's law license for four years.

Court records show that police or prosecutors likely tampered with evidence before providing it to the defendant's examiner as well, the (Northwest Indiana) Times reported .

Deputy Attorney General Eric Babbs asked the high court to overturn the LaPorte Circuit Court decision that tossed the voluntary manslaughter case against Larkin. The case was affirmed in June by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Babbs requested that prosecutors be given the opportunity to prove that not all evidence in their case is tainted. Babbs also argued for the ability to proceed to trial with whatever evidence a judge finds was properly obtained.

Larkin's attorney Stacy Uliana said Babbs' requests are "too little, too late."

The justices didn't indicate when they will issue a ruling. There isn't a statutory timeline for a decision by the high court.

The Indiana Supreme Court has taken up an eavesdropping case that could result in a new state standard to determine when prosecutorial misconduct is so egregious that a criminal suspect can no longer be made to stand trial.



US jury acquits Peruvian defendant in FIFA bribery case
U.S. Legal News | 2017/12/20 13:52
A former South American soccer official was acquitted Tuesday of a corruption charge stemming from the FIFA bribery scandal after two others were convicted last week, capping a trial in which U.S. prosecutors sought to expose a culture of greed and corruption among the powerful men who oversee the world's most popular sport.

Jurors found Manuel Burga, the 60-year-old former president of Peru's soccer federation, not guilty of a single racketeering conspiracy charge.

Burga wept when the acquittal was announced. After the verdict, he came out of the courtroom, his eyes wet and said: "God Bless America. That's all I can say."

Burga said he would go home and resume a career as a lawyer that had been largely left behind for the last 15 years during his career as a soccer executive.

"My history in soccer is finished," he said. "I'll go back to the law."

On Friday, jurors told U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen they were deadlocked on Burga's case but had reached guilty verdicts on multiple charges against two other former officials: Juan Napout, of Paraguay, and Jose Maria Marin, of Brazil. Chen gave jurors the holiday weekend to think about Burga's case.

The judge had jailed Marin, 85, and Napout, 59, after their convictions Friday. The two were acquitted on some lesser charges. Burga, meanwhile, was waiting on his passport to return home.

Marin, Burga and Napout had been arrested in 2015. Prosecutors accused them of agreeing to take millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen seeking to lock up lucrative media rights or influence hosting rights for the World Cup and other major tournaments controlled by FIFA.



Trappers ask court to throw out lawsuit over US fur exports
U.S. Legal News | 2017/11/26 05:50
Fur trappers are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit from wildlife advocates who want to block the export of bobcat pelts from the United States.

Attorneys for trapping organizations said in recent court filings that the lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service infringes on the authority of state and tribal governments to manage their wildlife.

The plaintiffs in the case allege the government's export program doesn't protect against the accidental trapping of imperiled species such as Canada lynx.

More than 30,000 bobcat pelts were exported in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available, according to wildlife officials. The pelts typically are used to make fur garments and accessories. Russia, China, Canada and Greece are top destinations, according to a trapping industry representative and government reports.

Federal officials in February concluded trapping bobcats and other animals did not have a significant impact on lynx populations.

The Fish and Wildlife Service regulates trade in animal and plant parts according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which the U.S. ratified in 1975.

The advocates' lawsuit would "do away with the CITES export program," according to attorneys for the Fur Information Council of America, Montana Trappers Association and National Trappers Association.

"They are seeking to interfere with the way the States and Tribes manage their wildlife, by forcing them to limit, if not eliminate, the harvesting of the Furbearers and at the very least restrict the means by which trapping is conducted," attorneys Ira Kasdan and Gary Leistico wrote in their motion to dismiss the case.

Bobcats are not considered an endangered species. But the international trade in their pelts is regulated because they are "look-alikes" for other wildlife populations that are protected under U.S. law.


Florida man back at Supreme Court with 1st Amendment case
U.S. Legal News | 2017/11/06 19:50
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a First Amendment case brought by a Florida man who previously won a landmark ruling from the justices on whether his floating home was a house, not a boat subject to easier government seizure under laws that govern ships and boats.

This time, the justices agreed to hear a case in which Fane Lozman sued after being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at a public meeting.

Lozman, 56, was never brought to trial on the charges — prosecutors dropped them after concluding there was no possibility of a conviction. Lozman then sued Riviera Beach, claiming his arrest at a 2006 city council meeting violated the First Amendment's free speech guarantee because it was in retaliation for opposing a marina redevelopment plan and accusing council members of corruption.

A jury sided with the city after a trial and an appeals court upheld that verdict. Lozman, however, took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that U.S. appeals courts across the country are split on the issue of retaliatory arrest versus free speech.


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