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Louisiana Supreme Court’s chief justice reelected
Criminal Law Updates | 2022/07/25 17:17
The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court has won re-election to another 10-year term.

Chief Justice John Weimer was automatically reelected when nobody signed up to challenge him by Friday’s qualifying deadline for the Nov. 8 ballot, The Advocate reported.

Weimer, 67, a former professor at Nicholls State University, first won election to the state’s high court in 2001. He won reelection in 2002 and 2012. In the latter race, he ran unopposed and returned campaign checks to contributors to his campaign.

On Wednesday, he was one of the first candidates to pay the qualifying fees and file the paperwork for the fall election. Weimer’s current term ends Dec. 31.

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles of Baton Rouge lifted a stay July 13 that had blocked the November election for the state Supreme Court’s 6th District, which Weimer represents. The stay arose out of a lawsuit filed in 2019 by the NAACP.

The lawsuit contends that two of the seven Supreme Court districts should have a Black majority in a state where about one-third of the state’s residents are African American. Only one Supreme Court district currently has a Black majority, the one represented by Justice Piper Griffin in New Orleans.

The 6th District, with about 600,000 residents, consists of 12 coastal parishes: Assumption, Iberia, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne, and a portion of the west bank of Jefferson.

The federal court had stopped all Supreme Court races in May. Only Weimer was up for reelection this year. Justices run in staggered terms every two years. The next justice is not on the ballot until 2024.


Court denies request for emergency halt to Ohio abortion ban
Criminal Law Updates | 2022/07/01 17:16
An emergency stay of Ohio’s newly imposed state ban on abortions at the first detectable “fetal heartbeat” was rejected Friday by the state Supreme Court.

At issue was a request by Ohio abortion providers for the interim delay while the court reviews the question of whether the ban should be overturned. The providers argue the law violates the Ohio Constitution’s broad protections of individual liberty.

Their lawsuit followed imposition of the Ohio ban June 24, the same day the U.S. Supreme Court found the U.S. Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to an abortion. A federal judge lifted his stay on Ohio’s abortion restriction later that night.

The Ohio law prohibits abortions after what it terms a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks’ gestation, or before many women know they are pregnant. It makes exceptions for the life of the mother and certain severe health risks.

The office of Attorney General Dave Yost, defending the new law, opposed the emergency stay, saying the Ohio Constitution does not recognize the right to an abortion.


New York’s top court rules in favor of fantasy sports bets
Criminal Law Updates | 2022/03/20 05:58
New York’s highest court ruled Tuesday that fantasy sports contests like those run by FanDuel and DraftKings are allowed under the state constitution, turning back a challenge to the popular games.

The state Court of Appeals reversed an appeals court’s decision last year that found interactive fantasy sports violated the state constitution’s ban on gambling. The games allow players to assemble a roster of athletes in a sport, using individuals performance statistics to determine the winner. They annually bring in hundreds of millions in entrance fees statewide.

The lawsuit was bought several years ago and did not target mobile sports betting, which began in New York earlier this year.

In a 4-3 ruling, New York’s top court clarified the scope of that the state’s constitutional prohibition on gambling. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote that the gambling prohibition doesn’t include skill-based competitions in which players who win a prize exercise “substantial influence” over the contest’s outcome.

DiFiore wrote that the outcome of a interactive fantasy sports contest “turns — not on the performance of real-life athletes, as it would with respect to a bet or wager — but on whether the participant has skillfully composed and managed a virtual roster so as to garner more fantasy points than rosters composed by other participants.”

The fantasy sports measure signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016 cleared the way for companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to operate and be regulated in New York. DraftKings and FanDuel both said they were pleased with the decision.




40-year sentence upheld for man who killed his roommate
Criminal Law Updates | 2021/07/25 07:17
Maine’s supreme court has upheld a 40-year prison sentence imposed on a man who killed his roommate in Old Orchard Beach.

Dustan Bentley pleaded guilty to murder in the death of 65-year-old William Popplewell, who was beaten, stabbed and strangled with a ligature.

Police arrested Bentley as he was attempting to use a ratchet and strap to pull the body into the trunk of his car, which was lined with a shower curtain. An autopsy revealed the victim suffered multiple broken bones and had been stabbed up to 30 times.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled that there was nothing in the record to indicate that the judge made a mistake.

“At no point did the court depart from sentencing principles or abuse its discretion in coming to or issuing its sentence,” the court said.

Bentley and Popplewell met at a Portland homeless shelter, and Bentley later moved into Popplewell’s apartment in Old Orchard Beach in December 2018. Popplewell was killed in March 2019.


Lawsuit seeks Confederate statue’s removal from courthouse
Criminal Law Updates | 2021/05/05 20:48
Civil rights advocates sued a Maryland county on Wednesday to seek the court-ordered removal of a Confederate monument from a courthouse lawn on the state’s Eastern Shore, calling it a racist symbol of oppression.

In their federal lawsuit, an NAACP branch leader and a defense lawyer say the “Talbot Boys” statue in Talbot County is the last Confederate monument remaining on public property in Maryland besides cemeteries and battlefields.

The lawsuit claims that a statue glorifying the Confederacy on the lawn outside the county courthouse in Easton, Maryland, is both unconstitutional and illegal under federal and state laws. Keeping it there “sends a message that the community does not value Black people, that justice is not blind, and that Black people are not equal in the eyes of the county,” the suit says.

“For Black employees and litigants entering the courthouse, the statue is, in its least damaging capacity, intimidating and demoralizing,” it adds.

In August 2020, Talbot County Council members voted 3-2 to keep the memorial on the courthouse lawn.

Council President Chuck Callahan was among the three members who voted to keep the memorial. He did not immediately respond Wednesday to an email and phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The memorial, dedicated in 1916, commemorates more than 80 soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. A website advocating for it to stay on the courthouse lawn calls it “a piece of history and a splendid work of art that tells the story of brother vs. brother where North and South came together, the border state of Maryland.”

The lawsuit says the statute, erected 50 years after the Civil War ended and during the Jim Crow era, was funded primarily by a prominent white lawyer who “embraced ideals of slavery.”

“It is also telling that no monument was erected to honor the sacrifices of those from Talbot County who fought for the Union ? particularly since Maryland was not part of the Confederacy,” the suit adds.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include Richard Potter, president of the Talbot County branch of the NAACP, and Kisha Petticolas, a Black lawyer who works in Talbot County for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers, including from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, filed the federal lawsuit in Baltimore.

It asks the court to order the statute’s permanent removal from the courthouse area and bar its display at any other county property. It also seeks unspecified monetary damages for the plaintiffs.


Court to hear appeal of Dallas officer who killed neighbor
Criminal Law Updates | 2021/04/27 20:19
A Texas court is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on overturning the conviction of a former Dallas police officer who was sentenced to prison for fatally shooting her neighbor in his home.

An attorney for Amber Guyger and prosecutors are set to clash before an appeals court over whether the evidence was sufficient to prove that her 2018 shooting of Botham Jean was murder.

The hearing before a panel of judges will examine a Dallas County jury’s  2019 decision to sentence Guyger to 10 years in prison for murder. It follows the recent conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, again focusing national attention on police killings and racial injustice.

Guyger is not expected to appear in court Tuesday and the appeals panel will hand down a decision at an unspecified later date.

More than two years before Floyd’s death set off protests across the country, Guyger’s killing of Jean drew national attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of Black men by white police officers.

The basic facts of the case were not in dispute. Guyger, returning home from a long shift, mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was on the floor directly below his. Finding the door ajar, she entered and shot him, later testifying that she through he was a burglar.

Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had been eating a bowl of ice cream before Guyger shot him. She was later fired from the Dallas Police Department.

The appeal from Guyger, now 32, hangs on the contention that her mistaking Jean’s apartment for her own was reasonable and, therefore, so too was the shooting. Her lawyers have asked the appeals court  to acquit her of murder or to substitute in a conviction for criminally negligent homicide, which carries a lesser sentence.

In court filings, Dallas County prosecutors countered  that Guyger’s error doesn’t negate “her culpable mental state.” They wrote, “murder is a result-oriented offense.”

Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, told the Dallas Morning News that the appeal has delayed her family’s healing.

”I know everyone has a right of appeal, and I believe she’s utilizing that right,” Jean said. “But on the other hand, there is one person who cannot utilize any more rights because she took him away.

“So having gotten 10 years, only 10, for killing someone who was in the prime of his life and doing no wrong in the comfort of his home, I believe that she ought to accept, take accountability for it and move on,” she said.

Guyger could have been sentenced to up to life in prison or as little as two years. Prosecutors had requested a 28-year sentence ? Botham Jean would have been 28 if he were still alive during the trial.

Under her current sentence, Guyger will become eligible for parole in 2024, according to state prison records.

Following the trial, two members of the jury said the diverse panel tried to consider what the victim would have wanted when they settled on a 10-year prison sentence.

Jean ? who went by “Bo” ? sang in a church choir in Dallas and grew up in a devout family on the island nation of St. Lucia. After sentencing, Brandt Jean embraced Guyger in court and told her his old


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