Court fight likely in 10-year-old girl’s homicide case
Headline Legal News | 2018/11/11 08:46
When a 10-year-old Wisconsin girl was charged with homicide this week in the death of an infant, it was a rare — but not unprecedented — case of adult charges being filed against someone so young.

The girl told investigators she panicked after dropping the baby at a home day care and then stomped on his head when he began crying. She sobbed during a court appearance in Chippewa County, where she was led away in handcuffs and a restraint.

The age at which children get moved to adult court varies by state and can be discretionary in some cases.

Wisconsin is an outlier in that state law requires homicide or attempted homicide charges to be initially filed in adult court if the suspect is at least 10 years old, according to Marcy Mistrett, chief executive at the Campaign for Youth Justice.

Wisconsin is among 28 states that allow juveniles to be automatically tried in adult court for certain crimes, including murder. For most states, the age at which that is triggered is 15 or 16 years old — while some states have decided 10 is even too young for a child to be held responsible in the juvenile justice system, Mistrett said.

Moving a case to juvenile court depends on establishing certain factors, such as whether the child would get needed services in the adult system, said Eric Nelson, a defense attorney who practices in Wisconsin.

For example, prosecutors in an attempted murder case involving a 12-year-old schizophrenic girl who stabbed a classmate said she belonged in adult court, where she could be monitored for years for a disease that isn’t curable. Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued against those claims.

Homicide cases involving 10-year-old defendants are extremely rare. From 2007 through 2016, 44 children aged 10 or younger were believed to be responsible for homicides in the U.S., according to data compiled by Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. Only seven of those children were girls.

In 2003, two 12-year-old boys fatally beat and stabbed 13-year-old Craig Sorger after they invited him to play in Washington state. Evan Savoie and Jake Eakin ultimately pleaded guilty in adult court and were sentenced to 20 years and 14 years in prison, respectively.


'Magic' campaign lands 17 black women on Houston courts
Court Watch | 2018/11/10 22:46
The Houston area's courts are going to be a lot more diverse thanks to a group of 17 African-American women and their "magic."

The women, who were part of an effort dubbed the "Black Girl Magic" campaign, all won races Tuesday to be judges in various Harris County courts in an election that featured more black women on the county's ballot than any other.

The "Black Girl Magic" campaign debuted over the summer with a viral photo that featured the 17 women and two other sitting Harris County judges inside a courtroom. Although those two judges lost their bids Tuesday for seats on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, they will retain their local judgeships.

Those behind the campaign say it was part of an effort to broaden the diversity of the Houston area's judiciary and ensure that more African-Americans and other minorities can bring their backgrounds and life experiences to the bench and better reflect the diversity of the nation's fourth largest city.

"I think that while Houston itself is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, our elected officials have not always reflected that," said Lillie Schechter, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, which put together the "Black Girl Magic" campaign. "Having a government that reflects the people, the population is something that is incredibly important."

Lori Chambers Gray, a Houston defense attorney who won election to be a judge on a criminal district court, said the photo and the "Black Girls Magic" campaign provided her with a source of strength and motivation as she proceeded to Election Day.

"I hope that it's an example for women that we do have opportunities to run and to win a campaign," Gray said.

The "Black Girl Magic" moniker has been used as a hashtag in recent years to highlight the accomplishments of African-American girls and women. In politics, it's been used to highlight the role African-American women have played in helping decide various races, including the highly contested Senate race in Alabama last year in which Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore.

The victory by the 17 black women on Tuesday was part of a Harris County rout by the Democrats, who won almost all of the nearly 70 local judicial races and ousted a popular Republican from the county's top elected office.


Ginsburg, 85, hospitalized after fracturing 3 ribs in fall
Headline Legal News | 2018/11/08 18:39
Eighty-five-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fractured three ribs in a fall in her office at the court and is in the hospital, the court said Thursday.

The court’s oldest justice fell Wednesday evening, the court said. She called Supreme Court police to take her to George Washington University Hospital in Washington early Thursday after experiencing discomfort overnight, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

She was admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation after tests showed she fractured three ribs.

In her absence, the court went ahead Thursday with a courtroom ceremony welcoming new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the court last month. President Donald Trump and new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker were on hand.

Ginsburg has had a series of health problems. She broke two ribs in a fall in 2012. She has had two prior bouts with cancer and had a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014. She also was hospitalized after a bad reaction to medicine in 2009.

But she has never missed Supreme Court arguments. The court won’t hear arguments again until Nov. 26.

Rib fractures are common among older adults, particularly after falls. The severity depends in part on whether the ribs are cracked or broken all the way through, and how many are broken. The extent of Ginsburg’s injury was not clear.

A complete break requires making sure the two ends are in alignment, so that a sharp piece of bone doesn’t puncture nearby blood vessels or organs. Broken ribs typically heal on their own in six weeks to a month, and patients are advised to limit strenuous activity. But they can be very painful and controlling pain is key. A chief complication is pneumonia, when patients don’t breathe deeply enough or cough enough because of the rib pain.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg rebuffed suggestions from some liberals that she should step down in the first two years of President Barack Obama’s second term, when Democrats also controlled the Senate and would have been likely to confirm her successor.

She already has hired clerks for the term that extends into 2020, indicating she has no plans to retire. Ginsburg leads the court’s liberal wing.


Justice Beth Clement leading Supreme Court race
Headline Legal News | 2018/11/07 16:26
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement is leading a six-candidate field for two seats on the state's highest court. Nearly 95 percent of votes have been counted. The top two finishers get black robes.

Justice Kurtis Wilder and appellate lawyer Megan Cavanagh are battling for the second spot. Cavanagh, a Democrat, is the daughter of former Justice Michael Cavanagh.

With Clement and Wilder, Republicans have a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court, though candidates aren't identified by party on the ballot. University of Michigan law professor Sam Bagenstos was far behind in fourth place and threw in the towel — literally.

After a long campaign, he says it's time for him to do some "deferred laundry." Former CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin has defeated Republican Rep. Mike Bishop, denying him a third House term representing their southeastern Michigan district and flipping the seat to the Democrats.

Slotkin, who worked as a CIA analyst under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and who advocates for public service, said that if she was elected Tuesday, she would push for affordable health care.

Both parties spent heavily on the race, with Democrats sensing that the typically reliable Republican district was vulnerable. Two others also ran: Libertarian Party candidate Brian Ellison and U.S. Taxpayers Party candidate David Lillis.


Malaysia court to resume Kim Jong Nam murder trial on Jan. 7
Areas of Focus | 2018/11/07 00:26
A Malaysian court on Wednesday set Jan. 7 for two Southeast Asian women charged with murdering the North Korean leader’s half brother to begin their defense, as their lawyers complained that some witnesses were unreachable.

A High Court judge in August found there was enough evidence to infer that Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, along with four missing North Korean suspects, had engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim Jong Nam.

The women appeared somber but calm during Wednesday’s hearing. The trial had been due to resume Nov. 1 but was postponed after a defense lawyer fell ill.

Aisyah’s lawyers made a new application to the court to compel prosecutors to provide them with statements that eight witnesses had given to police earlier.

Her lawyer, Kulaselvi Sandrasegaram, said they were informed that one of the witnesses, the man who chauffeured Kim to the airport, had died while two Indonesian women who were Aishah’s roommates were believed to have returned to their homeland. She said they have only managed to interview two of the witnesses offered by prosecutors, while two others didn’t turn up for their appointments and couldn’t be contacted.

The witness statements taken by police are important in “the interest of justice” and to ensure that what they say to defense lawyers is consistent with what they told police, Sandrasegaram told reporters later.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said the police interviews are privileged statements and shouldn’t be made public.

Judge Azmi Ariffin said the court will make a decision on the defense application on Dec. 14. He also set 10 days from Jan. 7 through February for Aishah’s defense and 14 days from March 11 through April for Huong.


Bahrain opposition leader sentenced to life by high court
Headline Legal News | 2018/11/05 06:11
A Shiite cleric who was a central figure in Bahrain's 2011 Arab Spring protests was sentenced to life in prison Sunday on spying charges.

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals came after Sheikh Ali Salman was acquitted of the charges by a lower court in June. Human rights groups and activists say the charges against him are politically-motivated and related to his work as a leading opposition figure.

The verdict was issued just weeks before parliamentary elections are set to take place without the Al-Wefaq political group Salman once led. Al-Wefaq, which was the tiny Gulf nation's largest Shiite opposition bloc, was ordered dissolved in 2016 as part of a crackdown on dissent in the kingdom, which has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency reported the appellate court's decision Sunday without naming the defendants, saying three individuals were found guilty of the spying charges.

Human Rights First, an activist group, confirmed the ruling refers to Salman. His co-defendants in the case— Sheikh Hassan Ali Juma Sultan and Ali Mahdi Ali al-Aswad— are also former al-Wefaq officials.

The three faced charges of disclosing sensitive information to Qatar that could harm Bahrain's security in exchange for financial compensation. The state-run news agency said prosecutors presented recorded phone conversations as evidence.

Last year, Bahrain state television aired the recorded calls between Salman and Qatar's then-Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani during the 2011 protests.


Heated congressional, court races on Arkansas midterm ballot
Legal Topics | 2018/11/03 13:12
A push by Democrats to flip a Republican-held congressional seat that represents the Little Rock area and a state Supreme Court race that has drawn heavy spending by a conservative interest group have drawn the most attention in Arkansas' midterm election.

The campaigns for the 2nd Congressional District and state Supreme Court seats became increasingly bitter and expensive in the run-up to Tuesday's election, especially from outside groups that have been airing attack ads and sending mailers. The races have overshadowed an election in which Democrats face long odds of making gains in the solidly Republican state.
 
The secretary of state's office hasn't predicted how many of Arkansas' nearly 1.8 million registered voters will cast ballots in the election, but more than 350,000 had voted early through Friday.

Republicans have a solid hold on Arkansas' four U.S. House seats and President Donald Trump easily won the state two years ago, but Democrats believe they have a chance to flip a Little Rock-area district by focusing on the incumbent's vote to repeal the federal health care law.

Democrat Clarke Tucker is trying to unseat two-term Republican Rep. French Hill in the 2nd Congressional District, which represents Little Rock and seven surrounding counties. Tucker is a state legislator who regularly talks about his battle with bladder cancer and his support for the Affordable Care Act, especially its protections for those with pre-existing conditions




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