Court drops rape, other charges against megachurch leader
Court News | 2020/04/04 00:51
A California appeals court ordered the dismissal of a criminal case Tuesday against a Mexican megachurch leader on charges of child rape and human trafficking on procedural grounds.

Naason Joaquin Garcia, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, has been in custody since June following his arrest on accusations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County. Additional allegations of the possession of child pornography in 2019 were later added. He has denied wrongdoing.

While being held without bail in Los Angeles, Garcia has remained the spiritual leader of La Luz del Mundo, which is Spanish for “The Light Of The World.” The Guadalajara, Mexico-based evangelical Christian church was founded by his grandfather and claims 5 million followers worldwide.

It was not clear when he would be released. The attorney general’s office said it was reviewing the court’s ruling and did not answer additional questions. Garcia’s attorney, Alan Jackson, said he and his client are “thrilled” by the decision.


Supreme Court has once again postponed oral arguments
Opinions | 2020/04/02 00:53
The U.S. Supreme Court has once again postponed oral arguments scheduled for this spring, but this time the court seemed to hint it might not hear arguments in most cases until next term.

Following postponement of arguments scheduled for the last two weeks of March, the court on Friday announced that it would delay another round of oral arguments--its last for the term-- scheduled for the second half of April.

In a press release, the court said it would "consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the courtroom before the end of the court term," which usually is, for all practical purposes, at the end of June when the court completes its work and recesses for the summer.

The wording of the press release would seem to suggest, however, that the justices may postpone some cases until next term and extend the current term to hear a few particularly pressing cases.

Among them are three cases involving subpoenas for President Trump's financial records: two involving congressional subpoenas, and another involving a New York grand jury subpoena for financial records relating to alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and another woman during the 2016 presidential campaign.



Court affirms conviction in hot-grease injuries to wife
Legal Business | 2020/03/22 00:08
The Mississippi Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction of a man who injured his wife by dousing her with hot grease after she said she was planning to leave him.

Justices handed down a unanimous decision Thursday in the appeal of Kendall Woodson, 42, of Greenwood, the Greenwood Commonwealth reported.

“We cannot find any arguable issue for appeal or reversible error committed by the trial court,” Justice David Ishee wrote in upholding the conviction.

Woodson was convicted in 2017 of domestic aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is in the Holmes/Humphreys County Correctional Facility in Lexington.

Woodson and his wife had been married for 20 years at the time of the assault. According to court records, Anita Woodson testified that she got home from work around 12:45 a.m. on Aug. 6, 2015. During an argument, she told her husband she was going to leave him the next day.

She fell asleep, then woke up when Kendall Woodson pulled her up by the hair, began beating her and poured hot cooking oil on her head, while threatening to kill her. Anita Woodson was severely burned and received a concussion.



Fight over jaguar habitat in Southwest heads back to court
Court News | 2020/03/20 07:08
A federal appeals court is ordering a U.S. district judge in New Mexico to reconsider a case involving a fight over critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in the American Southwest.

Groups representing ranchers had sued, arguing that a 2014 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set aside thousands of acres for the cats was arbitrary and violated the statute that guides wildlife managers in determining whether certain areas are essential for the conservation of a species.

With the order released this week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier ruling that had sided with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Jaguars are currently found in 19 countries. Several individual male jaguars have been spotted in Arizona and New Mexico over the last two decades but there's no evidence of breeding pairs establishing territories beyond northern Mexico.

Shrinking habitats, insufficient prey, poaching and retaliatory killings over livestock deaths are some of the things that have contributed to the jaguar’s decline in the Southwest over the past 150 years.

Under a recovery plan finalized last year, Mexico as well as countries in Central and South America would be primarily responsible for monitoring jaguar movements within their territory. Environmentalists have criticized the plan, saying the U.S. government is overlooking opportunities for recovery north of the international border.


New Mexico courts deem hunter information as public record
Attorney News | 2020/03/18 07:09
The New Mexico Game and Fish Department has been ordered to release information about hunters to individuals who sought the records as part of separate court cases.

A state district judge is ordering the agency to turn over the names and addresses of those who won big game draws between 2015 and 2019 to a Los Alamos County resident who had petitioned the court for the information.

In the second case, the state Court of Appeals said the email addresses of individuals who applied for hunting licenses between 2015 and 2016 must be turned over to former Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.

The agency said Thursday that both courts concluded that information collected from the public in connection with the administration of the agency's public duties fall within the definition of public records and are subject to disclosure.

“The department argued against the release, but ultimately lost,” Game and Fish Director Michael Sloane said. “We value the privacy of our customers’ personal information but recognize that is the courts' interpretation of the current IPRA law.”

The department said it wanted to notify its customers that the information was being released and offered the number of the state attorney general's complaint hotline in case anyone is harassed by solicitors or others as a result of the disclosure.

In 2017, Dunn had requested the names and email addresses of more than 300,000 applicants for New Mexico hunting licenses. James Whitehead of Los Alamos had requested draw results, names and addresses of all successful applicants and units applied for and units drawn.



Australian highest court to rule on Cardinal’s appeal later
Legal Business | 2020/03/17 18:16
Australia’s highest court on Thursday said it will deliver a verdict at a later date on whether to overturn the convictions of the most senior Catholic to be found guilty of child sex abuse.

Cardinal George Pell’s lawyer, Bret Walker, told the High Court that if it found a lower court had made a mistake in upholding Pell’s convictions, he should be acquitted.

Prosecutor Kerri Judd told the seven judges that if there were a mistake, they should send the case back to the Victoria state Court of Appeal to hear it again.

Otherwise, the High Court should hear more evidence and decide itself whether the convictions against Pope Francis’ former finance minister should stand, Judd said.

Pell is one year into a six-year sentence after being convicted of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.

The 78-year-old cleric’s two-day hearing that ended on Thursday could be his last chance of clearing his name.

Pell was largely convicted on the testimony of one of the choirboys, now in his 30s with a young family.

He first went to police in 2015 after the second victim died of a heroin overdose at the age of 31. Neither can be identified under state law.

Judd told the court on Thursday that the surviving victim’s detailed knowledge of the layout of the priests’ sacristy supported his accusation that the boys were molested there.


Neville keeps seat in crowded primary for Supreme Court
Court News | 2020/03/16 07:09
Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. has won the primary election to keep his seat on the state’s highest court, emerging from a field of a six other Democrats.

No Republicans ran, making him the presumed winner in November for the 10-year term.

Democrat Charles Freeman, who died earlier this month at 86, held the post from 1990 to 2018, when he retired. He was the court’s first black judge. Neville, who is black, was appointed to complete the term. He was formerly an Illinois First District Appellate Court justice,

“Illinois’ population is diverse, and our courts, at all levels, should reflect our diversity,” Neville said in a Wednesday statement. “I applaud Cook County’s voters because your votes indicate that you are committed to diversity.”

The other challengers included five 1st District appellate justices: Cynthia V. Cobbs, Shelly A. Harris, Nathaniel Roosevelt Howse, Margaret Stanton McBride and Jesse G. Reyes. Also running was former private-practice attorney Daniel Epstein.



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