The Latest: Authorities: Officer arrested for manslaughter
Court Watch | 2018/09/10 20:00
The Texas Department of Public Safety says a white Dallas police officer has been arrested on a manslaughter warrant in the shooting of a black man at his apartment.

The department said in a news release Sunday night that Officer Amber Guyger was booked into the Kaufman County Jail and that the investigation is ongoing. It said no additional information is available at this time. The 30-year-old Guyger killed 26-year-old Botham Jean on Thursday.

Police say Guyger shot and killed Jean after returning in uniform to the South Side Flats, where they both had apartments, following her shift. She reported the shooting to dispatchers and she told officers who responded that she had mistaken Jean's apartment for her own.

The lawyer for the family of a 26-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer who said she mistook his apartment for hers is calling for her to be charged.

S. Lee Merritt, who is representing the family of 26-year-old Botham Jean, said Saturday that the family isn't calling on the authorities to jump to conclusions or to deny Officer Amber Guyger her right to due process.

But he says they want Guyger "to be treated like every other citizen, and where there is evidence that they've committed a crime, that there's a warrant to be issued and an arrest to be made."

Online records show that Guyger hadn't been charged as of Sunday morning.



Pipeline company found guilty in 2015 California oil spill
Areas of Focus | 2018/09/10 03:01
A pipeline company was convicted of nine criminal charges Friday for causing the worst California coastal spill in 25 years, a disaster that blackened popular beaches for miles, killed wildlife and hurt tourism and fishing.

A Santa Barbara County jury found Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline guilty of a felony count of failing to properly maintain its pipeline and eight misdemeanor charges, including killing marine mammals and protected sea birds.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement that Plains’ actions were not only reckless and irresponsible but also criminal.

“Today’s verdict should send a message: if you endanger our environment and wildlife, we will hold you accountable,” he said.

Plains said in a statement that the jury didn’t find any knowing misconduct by the company and “accepts full responsibility for the impact of the accident.”

“We are committed to doing the right thing,” the company said.

The company said its operation of the pipeline met or exceeded legal and industry standards, and believes the jury erred in its verdict on one count where California law allowed a conviction under a standard of negligence.

“We intend to fully evaluate and consider all of our legal options with respect to the trial and resulting jury decision,” Plains said.

The company is set to be sentenced on Dec. 13. Because it’s a company, and not a person, Plains only faces fines, though it’s unclear how steep the penalties could be.

Plains had faced a total of 15 charges for the rupture of a corroded pipeline that sent at least 123,000 gallons (465,000 liters) of crude oil gushing onto Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles.


India’s Supreme Court strikes down law that punished gay sex
Opinions | 2018/09/09 03:01
India’s Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era law that made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a landmark victory for gay rights that one judge said would “pave the way for a better future.”

The 1861 law, a relic of Victorian England that hung on long after the end of British colonialism, was a weapon used to discriminate against India’s gay community, the judges ruled in a unanimous decision.

“Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, reading the verdict. “Social morality cannot be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual.”

As the news spread, the streets outside the courthouse erupted in cheers as opponents of the law danced and waved flags.

“We feel as equal citizens now,” said activist Shashi Bhushan. “What happens in our bedroom is left to us.”

In its ruling, the court said sexual orientation was a “biological phenomenon” and that discrimination on that basis violated fundamental rights.

“We cannot change history but can pave a way for a better future,” said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

The law known as Section 377 held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of harassment and persecution.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the New York-based rights group OutRight Action International, said the original law had reverberated far beyond India, including in countries where gay people still struggle for acceptance.

“The sodomy law that became the model everywhere, from Uganda to Singapore to the U.K. itself, premiered in India, becoming the confusing and dehumanizing standard replicated around the world,” she said in a statement, saying “today’s historic outcome will reverberate across India and the world.”

The court’s ruling struck down the law’s sections on consensual gay sex, but let stand segments that deal with such issues as bestiality.


Court: No review of 100-year sentence for attempted murders
Legal Business | 2018/09/07 17:02
A Louisiana court is refusing to review the case of a 31-year-old man who is serving 100 years for the attempted murder of two people.

Houma Today reports the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal Wednesday denied a review of Joshua Dean’s case.

The Houma man was convicted in 2008 of wounding two people in separate drive-by shootings.

Prosecutors described the shootings as random acts of violence. One victim was shot in the shoulder and another was shot in the back and paralyzed from the waist down.

Dean was sentenced to 50 years in prison on both counts to run consecutively.

He’s currently serving out his sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.



Senator asks court to declare Duterte arrest order illegal
Legal Topics | 2018/09/06 15:53
A Philippine senator who has taken refuge in the Senate to avoid an arrest order by President Rodrigo Duterte asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to declare the order illegal and called on the military to defy it.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Duterte's fiercest critic in Congress, told the high court in a petition that Duterte's proclamation voiding his 2011 amnesty for links to failed coup attempts and ordering his arrest was baseless.

"Their basis for this proclamation is a big lie," Trillanes told reporters in the Senate building, where he has remained since Duterte's order was made public Tuesday. "It's bogus, they only wanted to pin me down for being a critic of Mr. Duterte."

Known for his temper and outbursts against critics, Duterte has openly expressed anger against Trillanes, who has accused him of large-scale corruption and involvement in illegal drugs. Duterte has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The standoff has unfolded while Duterte is on a visit to Israel and Jordan. He is scheduled to fly home on Sunday.

The Department of Justice said Duterte voided Trillanes's amnesty because the senator did not file a formal amnesty application and admit guilt for his role in past coup attempts.



Court: Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on streets
Headline Legal News | 2018/09/05 23:58
Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws.

It comes as many places across the West Coast are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

When the Boise lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the homeless residents said as many as 4,500 people didn't have a place to sleep in Idaho's capital city and homeless shelters only had about 700 available beds or mats. The case bounced back and forth in the courts for years, and Boise modified its rules in 2014 to say homeless people couldn't be prosecuted for sleeping outside when shelters were full.

But that didn't solve the problem, the attorneys said, because Boise's shelters limit the number of days that homeless residents can stay. Two of the city's three shelters also require some form of religious participation for some programs, making those shelters unsuitable for people with different beliefs, the homeless residents said.

The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit found that the shelter rules meant homeless people would still be at risk of prosecution even on days when beds were open. The judges also said the religious programming woven into some shelter programs was a problem.


Louisiana Supreme Court upholds life sentence in beating
Legal Topics | 2018/09/05 06:58
The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld a life prison term for a man convicted of severely beating another man at a convenience store five years ago after telling the victim he was in the “wrong neighborhood.”

Donald Ray Dickerson, of Baton Rouge, was found guilty in 2015 of second-degree battery in the attack on David Ray III, of St. Francisville. Ray was hospitalized with a broken eye socket, broken nose and other injuries.

Dickerson was sentenced to life behind bars, deemed a habitual offender. The Advocate reports he has prior convictions for armed robbery, simple robbery and purse snatching.

Dickerson claims his conduct did not amount to second-degree battery and his sentence is unconstitutionally excessive. An appeals court disagreed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court on Friday let that ruling stand.


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