US Supreme Court refuses appeals from 3 on Texas death row
Areas of Focus | 2017/03/01 08:50
The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to review appeals in three Texas death row cases, including one where a man pleaded guilty to a triple slaying in South Texas.

The high court's rulings moved two inmates closer to execution: LeJames Norman, 31, condemned for the 2005 shooting deaths of three people during a botched robbery of a home in Edna, about 100 miles southwest of Houston, and Bill Douglas Gates, 67, condemned for strangling a Houston woman in 1999. Neither has an execution date.

Norman and an accomplice also now on death row, Ker'Sean Ramey, were convicted in the slayings of Samuel Roberts, 24, Tiffani Peacock, 18, and Celso Lopez, 38, inside the home they shared in Edna, in Jackson County. Roberts' parents discovered the bodies Aug. 25, 2005.

Court records indicated Ramey and Norman believed there was 100 kilograms of cocaine in the house and hoped to steal it, but they never found any drugs. Norman was arrested trying to cross a bridge into Brownsville from Mexico about five months after the killings. He pleaded guilty to capital murder, leaving a jury to decide only on punishment. Norman's appeal raised questions about the competence of his trial attorneys.

Texas prison records show when Gates was arrested for the slaying of Elfreda Gans, 41, at her Houston apartment, the Riverside County, California, man was on parole after serving six years of two life prison terms in California for robbery, assault on a peace officer and possession of a weapon by a prisoner. His appeal also questioned whether his trial lawyers were deficient.

The third case refused by the high court involved prisoner Michael Wayne Norris, whose case was returned by a federal district judge in 2015 to his trial court in Houston for a new punishment hearing. A federal appeals court last year upheld that decision. Norris has been on death row nearly 30 years for fatally shooting a Houston mother and her 2-year-old son.

Patrick McCann, Norris' attorney, said Monday the ruling involved legal procedural point related to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.



Court: Florida Docs Allowed to Ask Patients About Guns
Areas of Focus | 2017/02/23 09:17
A federal appeals court has cleared the way for Florida doctors to talk with patients about whether they own guns.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that key provisions of a 2011 law that restricted such speech violate the First Amendment.

Three-judge panels of the same court had issued conflicting rulings in a long-running challenge to the law brought by 11,000 medical providers and others. The case has become known as Docs vs. Glocks.

Backed by Gov. Rick Scott, the law prohibited doctors from asking patients about gun ownership unless it was medically necessary. Doctors say asking about guns is a safety issue and could save lives.

While ruling that much of the law violates free-speech rights, the court said some parts could remain in place.


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Areas of Focus | 2017/01/02 02:26
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Court gives fertilizer dealers a reprieve from policy change
Areas of Focus | 2016/09/24 22:23
A court ruling has given farm fertilizer dealers a reprieve from a federal policy change that some say would unfairly burden the industry.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy change announced last year would regulate retail dealers of farm fertilizer such as anhydrous ammonia under the same standards as manufacturers. It came after a deadly explosion at a Texas plant in 2013.

The Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute say the change would affect 3,800 fertilizer retailers nationwide, costing them more than $100 million. The two organizations sued a year ago.

The change was to take effect this coming Saturday. But a federal appeals court has ruled that OSHA can't implement it without going through a formal rule-making process.



LA Supreme Court considers teen robber’s 99-year sentence
Areas of Focus | 2016/09/14 21:01
Louisiana’s Supreme Court is considering whether recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings about juveniles convicted of murder mean a juvenile robber’s 99-year sentence is unconstitutional.

Alden Morgan is now 35. He was 17 years old when he held up a couple with their baby daughter.

The New Orleans Advocate reports that several justices noted that his punishment is much higher than the nation’s highest court would have allowed for second-degree murder.

The U.S. Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional to execute juveniles, to give them life sentences for most crimes, and — except in rare cases — to deny them a chance at parole for most killings.

Morgan’s case appears to be the first time that Louisiana’s high court has considered how those rulings may affect sentences for lesser offenses.



Court to consider future of Alabama chief justice
Areas of Focus | 2016/08/04 20:35
A court is considering whether suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore should lose his job for an order on gay marriage.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary scheduled a hearing for Monday on judicial investigators' request to remove Moore from office.

Moore denies any wrongdoing and is asking the court to dismiss administrative charges filed earlier this year.

Moore is accused of violating court ethics with an administrative order to state probate judges saying Alabama laws against same-sex marriage remained in effect after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage.

Investigators with the Judicial Inquiry Commission are asking the court to oust Moore without a trial, but Moore opposes the request.

Both supporters and opponents of Moore are planning noontime rallies outside Alabama's main judicial building before the hearing.



US Capitol plot suspect due in court for plea hearing
Areas of Focus | 2016/07/31 23:40
An Ohio man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group is due in court for a change-of-plea hearing.

Christopher Lee Cornell, 22, has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from his January 2015 arrest. A change-of-plea hearing notice was filed on Friday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. Such notices often signal plans to plead guilty.

U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith ruled in April that Cornell was competent to stand trial after his attorneys questioned his mental state.

FBI agents arrested Cornell in the parking lot of a gun shop near Cincinnati, saying he'd just bought two M-15 assault weapons and ammunition.

Cornell's father said his son was misled and coerced by "a snitch."

Charges of attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees and solicitation to commit a crime of violence carry potential 20-year prison sentences with convictions. A charge of offering material support to a terrorist organization carries a sentence of up to 15 years. Cornell also faces a firearms-related charge, which carries a mandatory minimum of five years and up to a maximum of life in prison.



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