China court clears man 21 years after his execution
Attorney News | 2016/12/01 21:05
China's supreme court ruled Friday that a young man executed 21 years ago for rape and murder had been innocent, in a case that has drawn attention to problems in the legal system as well as the frequent application of the death penalty.

Nie Shubin was 20 at the time of his 1995 execution for crimes he was accused of committing in the northern city of Shijiazhuang in August of 1994. Another man, Wang Shujin, confessed to the crimes in 2005 while in police custody, although a legal review of the case did not get underway until 2014.

In its ruling, the court cited numerous examples of negligence and procedural errors by police and prosecutors, including the fact that Nie was singled out as a suspect "without a shred of evidence." It also said it couldn't rule out that Nie's testimony was coerced by torture or other means, a frequent accusation against the legal system that relies heavily on confessions to gain convictions.

China ordered speeded-up trials and executions during anti-crime campaigns in the 1990s, leading to frequent cutting of corners by legal authorities. Two years ago, another court ruled that 18-year-old Huugjilt, an ethnic Mongolian who was executed in 1996 for rape and murder, also was innocent after another man confessed to the crime. The court awarded Huugjilt's parents compensation.

However, under reforms in recent years, all death penalties are now automatically reviewed by the supreme court and the justices say executions are carried out only for the most heinous crimes. The exact number of people put to death is a state secret, but rights groups say China remains the world's top executioner.

Chinese legal scholar Xu Xin, a prominent advocate of legal reforms to reduce wrongful convictions, said Nie's case has emerged as highly representative of the country's problems with miscarriages of justice.

"In China's legal and social spheres, this case has garnered the greatest concern and has the most influence. Everyone's views on this case have basically been the same — that there was grave injustice," Xu said.

But the fact that it took this long for him to be exonerated shows the challenges ordinary people face in gaining legal redress in China, he said. "A vindication like this implies that compensation would have to be made, and someone could potentially be held responsible for the mistake, so that makes authorities unwilling to make an active push to correct the injustice," he said.

He credited the Chinese media, concerned defense lawyers and others who drew attention to the case for the court's overturning of the verdict, but said that the problem at the heart of the issue remained China's lack of an independent judiciary.


Solar Advocates Ask Florida High Court to Invalidate Measure
Attorney News | 2016/11/02 21:48
Solar advocates are asking Florida's high court to invalidate Amendment 1, a ballot measure they argue is misleading, and throw out votes cast for it.

The legal challenge was filed Wednesday with the Florida Supreme Court.

It comes after a leading proponent of Amendment 1 was recorded saying that the measure was written to appear pro-solar, even though it could end up restricting solar growth in Florida by raising costs.

Solar advocates are asking the court to revisit a previous ruling which found that Amendment 1's language was not misleading.

Sarah Bascom, spokeswoman for a utility-funded group that supports the amendment, called the legal challenge "political grandstanding" and said the amendment will protect consumers.

Amendment 1 seeks to change the state constitution to say consumers shouldn't "subsidize" solar growth.



Dutch court: Wilders hate speech trial will go ahead
Attorney News | 2016/10/12 18:38
A Dutch court on Friday rejected an appeal by firebrand anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders to throw out his hate speech prosecution before it goes to trial this month.

"Prosecuted for what millions of people believe," Wilders tweeted in his first reaction to the decision. Wilders and his lawyers have branded his prosecution a political witch hunt and did not attend the brief hearing at The Hague District Court.

Clearing the trial to start on Oct. 31, Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the court "rejects the defense's objections."

The case against Wilders, who was previously acquitted in 2011 of insulting Islam, centers on comments made before and after Dutch local elections in 2014. At one party meeting he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, drawing them into the chant of "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!"

"We'll take care of it," he replied.

The trial comes just months before parliamentary elections due in March, which could see Wilders' Freedom Party emerge as the largest party. An Oct. 5 poll of polls had the Freedom Party narrowly behind the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who will be seeking his third term at the elections.

The court said Friday that previous cases in European courts have established that politicians must be given a wide-ranging freedom of expression, but at the same time should "avoid public statements that feed intolerance. Where the border lies between the two will be debated in this Dutch trial."

The court also rejected Wilders' argument that he should not be prosecuted now as he had not been prosecuted in the past for similar statements about Moroccans.



Court fight over Ohio executions likely to focus on sedative
Attorney News | 2016/10/11 04:51
Ohio says it's resuming executions in January with a three-drug protocol similar to one it used for several years.

The concept is one adopted for decades by many states: the first drug sedates inmates, the second paralyzes them, and the third stops their hearts.

The key difference comes with the first drug the state plans to use, midazolam, which has been challenged in court as unreliable.

The state argues that a planned dose of 500 milligrams will ensure that inmates are properly sedated.

Defense attorneys say it's unclear what a much bigger dose would achieve.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that midazolam can be used in executions without violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.



Appeals court rules against Kansas in voting rights case
Attorney News | 2016/10/01 17:39
Thousands of prospective voters in Kansas who did not provide citizenship documents will be able to vote in the November election under a federal appeals court ruling late Friday that upheld a judge's order.
 
The decision from the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirms lower court's May order forcing Kansas to register more than 20,000 voters, a number that is expected to swell to 50,000 by the time of the November elections. It noted that the preliminary injunction serves the public interest.

The 10th Circuit ruled "no constitutional doubt arises" that federal law prohibits Kansas from requiring citizenship documents from people who register to vote at motor vehicle office. It added that its reasoning would be more fully explained in a forthcoming order.

The court had previously refused to issue an emergency stay of U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson's order, and this latest comes after a three-judge panel heard oral arguments last month in the case.

Its decision is the latest setback for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. It comes just a day after the Kansas Republican avoided contempt proceedings by striking a deal with the American Civil Liberties Union to fully register and clearly inform affected voters that they could vote in the November election.

Kobach did not immediately return a cell phone message seeking comment, but his spokeswoman said his office would issue a statement later.



Pakistan court adjourns case of British woman's murder
Attorney News | 2016/09/17 21:00
A Pakistani court on Saturday adjourned the case of a British-Pakistani woman's murder until Sept. 23 to give police more time to finalize charges against her father and ex-husband, who are accused of slaying her in the name of honor, police and lawyers said.

Police brought both men before the court in Jhelum as they covered their faces. They avoided most questions from journalists. However, when pressed, the woman's father, Mohammad Shahid, told reporters that the accusations are "all lies."

"The police arrested me, police charged me, you go to police station and check my report, check my statement," Shahid said.

The death of 28-year-old Samia Shahid has shocked the nation as the latest alleged case of so-called "honor killings" in Pakistan. The Bradford native's death while visiting Pakistan in July was originally declared to be from natural causes.

But Shahid's second husband, Mukhtar Kazim, publicly accused her family of killing her. The case was reopened and a police probe quickly concluded that Shahid's death was a "premeditated, cold-blooded murder," according to a police statement.

Police allege that Mohammed Shahid stood guard while his daughter's ex-husband, Mohammed Shakeel, raped her. The men then both strangled her, according to police.

Defense lawyer Mohammed Arif dismissed the police allegations as a baseless, saying his clients have been wrongly accused. He said he will appeal another court's recent rejection of bail for Mohammed Shahid.


Stepmom of scalded boy who died pleads guilty to murder
Attorney News | 2016/09/05 05:57
A woman accused of holding her 4-year-old stepson in a scalding bath, covering his burns and not getting him medical care before he died was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder and other charges on Thursday.

A Warren County judge sentenced Anna Ritchie to 18 years to life in prison after she changed her plea from not guilty.

Ritchie was arrested after the March death of Austin Cooper. A detective said Ritchie told police that she put Austin's legs in extra-hot water as punishment because he didn't like baths and that she tried to hide his burns.

Her attorneys had tried unsuccessfully to have evidence from her interview with Franklin police detectives excluded from the case.

County Prosecutor David Fornshell alleged that Ritchie held Austin in extra-hot water for 20 to 25 minutes as he struggled, then put him to bed wearing pajamas and socks to cover his bleeding feet and burned skin, his arms cut where her fingernails had grasped him. His father found him dead in his crib more than 16 hours later, Fornshell said.



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