Missouri Supreme Court rejects request to stop execution
Court News | 2017/08/16 14:00
The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a motion from attorneys seeking to halt the execution of a man scheduled to die next week but did not explain its decision.

Attorneys for Marcellus Williams had asked the state Supreme Court and Gov. Eric Greitens to stop the punishment, citing DNA evidence that they say exonerates him. Williams, 48, is scheduled to die by injection Aug. 22 for fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle in 1998 during a robbery at her University City home.

In a filing to the Missouri Supreme Court and a clemency request to the Republican governor, Williams' attorneys said testing conducted in December using techniques that were not available at the time of the killing shows DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man, but not Williams.

"That means in our mind the actual killer is not him," one of Williams' lawyers, Kent Gipson, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday ahead of the court's decision. "It certainly would give most reasonable people pause to say, 'Should you be executing somebody when you've got reasonable evidence suggesting another man did it?'"

After the ruling, Gipson told St. Louis Public Radio that he was surprised by the quick decision and planned to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Certainly something involving a claim of innocence that is this substantial, you would think they would at least write an opinion or at least a short opinion giving the reasons why they denied it," Gipson said, "because that makes it more difficult to take it up to a higher court because they don't know exactly on what basis the ruling was made."

Loree Anne Paradise, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley, said the office remains confident that Williams is guilty based on other evidence in the case. Greitens' spokesman, Parker Briden, declined comment, saying only that the claim will need further review.



Prosecutors ask court to imprison Samsung heir for 12 years
Court News | 2017/08/12 01:54
South Korean prosecutors have recommended a 12-year jail term for Lee Jae-yong, 49-year-old billionaire heir of the Samsung business empire, urging a court to convict him of bribery and other crimes.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, became emotional Monday as he denied ever trying to seek political favors in his final remarks in the four-month-long trial. Lee was arrested in February amid a tumultuous corruption scandal that triggered months of massive public protests and culminated with the ouster of South Korea's president.

A panel of three judges at the Seoul Central District Court said they will hand down their verdict on Aug. 25.

Lee, princeling of South Korea's richest family and its biggest company, choked up during his final remarks, saying his ordeal was unjust but he had reflected during his six months in jail and realized that the bigger Samsung became, "the stricter and higher the expectations from the public and the society," a pool report from Monday's hearing said.

"Whether it was for my personal profit or for myself, I have never asked the president for any favors," he told the court.

In his remarks wrapping up the trial, Special Prosecutor Park Young Soo said Samsung's alleged bribery was typical of the corrupt and cozy ties between the South Korea's government and big businesses. Such dealings once helped fuel the country's rapid industrialization but now increasingly are viewed as illegal and unfair.

Park also accused Samsung officials of lying in their testimonies to protect Lee.

In past cases, South Korean courts have often given suspended prison terms to members of the founding families of the chaebol, the big, family-controlled businesses that dominate South Korea's economy. In some cases, presidents have pardoned them, citing their contributions to the national economy. But recent rulings on white collar crimes have shown less leniency. If convicted, Lee may be the first in his family to serve a prison term.

Lee was indicted in February on charges that included offering $38 million in bribes to four entities controlled by a friend of then-President Park Geun-hye, including a company in Germany set up to support equestrian training for the daughter of one of Park's friends, Choi Soon-sil.

Prosecutors alleged the bribes were offered in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee's control over Samsung at a crucial time for organizing a smooth leadership transition after his father fell ill.

Park was removed from office in March and is being tried separately. Her friend Choi also is on trial.

Lee has denied all charges. He has said he did not know of Choi or her daughter before the scandal grabbed national headlines and said Samsung's succession situation was not discussed during three meetings he held with the former president.

Samsung's lawyers do not contest having donated a large sum of money to the entities controlled by Choi. They disagreed with the prosecutors about the nature of the funds and insisted that at the time the donations were made Samsung was unaware that Choi controlled them.


Court complicates Trump's threat to cut 'Obamacare' funds
Court News | 2017/08/07 01:55
President Donald Trump's bold threat to push "Obamacare" into collapse may get harder to carry out after a new court ruling.

The procedural decision late Tuesday by a federal appeals panel in Washington has implications for millions of consumers. The judges said that a group of states can defend the legality of government "cost-sharing" subsidies for copays and deductibles under the Affordable Care Act if the Trump administration decides to stop paying the money.

Trump has been threatening to do just that for months, and he amped up his warnings after the GOP's drive to repeal and replace "Obamacare" fell apart in the Senate last week. The subsidies help keep premiums in check, but they are under a legal cloud because of a dispute over the wording of the ACA. Trump has speculated that he could force Democrats to make a deal on health care by stopping the payments.

The court's decision is "a check on the ability of the president to sabotage the Affordable Care Act in one very important way," said Tim Jost, professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia, a supporter of the ACA who has followed the issue closely.

Because of the ruling, legal experts said, states can now sue if the administration cuts off the subsidies. Also, they said, the president won't be able to claim he's merely following the will of a lower court that found Congress had not properly approved the money.

The Justice Department had no comment on the decision. The White House re-issued an earlier statement saying, "the president is working with his staff and his Cabinet to consider the issues raised by the...payments."

Trump has made his feelings clear on Twitter. "If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies," he tweeted early Monday.

He elaborated in an earlier tweet, "If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies...will end very soon!"

In a twist, the appeals court panel seemed to take such statements into account in granting 17 states and the District of Columbia the ability to intervene on behalf of consumers.


Man suspected in Indiana officer's killing due in court
Court News | 2017/08/01 20:41
formal charges in the case.

Twenty-eight-year-old Jason Brown remains held without bond on suspicion of murder in Thursday's killing of Southport police Lt. Aaron Allan.

Indianapolis police spokesman Sgt. Kendale Adams says Brown was expected to be moved from a hospital to Marion County's jail for his initial hearing Tuesday.

Brown was hospitalized after another officer shot him following Allan's shooting. He has not been formally charged.

An affidavit filed Friday says Brown was "hysterical" and dangling upside down in his overturned car as Allan approached to help after Brown's speeding car overturned. It says Brown opened fire on Allen, who suffered 14 gunshot wounds.


Driver due in court after deaths of migrants in tractor-trailer
Court News | 2017/07/24 15:55
The driver of a tractor-trailer turned deadly transporter for undocumented migrants is due to face criminal charges in a Texas court Monday in what police are calling a human trafficking crime.

Authorities called to the San Antonio Walmart lot Sunday morning where the trailer was parked found eight bodies and 30 undocumented immigrants severely injured from overheating inside. A ninth person later died in hospital, ICE officials said. Thirty-nine people were recovered from the trailer, including one person who was found in a nearby wooded area.

"Checking the video from the store, we found there were a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer that survived the trip," San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said.

"The driver and whoever else we find is involved in this will be facing state and federal charges," he said.

The US Attorney's Office said the driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, was being held in connection with the incident. Prosecutors plan to file a criminal complaint against Bradley in federal court on Monday morning.

"These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters," said Richard L. Durbin Jr., US attorney for the Western District of Texas.


Court hearing could decide fate of dog pardoned by governor
Court News | 2017/07/24 15:55
A court hearing could determine the fate of a dog that was due to be euthanized before Maine's governor tried to grant the pooch clemency.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage's pardon made a celebrity out of the Alaskan husky named Dakota that was ordered to be put down after attacking two dogs, killing one. The hearing is set for Monday afternoon in Augusta.

It's debatable whether the governor has the authority to pardon the dog. But it could become moot depending on the outcome of the hearing that could permanently lift the order to euthanize the dog.

A previous effort to save Dakota by moving her to a New Hampshire shelter failed after a woman who wanted to adopt the dog objected.


Court ends hearing into corruption charges against PM
Court News | 2017/07/21 15:58
Pakistan’s supreme court on Friday concluded its hearing into a high-profile case involving allegations of corruption against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, but it wasn’t immediately clear when a verdict would be announced, defense lawyers and attorneys for petitioners said.

According to attorneys involved in the case, the court heard arguments from both the government and opposition after a court-ordered investigation found “significant disparity” between declared wealth and known sources of income of Sharif and his family.

Under Pakistani law, the court has the power to disqualify Sharif if he is found guilty. Sharif denies allegations he misused his office to enrich himself.

“The Supreme Court today concluded the hearing of this case and it will set a date for announcing the judgment later,” said Salman Akram Raja, the lawyer for Sharif’s family.

Fawad Chaudhry, one of the lawyers for opposition leader Imran Khan who led the fight to have the prime minister investigated, said Sharif faced a serious challenge and “we hope Nawaz Sharif will be disqualified” for concealing his assets.

Opposition lawmakers have been fighting a legal battle to disqualify Sharif as prime minister since 2016 when leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm disclosed his family’s offshore accounts.

Sharif’s political fate has been hanging in the balance since April. The Supreme Court, acting on petitions from opposition lawmakers, decided to establish a six-member Joint Investigation Team to delve into the allegations corruption involving his family, including his daughter and two sons.

Two of the five supreme court judges opposed setting up an investigation team preferring to hand down a verdict based on the information they already had in its possession.

However the team was established and on July 10 it submitted its voluminous report to the court to support its conclusion that a “significant disparity” existed between the Sharif’s declared wealth and its known sources of income. The report suggested the Supreme Court take action against Sharif and his family in accordance with a 1999 accountability law intended to help stamp out corruption. Sharif has sought to discredit the investigators, accusing them of bias.


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