High court upholds murder conviction for Albuquerque man
Court News | 2019/12/23 02:51
An Albuquerque man’s convictions in the beating and fatal stabbing of his ex-wife’s husband will stand.

Terry White is serving life in prison plus 12 years for the December 2016 death of Don Fluitt. Fluitt’s body was found in the garage of his northwest Albuquerque home amid a custody battle with his ex-wife over his then-11-year-old daughter.

White’s attorneys had argued the evidence wasn’t sufficient to convict White of first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence.

The state Supreme Court disagreed in a ruling Monday, saying the evidence was overwhelming.

The justices also said the trial court properly allowed testimony from a Navajo County, Arizona, sheriff’s deputy who said he believed White was attempting to commit suicide at a truck stop in Holbrook, Arizona.

The deputy approached White after seeing a blue hose leading from the exhaust inside White’s vehicle and towels stuffed in the windows. The deputy took White into custody when he discovered White had a warrant for his arrest.

White’s attorney argued the deputy’s testimony was speculative, but the high court said the jury reasonably could have inferred that White was attempting suicide.

White was charged in Fluitt’s death after his DNA was found under Fluitt’s fingernails.


Judge criticized by abortion foes named to top Kansas court
Court News | 2019/12/18 01:08
Kansas' Democratic governor on Monday named a veteran trial-court judge who is opposed by the state's most influential anti-abortion group to the state Supreme Court ? an appointment that's likely to further stoke conservatives' efforts to change how such positions are filled.

Gov. Laura Kelly's selection of Shawnee County District Judge Evelyn Wilson comes with many Republican lawmakers already seeking to give the GOP-controlled Legislature power it doesn't have now to block appointments to the state's high court. Abortion opponents also are pushing for a change in the state constitution that would overturn the court's April ruling that protected abortion rights.

Kelly passed over two veteran lawyers working for Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Kansans for Life, an anti-abortion group long influential in GOP politics, opposed Wilson's appointment because of her husband's past political contributions to Kelly and other abortion-rights candidates.

“It’s my sense that Judge Wilson is more than qualified to fill this role,” Kelly told reporters during a Statehouse news conference. “Ideology was not really part of the conversation with any of the nominees. "

Kansans for Life said Wilson's selection shows the need to overturn the high court's abortion-rights ruling to protect "women and their babies." Lobbyist Jeanne Gawdun said the group is not surprised that Kelly would make an appointment to further her "vision for unlimited abortion.”

Wilson has not ruled on major abortion cases and declined to comment on the court's abortion-rights ruling declaring that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the Kansas Constitution. She will replace former Justice Lee Johnson, who retired in September and was a member of the 6-1 majority in that case.


Justices to take up dispute over subpoenas for Trump records
Court News | 2019/12/14 19:38
The Supreme Court said Friday it will hear President Donald Trump’s pleas to keep his tax, bank and financial records private, a major confrontation between the president and Congress that also could affect the 2020 presidential campaign.

Arguments will take place in late March, and the justices are poised to issue decisions in June as Trump is campaigning for a second term. Rulings against the president could result in the quick release of personal financial information that Trump has sought strenuously to keep private. The court also will decide whether the Manhattan district attorney can obtain eight years of Trump’s tax returns as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The subpoenas are separate from the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump, headed for a vote in the full House next week. Indeed, it’s almost certain the court won’t hear the cases until after a Senate trial over whether to remove Trump has ended.

Trump sued to prevent banks and accounting firms from complying with subpoenas for his records from three committees of the House of Representatives and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

In three separate cases, he has so far lost at every step, but the records have not been turned over pending a final court ruling. Now it will be up to a court that includes two Trump appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to decide in a case with significant implications reagrding a president’s power to refuse a formal request from Congress.


Afghanistan probe appeal begins at Hague international court
Court News | 2019/12/04 01:49
The International Criminal Court opened a three-day hearing Wednesday at which prosecutors and victims aim to overturn a decision scrapping a proposed investigation into alleged crimes in Afghanistan’s brutal conflict.

Fergal Gaynor, a lawyer representing 82 Afghan victims, called it “a historic day for accountability in Afghanistan.”

In April, judges rejected a request by the court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban, Afghan security forces and American military and intelligence agencies.

In the ruling, which was condemned by victims and rights groups, the judges said that an investigation "would not serve the interests of justice" because it would likely fail due to lack of cooperation.

The decision came a month after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo banned visas for ICC staff seeking to investigate allegations of war crimes and other abuses by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

“Whether the two events are in fact related is unknown, but for many ? victims as well as commentators ? the timing appeared more than coincidental,” said lawyer Katherine Gallagher, who was representing two men being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The United States is not a member of the global court and refuses to cooperate with it, seeing the institution as a threat to U.S. sovereignty and arguing American courts are capable of dealing with allegations of abuse by U.S. nationals.


Bolivians urge US court to restore $10M verdict on killings
Court News | 2019/11/20 03:29
Bolivians asked a U.S. appeals court Tuesday to restore a $10 million jury verdict against a former president and defense minister of the South American nation over killings by security forces during 2003 unrest there.

Lawyers for a group of indigenous Bolivians told a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a Florida judge was wrong to set aside last year's verdict.

The jury found against former Bolivian President Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada and former defense minister, Jose Carlos Sanchez Berzain. Both have been living in the U.S. after fleeing Bolivia in 2003.

We have faith that the court of appeals will see what the Bolivian people and the American jury also saw: that Goni and Sánchez Berzaín are responsible for these killings, and that justice must be done," said Teófilo Baltazar Cerro, a plaintiff whose pregnant wife Teodosia was shot and killed during the unrest.



Court OKs conviction of pharma executive Shkreli's ex-lawyer
Court News | 2019/10/28 10:34
An appeals court in New York says the former lawyer of a notorious pharmaceutical executive was properly convicted in a financial fraud case.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected Evan Greebel's challenge to his December 2017 conviction at a Brooklyn trial.

Prosecutors say Greebel helped Shkreli (SHKREL'-ee) steal millions of dollars when he was chief executive of biopharmaceutical company Retrophin.

Greebel's lawyer declined to comment. Greebel was the company's outside counsel from 2011 to 2014.

Shkreli was dubbed Pharma Bro and is perhaps best known for boosting the price of a life-saving drug and trolling his critics on social media.

He was convicted in 2017 of fraud for looting Retrophin of $11 million to pay back investors in failed hedge funds he operated. Shkreli is serving a seven-year prison sentence.



In or out? Court case on job bias casts pall on LGBT fests
Court News | 2019/10/14 02:57
National Coming Out Day festivities were tempered this year by anxiety that some LGBT folk may have to go back into the closet so they can make a living, depending on what the Supreme Court decides about workplace discrimination law.

But the mere fact that words like “transgender” are being uttered before the nation’s highest court gives some supporters of LGBT workplace rights hope that the pendulum will swing in their favor.

“I want all members of our community to feel supported by the government, and often for a lot of us and a lot of friends of mine, it’s the first time that they feel represented,” said Jessica Goldberg, a bisexual senior at the University of Colorado Denver.

Still, for many, the arguments showed the continuing relevance of National Coming Out Day, first observed in 1988 and marked every Oct. 11, though observances happen over several days. That includes Philadelphia’s annual OutFest, held Sunday this year and billed as the largest National Coming Out Day event.



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