Court eyes Massachusetts church-state dispute
Court Watch | 2017/09/21 15:45
An attorney says a Massachusetts town should not be barred from giving public funds to support the restoration of a historic building just because it happens to be a church.

Nina Pickering-Cook told Massachusetts' highest court on Thursday that communities' ability to protect their historic resources shouldn't change because the structures are owned by a religious entity.

At issue is whether the town of Acton violated Massachusetts' constitution when it approved more than $100,000 in community preservation grants to restore stained-glass windows and identify other needs at a church.

Douglas Mishkin is an attorney for the taxpayers who brought the lawsuit. Mishkin told the court that active houses of worship are clearly prohibited from getting taxpayer dollars.

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to rule in the coming months.



With 2 in 3 months, Ohio executions could be back on track
Court Watch | 2017/09/19 09:24
Court rulings favorable to the state and the outcome of two executions in three months indicate Ohio could be on track to resume putting inmates to death regularly.

The state executed child killer Ronald Phillips in July and double killer Gary Otte on Wednesday in the state death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Witnesses said Phillips did not appear to be distressed. Otte’s chest rose and fell several times over two minutes in a fashion similar to some executions, though the movement appeared to go on longer than in the past.

Otte’s lawyers believe he suffered a phenomenon known as air hunger and plan to continue their challenge of Ohio’s use of a sedative called midazolam.

“My concerns were that he was obstructing, he was suffering air hunger, trying desperately to get air, and there were tears running down his face, which indicated to me that he was feeling pain or sensations,” federal public defender Carol Wright said after Wednesday’s execution.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said the procedure “was carried out in compliance with the execution policy and without complication.”

The next and last execution scheduled this year is Nov. 15, when the state plans to put Alva Campbell to death. A jury found Campbell, 69, guilty of killing 18-year-old Charles Dials 20 years ago after Campbell, who was in a wheelchair while feigning paralysis, escaped from a court hearing.

Ohio is scheduled to execute four people next year, including Cleveland R. Jackson, of Lima, and six in 2019. Nine men were executed in 2010, the most since Ohio resumed putting inmates to death in 1999.



3 bank customers in Germany fined for ignoring collapsed man
Court Watch | 2017/09/16 09:24
A German court has fined three bank customers for failing to help an elderly man who collapsed in a bank branch and later died.

The Essen district court handed the defendants, a woman and two men, fines ranging from 2,400 to 3,600 euros ($2,865 to $4,300).

Police said surveillance camera footage showed four people walking past or over him as he lay on the floor. The fourth person faces separate proceedings.

The 83-year-old man collapsed as he used a banking terminal on a public holiday last October.

Only after about 20 minutes did another customer call emergency services. The man was taken to a hospital but died a few days later.

News agency dpa reported that the defendants testified Monday they had thought he was a sleeping homeless man.


Court: DirecTV owes $15M to South Carolina in tax dispute
Court Watch | 2017/09/02 09:00
A court has ruled that pay-television giant DirecTV owes South Carolina nearly $15 million because of the way the company calculates its tax bill in the state.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports the South Carolina Court of Appeals found that DirecTV revised its returns to the Department of Revenue in a way that understated how much money it collected from customers in the state over several years. The decision issued Thursday upholds a lower court ruling from June 2015.

Taxes on more than $2 billion in South Carolina subscriber fees are at stake.

The California-based company, which was acquired by AT&T in 2015, could pay the money or appeal to the S.C. Supreme Court. A DirecTV spokeswoman says the company is reviewing the court decision.



Israeli protesters erect golden statue of High Court chief
Court Watch | 2017/08/31 23:05
Jerusalem residents woke to discover a surprising spectacle outside the country's Supreme Court — a golden statue of the court's president put up in protest by members of a religious nationalist group.

Police quickly removed the statue of Miram Naor, raised outside the court overnight, but after questioning some suspects, said no criminal activity had occurred.

Derech Chaim, which wants to impose Jewish religious law in Israel, said it had put up the statue to protest what one activist called the court's "dictatorship." Many Israeli hardliners consider the court to be excessively liberal and interventionist.

Ariel Gruner, a Derech Chaim activist, said the statue was erected in response to a court ruling this week over the country's treatment of African migrants. The ruling said that while Israel can transfer migrants to a third country, it cannot incarcerate them for more than 60 days to pressure them to leave.

The ruling is among a series of decisions that "eliminates the possibility of elected officials, of the government, to make decisions and rule," Gruner said.

He acknowledged that the statue had been inspired by a golden statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu erected by a left-wing artist in a main Tel Aviv square last year.



UK court increases sentence for surgeon who maimed patients
Court Watch | 2017/08/08 01:55
Britain's appeals court has increased to 20 years the prison sentence of a surgeon convicted of performing unnecessary operations, leaving scores of patients maimed and some in constant pain.

Ian Paterson falsely told patients they had cancer and performed operations including mastectomies. He was convicted of crimes against 10 patients in May and sentenced to 15 years. Prosecutors believe there were many more victims.

The government challenged the sentence, and three appeals judges agreed Thursday that it was "unduly lenient."

One of the judges, Heather Hallet, said "greed, self-aggrandizement, power" and other possible motives "do not come close to explaining how a doctor can falsely tell a patient he or she has cancer when they have not."

She said the victims "must feel no sentence could properly reflect their suffering."


Man suspected in Indiana officer's killing due in court
Court Watch | 2017/08/05 01:56
A man suspected in the fatal shooting of a police officer in Indianapolis is due in court as prosecutors weigh 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.



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