Court dismisses lawsuits in power plant deaths
Legal Business | 2013/05/14 07:02
The Colorado Court of Appeals has dismissed lawsuits against three companies in the deaths of five workers at a power plant in 2007.

The appeals court agreed Thursday with a judge that there was no evidence that the companies violated duties or failed to provide adequate warnings of a fire hazard.

The workers died after a fire broke out inside a pipeline at Xcel Energy's Cabin Creek hydroelectric plant near Georgetown, about 40 miles west of Denver. The men were inside the pipeline resealing it at the time.

The workers were trapped in the tunnel when a flammable solvent they were using to clean an epoxy paint sprayer ignited on Oct. 2, 2007.

Families of the men and four injured employees sued KTA-Tator Inc., Structural Integrity Associates Inc. and Graco, Inc., claiming the companies were negligent.

The court, however, noted that the sprayer used by the workers carried a warning that "flammable fumes, such as solvent and paint fumes, in (a) work area can ignite or explode" and offered safety options.

The workers communicated by radio for 45 minutes with colleagues and rescue crews. But reaching them would have involved using ropes or ladders to go down a 20-foot vertical section of tunnel then along a 1,000-foot section at a 55-degree slope, to reach the horizontal section where they were located.


Lawyer questions memory of Philadelphia accuser
Legal Business | 2013/01/18 19:01

A longtime heroin addict whose complaint helped imprison a Philadelphia archdiocese official came under attack Wednesday, as jurors in a priest-abuse trial learned that he had given three different locations for one alleged rape.

Defense lawyers questioning the gaunt, 24-year-old policeman's son poked several holes in his accounts, some of which he attributed to years of heavy drug use.

The man said he as "semi-comatose ... but standing" when he first spoke with a church investigator in 2009.

The witness, with prompting from a counselor, had called the archdiocese from a drug clinic, ultimately reporting that two Roman Catholic priests and ex-teacher Bernard Shero had sexually assaulted him in about 1999.

Shero, 49, of Levittown, and the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 66, of Wyndmoor, are on trial, fighting the charges. Now-defrocked priest Edward Avery is in prison after pleading guilty.

During cross-examination Wednesday, Shero's lawyer said the accuser has said over the years that the teacher raped him in his sixth-grade classroom, near a trash bin outside an apartment complex and in the parking lot of a city park.

The accuser explained that he was high when he spoke to the church investigator in a car outside his parents' house, and doesn't remember much of the conversation.



Court weighs warrantless blood tests in DUI cases
Legal Business | 2013/01/10 03:54
The Supreme Court is considering whether police must get a warrant before ordering a blood test on an unwilling drunken-driving suspect.

The justices heard arguments Wednesday in a case involving a disputed blood test from Missouri. Police stopped a speeding, swerving car and the driver, who had two previous drunken-driving convictions, refused to submit to a breath test to measure the alcohol level in his body.

The justices appeared to struggle with whether the dissipation of alcohol in the blood over time is reason enough for police to call for a blood test without first getting a warrant.

In siding with defendant Tyler McNeely, the Missouri Supreme Court said police need a warrant to take a suspect's blood except when a delay could threaten a life or destroy potential evidence.


Fla. to execute mass killer after court lifts stay
Legal Business | 2012/10/27 21:02
A convicted mass killer from the 1970s is again scheduled for execution Tuesday after an appeals court lifted a last-minute stay that was based on his mental illness. His attorneys sought a last-minute reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The execution of John Ferguson, 64, was tentatively back on for 6 p.m. at Florida State Prison pending a final order from the governor's office, state corrections officials said. Ferguson has been on Florida's death row for 34 years.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday lifted a stay put in place over the weekend by a judge in Florida. Ferguson's lawyers argued he is mentally ill and therefore the Constitution prohibits the state from executing him.

His attorneys sought reinstatement of the stay in an emergency filing Tuesday morning with the U.S. Supreme Court. There was no immediate ruling from the justices.

Ferguson was convicted of killing eight people in South Florida in 1977 and 1978, including a teenage couple.

Two of the three appeals court judges in Atlanta ruled that U.S. Judge Daniel Hurley "abused" his discretion on Saturday when he issued a stay in the case.


Supreme Court views not 'liberal or conservative'
Legal Business | 2012/10/19 22:01
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday that
people shouldn't think the high court's justices make decisions in
terms of a liberal or conservative agenda.

Roberts told a crowd of nearly 4,800 people at Rice University in
Houston that many of the court's close votes have had nothing to do
with politics.

"We look at these cases and resolve them ... not in terms of a
particular liberal or conservative agenda," he said. "It's just easier
for reporters to say that justice is liberal and that justice is
conservative."

From reading some of the court's opinions, Roberts added, people may
think that justices are "at each other's throats." But he said all the
justices are "extremely close."

Roberts, taking a break from the high court's current term in
Washington, talked in general about his work leading the nation's
highest court. But he didn't discuss some of the court's more recent
high-profile cases — including voting to uphold much of President
Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, made headlines
when he voted with the liberal justices in that 5-4 landmark decision.
After that ruling, Roberts became the focus of criticism from some of
the nation's leading conservatives while liberals applauded his
statesmanship.


Ex-NFL WR Hurd pleads not guilty to new charges
Legal Business | 2012/10/08 22:07
Former NFL receiver Sam Hurd pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a new indictment accusing him of trying to obtain cocaine and marijuana while he was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of trying to start a drug ring in the Chicago area.

The indictment filed last month is based on allegations that Hurd asked a cousin, Jesse Tyrone Chavful, to buy drugs. Chavful signed a guilty plea agreement Monday to one count of conspiracy to possess five or more kilograms of cocaine — documents in which Chavful said Hurd contacted him at his T-shirt shop in San Antonio and asked to "get him cocaine and marijuana."

According to the documents, Chavful said he set up a deal to purchase the drugs but was arrested.

Hurd's attorney, Jay Ethington, has said Chavful is lying, but Chavful's attorney, Laura Harper, said her client simply wanted to come clean.

Hurd entered his plea in federal court in Dallas, appearing in an orange jail uniform and standing next to Ethington. He's been in custody since August after failing two drug tests and the Chavful allegations surfaced.


Federal court upholds Texas open meetings law
Legal Business | 2012/09/29 22:49
A federal appeals court has upheld Texas' open meetings law as constitutional, rejecting a lawsuit that argued it stifled free speech for government officials.

The 1967 Texas Open Meetings Act prohibits a quorum of members of a governmental body from deliberating in secret. Violations are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Officials from a group of 15 Texas cities, including Alpine, Arlington and Houston suburb Sugar Land, challenged the law in 2009. A U.S. district judge ruled against them, prompting an appeal the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that the law promotes disclosure of speech and does not restrict it.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called the decision a victory for open government.


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