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.


MacDonald goes to court in 'Fatal Vision' case
Legal Business | 2012/09/20 23:10
Jeffrey MacDonald, a clean-cut Green Beret and doctor convicted of killing of his pregnant wife and their two daughters, is getting another chance to try proving his innocence — more than four decades after the nation was gripped by his tales of Charles Manson-like hippies doped up on acid slaughtering his family.

The case now hinges on something that wasn't available when he was first put on trial: DNA evidence. A federal judge planned to hold a hearing Monday to consider new DNA evidence and witness testimony that MacDonald and his supporters say will finally clear him of a crime that became the basis of Joe McGinniss' best-selling book "Fatal Vision" and a made-for-TV drama.

It's the latest twist in a case that has been the subject of military and civilian courts, intense legal wrangling and shifting alliances.


W.Va. court hears 'rescue' funding arguments
Legal Business | 2012/09/05 22:58
Whether West Virginia Supreme Court candidate Allen Loughry receives additional public funds for his campaign hinges on whether the U.S. Supreme Court sees a difference between elections for the judiciary and races for other political posts, the state court was told during a hearing Tuesday.

Adam Skaggs, lawyer for the Republican hopeful, argued that legislative and executive branch officeholders are expected to favor agendas and interest groups that helped them win. But judges are supposed to harbor no bias, and West Virginia created the public financing pilot program amid concerns about campaign cash influencing the judiciary, said Skaggs, an official with the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school.

"The state has compelling interests in the context of judicial elections that are absent from any other type of election," Skaggs told the court.

The point is crucial to Loughry's pursuit of "rescue" funds, normally triggered by spending by a traditionally financed candidate or outside group. With two, 12-year terms up on the court this year, Loughry alone among the four Supreme Court candidates has sought and received funding through the pilot program. Provided $350,000 for the general election, Loughry is seeking another $144,500 or so in matching funds.


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