Court extends halt in Louisiana executions after judge dies
Legal Topics | 2018/01/07 10:42
A court order blocking Louisiana from carrying out any executions has been extended indefinitely after the death of the federal judge who issued it.

A lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocols has kept death sentences on hold since 2014. U.S. District Judge James Brady, who died Dec. 9 after a brief illness, oversaw the lawsuit and agreed to order the temporary stay of all executions.

Brady's order was due to expire next Monday, but U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick agreed Thursday to extend it until another judge is assigned to the lawsuit.

Louisiana has 72 inmates on death row, according to state corrections department spokesman Ken Pastorick. The state's last execution was in January 2010, when it carried out a death sentence for Gerald Bordelon, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2002.

Drug shortages have forced the corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010. Under the state's current execution protocols, its primary method is a single-drug injection of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative. The alternative method is a two-drug combination of the painkiller hydromorphone and the sedative midazolam.

The most recent order that Brady issued to halt executions — at the request of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry — is limited to death row inmates who are plaintiffs in the litigation. But others can join the lawsuit if an execution date is set by the courts.



Myanmar court extends detention for 2 Reuters reporters
Legal Topics | 2017/12/18 10:45
A court in Myanmar extended the detention of two Reuters journalists on Wednesday and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. The police officers had worked in Rakhine state, where abuses widely blamed on the military have driven more than 630,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. The charges are are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

"We are just working as journalists. ... We never violate journalism ethics," Wa Lone told reporters as he and his colleague were led out of a police van into the courtroom in Mingalardon, on the outskirts of Yangon.

Their families wept as they got a chance to see them for the first time since their arrests.

"I want my husband to be free soon. And I trust him that he would never violate the law," said Wa Lone's wife, Pan Ei Mon.

U.S., U.N. and European Union officials are among others calling for their release.

Dozens of Myanmar journalists appeared at the court wearing black shirts as part of a protest against the journalists' arrests.

"We are facing the same kind of harassment under the civilian government as we did under the military government," said Thar Lun Zaung Htet, head of a local pressure group for press freedom. "It is not fair for the two journalists to be charged under the official secrets act because they were doing their job as journalists who tried to get information."

On Tuesday, authorities said they would drop charges against two Singaporean reporters and their local staff working for the Turkish state broadcaster TRT. They were arrested on Oct. 27 for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament building without permission.


Lawyers want Supreme Court to block Texas from executing man
Legal Topics | 2017/10/17 12:54
Attorneys for an inmate convicted in a prison guard's death are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his Thursday evening execution.

Robert Pruett's lawyers want justices to review whether lower courts properly denied a federal civil rights lawsuit that sought additional DNA testing in the case. They are also questioning whether a prisoner who claims actual innocence, as Pruett does, can be put to death.

If the execution is carried out Thursday, Pruett would be the sixth prisoner executed this year in Texas, which carries out the death penalty more than any other state. Texas put seven inmates to death last year. His execution would be the 20th nationally, matching the U.S. total for all of 2016.

Pruett avoided execution in April 2015, when a state judge halted his punishment just hours before he could have been taken to the death chamber. His lawyers had convinced the judge that new DNA tests needed to be conducted on the steel rod used to stab the 37-year-old Nagle.

The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but uncovered DNA on the rod from an unknown female who authorities said likely handled the shank during the appeals process after the original tests in 2002.

In June, Pruett's execution was rescheduled for October. Pruett's attorneys then unsuccessfully sought more DNA testing and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in August, arguing Pruett had been denied due process. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit last week, and Pruett's attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.




Ex-SKorea leader Park complains about extension of detention
Legal Topics | 2017/10/12 15:54
Jailed former South Korean President Park Geun-hye called herself a victim of "political revenge" in her first public remarks since her high-profile corruption trial began in May, news reports said, as her lawyers resigned Monday in an apparent protest over the court's decision to extend her detention.

The moves appeared to be aimed at applying pressure on the court and rallying her small number of conservative supporters in a development that could intensify a political divide and delay the trial.

The Seoul Central District Court said Park's seven lawyers resigned collectively Monday, three days after it approved an additional six-month arrest warrant for her. Court officials said they will appoint lawyers for Park if her lawyers do not reverse their decision or Park doesn't name a new defense.

A verdict had been expected possibly before the end of the year. If Park has new lawyers, the trial is likely to be delayed because they will need to become familiarized with a massive amount of court and investigation documents, reportedly estimated at more than 100,000 pages.

Park, who was removed from office and arrested in late March, faces a range of corruption and other charges that could lead to a lengthy prison term. Among the key charges are that she colluded with a longtime friend to take tens of millions of dollars from companies in bribes and extortion.

During a court session Monday, Park reiterated her innocence, saying she hopes she will be the last person to suffer "political revenge" orchestrated in the name of justice. She also described her past months of detention as a "wretched and miserable time," and said she had never abused her power or accepted illicit requests for favors while in office, Yonhap news agency reported.

Other South Korean media carried similar reports about Park's comments. The Seoul court said it couldn't confirm them, while calls to her former main lawyer were not answered.

Park denied most of the allegations many times before her March arrest, but Monday's comments were her first in court since her trial started.



Bosnian court acquits ex-Srebrenica commander of war crimes
Legal Topics | 2017/10/08 23:18
Bosnia's war crimes court on Monday acquitted the wartime commander of Srebrenica, who was accused of committing atrocities against Serbs during the 1992-95 Balkan conflict.

The acquittal of Naser Oric immediately prompted anger from Serbian leaders, with Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin saying the court ruling "threatens security, trust and reconciliation in the whole of the Balkans."

Oric was accused of war crimes against three Serb prisoners of war who were slain in villages around the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in the early days of the conflict. A panel of judges presiding over the trial ruled Monday the prosecution did not present evidence proving the case against Oric.
 
Oric had previously been tried by a U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where he was also acquitted in 2008.



Supreme Court says Alabama execution can proceed
Legal Topics | 2017/10/03 23:00
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled Alabama can proceed with the execution of a man convicted of killing his estranged wife and father-in-law in 1993.

Jeffery Lynn Borden is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday at a south Alabama prison. A divided court overturned a stay issued by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled this month that a judge had prematurely dismissed Borden’s challenge to the humanness of the state’s lethal injection procedure.

Three justices— Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor — indicated they would keep the execution on hold.

Borden, 56, was convicted of killing his wife, Cheryl Borden, and her father, Roland Harris, during a Christmas Eve gathering in Jefferson County in 1993. The state attorney general’s office wrote that trial testimony showed Borden, who was separated from his wife, brought their three children to the gathering at Harris’ house after a weeklong visit, and then shot her in the back of the head as she was helping to move the children’s belongings. He then shot Harris.

The 11th Circuit on Friday temporarily blocked the execution after ruling a judge had prematurely dismissed inmates’ lawsuits that argued the use of the sedative midazolam at the start of the procedure would not reliably render them unconscious before subsequent drugs stop their lungs and heart.




Man who killed NFL star's son taking case to high court
Legal Topics | 2017/10/01 23:01
The case of a man serving life in prison for killing the 2-year-old son of NFL running back Adrian Peterson in South Dakota is going before the state Supreme Court.

Joseph Patterson was convicted in September 2015 of second-degree murder in the October 2013 death of Tyrese Ruffin, the son of Patterson's girlfriend and Peterson.

Patterson appealed, and the Argus Leader reports the state Supreme Court will decide whether his jury trial was mishandled. Attorney arguments are scheduled Monday on several questions, including whether the trial court prejudiced the jury by allowing prosecutors to mention certain information.

Peterson was a longtime member of the Minnesota Vikings. He now plays for the New Orleans Saints.



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