High court ruling could reshape Virginia political map
Legal Topics | 2017/03/03 00:49
A U.S. Supreme Court decision reviving a challenge to several Virginia legislative districts could send lawmakers back to the drawing board, but Republicans say they are confident the state's current electoral map will withstand further scrutiny.

The justices on Wednesday tossed out a ruling that upheld 11 districts in which African-Americans made up at least 55 percent of eligible voters and ordered the lower court to re-examine the boundaries. The lawsuit accused lawmakers of illegally packing black voters into certain districts to make surrounding districts whiter and more Republican.

Democrats say they're certain the lower court will find the districts unconstitutional and force lawmakers to redraw them. Marc Elias, an attorney for the Virginia voters who brought the case, said they will push for that to happen before the November elections.

"It's important that the people of the Commonwealth don't have to have another election using unconstitutional district lines, and we will move forward as quickly as possible to make sure we have constitutional and fair lines in place for the 2017 elections," Elias said.

The top Republican in the Virginia House, however, said he's confident that the current boundaries will stand.


High court ruling limits international reach of patent laws
Legal Topics | 2017/02/24 08:16
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with California-based Life Technologies Corp. in a patent infringement case that limits the international reach of U.S. patent laws.

The justices ruled unanimously that the company's shipment of a single part of a patented invention for assembly in another country did not violate patent laws.

Life Technologies supplied an enzyme used in DNA analysis kits to a plant in London and combined it with several other components to make kits sold worldwide. Wisconsin-based Promega Corp. sued, arguing that the kits infringed a U.S. patent.

A jury awarded $52 million in damages to Promega. A federal judge set aside the verdict and said the law did not cover export of a single component.

The federal appeals specializing in patent cases reversed and reinstated the verdict.

Patent laws are designed to prevent U.S. companies from mostly copying a competitor's invention and simply completing the final phase overseas to skirt the law. A violation occurs when "all or a substantial portion of the components of a patent invention" are supplied from the United States to a foreign location.

Writing for the high court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the law addresses only the quantity of components, not the quality. That means the law "does not cover the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention," Sotomayor said.

Only seven justices took part in the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts heard arguments in the case, but later withdrew after discovering he owned shares in the parent company of Life Technologies.


Court: Police executing 'no-knock' warrant before shooting
Legal Topics | 2017/02/14 07:26
Court documents show Hickory police were executing a "no knock" search warrant when a police officer was shot in the arm by a suspect who was shot and killed.

WSOC-TV in Charlotte reports documents showed that police were concerned that one of their officers might be hurt while carrying out the warrant. Hickory Police Chief Thurman Whisnant said that as soon as officers came through the door, they identified themselves and announced they were executing the warrant.

The search warrant listed more than a decade of convictions against 33-year-old William David Whetstone for assaults and drug charges.

Police said Whetstone disobeyed orders not to move, pulled a gun and shot an officer in the arm on Feb. 3. Two other officers then shot Whetstone, who died at the scene.



Missouri death row inmate appeals to US Supreme Court
Legal Topics | 2017/02/04 15:28
A Missouri man convicted of killing a woman and her two children almost 20 years ago asked the U.S. Supreme Court to spare his life on Monday, a day before his scheduled execution.

Mark Christeson, 37, is set for lethal injection Tuesday evening at the state prison in Bonne Terre. Investigators said he raped and killed Susan Brouk, and killed her 12-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old son near their rural south-central Missouri home in 1998.

The nation's highest court halted Christeson's execution in 2014, just hours before it was scheduled. Monday's appeal focuses on the same main issue that Christeson's attorneys cited then: His trial lawyers were so inept that they missed a 2005 deadline to file a federal court appeal, which is standard practice in death penalty cases.

His lawyers have also argued that Christeson has an IQ of 74 and was therefore mentally incapable of understanding his legal rights during his original trial.




Greek court rejects extradition for Turkish servicemen
Legal Topics | 2017/01/25 04:51
Greece's Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an extradition request for eight Turkish servicemen who fled their country by helicopter after a coup attempt.

Presiding judge Giorgos Sakkas, reading out the decision, said the servicemen were unlikely to face a fair trial if returned to Turkey.

The eight officers fought extradition in a six-month legal battle, arguing that they face mistreatment in prison if returned.

Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis earlier this week had said he would respect the court decision and not make use of executive powers in the extradition case.

Lower courts issued mixed decisions on the return of the officers in a series of separate hearings.

The extradition case has further complicated ties between neighbors and NATO allies Greece and Turkey, which remain at odds over war-divided Cyprus and boundaries in the Aegean Sea.

Hours ahead of Thursday's decision, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said he expected the servicemen to be returned.

"Our greatest expectation is for the coup plotters to be delivered to the Turkish judicial (authorities). We shall be following the results of this case," he said. "These coup plotters should not go unpunished."



Kyrgyz court confirms life sentence for journalist
Legal Topics | 2017/01/23 04:51
A court in Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday upheld a life sentence for an ethnic Uzbek journalist in a case that has drawn international criticism.

Azimzhan Askarov was convicted in 2010 for stirring up ethnic hatred, a charge related to ethnic unrest in the south of Kyrgyzstan in 2010 when more than 450 people, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, were killed and tens or even hundreds of thousands were displaced.

The majority of those convicted for taking part in the deadly clashes have been ethnic Uzbeks.

Askarov, who can appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court, shouted out after Tuesday's decision that he would go on hunger strike in protest.

Askarov's case was sent for review last year after the U.N. Human Rights Committee in April urged Kyrgyzstan to release him, finding that he had been arbitrarily detained, tortured and denied his right to a fair trial.

Askarov's lawyer, Tolekan Ismailov, told reporters that his client would appeal the ruling, which he dismissed as unlawful.

Askarov had been documenting human rights violations by the police and prison authorities in his hometown near the Uzbek border for more than 10 years before he was arrested in 2010.



Circus operator agrees to plea deal in tent collapse
Legal Topics | 2017/01/08 18:13
Court records show a Florida-based circus operator has agreed to a plea deal following a tent collapse in New Hampshire in 2015 that killed two people and injured dozens.
 
The Caledonian-Record in Vermont reports details of the plea deal involving Sarasota-based Walker International Events weren't made available.

The company had previously pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of operating without a license and to misdemeanor counts alleging it hadn't complied with state standards. Corporations can face fines and sanctions on criminal convictions.

The company, now out of business, agreed to pay federal safety fines and settled some lawsuits.

Forty-one-year-old Robert Young and his 6-year-old daughter, Annabelle, of Concord, Vermont, died when a storm with 75 mph winds blew through the Lancaster Fairgrounds, toppling the tent.


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