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Court reinstates late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/03/15 20:19
Massachusetts' highest court on Wednesday reinstated the late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction, which was erased after the former NFL star killed himself in prison.

The Supreme Judicial Court also scrapped the legal principle that wiped out Hernandez's conviction for future cases, calling it "outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life."

"We are pleased justice is served in this case, the antiquated practice of vacating a valid conviction is being eliminated and the victim's family can get the closure they deserve," Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said in a tweet.

Hernandez was convicted in 2015 of killing semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Two years later, the 27-year-old killed himself in his prison cell days after being acquitted of most charges in a separate double-murder case.

A judge threw out Hernandez's conviction that year, citing the legal principle that holds that a defendant convicted at trial who dies before an appeal is heard should no longer be considered guilty in the eyes of the law, thereby returning the case to its pretrial status.



TigerSwan appeals attorney fees ruling to state's high court
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/03/09 02:19
A North Carolina security company that won a court case in the wake of protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline is continuing to pursue reimbursement of its attorney fees.

North Dakota's Private Investigative and Security Board sued TigerSwan in 2017, alleging the company that handled security for the pipeline developer illegally operated without a state license.

Judge John Grinsteiner ultimately dismissed the case, but he also rejected TigerSwan's request for reimbursement of at least $165,000 in attorney fees. Grinsteiner said the board's case wasn't frivolous even though the board lost. TigerSwan has appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The board has appealed the dismissal of its case to the state Supreme Court and also is seeking up to $2 million in fines against TigerSwan through an administrative complaint.


High court deciding fate of cross-shaped Maryland memorial
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/02/25 15:32
The Supreme Court this week is hearing a case challenging the location of a nearly 100-year-old, cross-shaped Maryland war memorial.

Three area residents and the District of Columbia-based American Humanist Association argue the cross' location on public land violates the First Amendment's establishment clause. The clause prohibits the government from favoring one religion over others. They argue the cross should be moved to private property or modified into a slab or obelisk.

The cross' supporters say it doesn't violate the Constitution because it has a secular purpose and meaning: commemorating World War I veterans. The cross' base lists the names of 49 area residents who died in the war.

The American Legion and Maryland officials are defending the cross. They have the support of the Trump administration and 30 states.



Republicans pitch keeping Court of Appeals at 15 judges
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/02/19 17:45
North Carolina Republican legislators now want to give up on the law they approved two years ago that reduces the number of Court of Appeals judges from 15 to 12 as retirements and other vacancies arise.

A state Senate judiciary committee Tuesday recommended unanimously a bill that would keep the court's size at 15 after all. Bill sponsors say the measure, if agreed to by the full General Assembly, should end as moot a lawsuit filed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper challenging the 2017 law. A key House GOP leader said later that he believed party members in his chamber are inclined to go along with the repeal.

A trial-judge panel actually sided with Republicans last year in upholding the law, but the state Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments in the case for March 4. With registered Democrats a strong majority on the Supreme Court, there's uncertainty about whether they'll be inclined to uphold the law.

"I think we still feel the rationale for the bill was appropriate, but this will end the lawsuit with the governor, and so that's why we're going forward with it," said Sen. Warren Daniel, a Burke County Republican and a chief bill sponsor.

The law is one of several approved by the GOP-controlled legislature since December 2016 — just before Cooper took office — that have eroded Cooper's powers. In this case, it would prevent Cooper from filling three vacancies when they occur, because the seat would be simply eliminated.

No vacancies have occurred on the intermediate-level court since the law took effect, but the first could come next month. Court of Appeals Judge Bob Hunter, a registered Republican, must step down March 31 after meeting the state-mandated judicial retirement age of 72 the day before.


Opera singer, husband appear in court on sex assault charge
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/02/12 21:45
A renowned Michigan opera singer and his husband have appeared in a Texas court to face charges of sexually assaulting another man in 2010.

University of Michigan professor and countertenor David Daniels and William Scott Walters each made an initial appearance in a Harris County court Monday and were released on $15,000 bonds. A Harris County District Attorney spokesman says they were ordered to surrender their passports.

Daniels and Walters were arrested in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last month on warrants arising from the criminal complaint of Samuel Schultz. He told The Associated Press the couple drugged and assaulted him when he was living in Houston as a 23-year-old graduate student.

Lawyer Matt Hennessy says his clients are innocent and looking forward to a court hearing on Schultz's "false claims."




Spain's courts put to test by trial of Catalan separatists
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/02/11 05:46
Spain is bracing for the nation's most sensitive trial in four decades of democracy this week, with a dozen Catalan separatists facing charges including rebellion over a failed secession bid in 2017.

The proceedings, which begin Tuesday, will be broadcast live on television and all eyes will be focused on the impartiality of the Spanish Supreme Court.

Catalonia's separatists have attacked the court's credibility in the run-up to the trial, saying it is a puppet of the Spanish government and any ruling will be a political one that has been decided in advance.

"In reality, it's democracy itself that will go on trial," Oriol Junqueras, one of the accused, wrote from jail in reply to questions sent by The Associated Press. "We are before a trial which, through a partial investigation full of falsities and irregularities, criminalizes a political option and an ideology."

But Supreme Court president Carlos Lesmes dismisses that notion, saying the trial is the most important since Spain's transition to democracy in 1977 after the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.

"This is a trial following the highest standards set by the European Union," Lesmes recently told a group of journalists.



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