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Court fight likely in 10-year-old girl’s homicide case
Press Release | 2018/11/10 22:56
When a 10-year-old Wisconsin girl was charged with homicide this week in the death of an infant, it was a rare — but not unprecedented — case of adult charges being filed against someone so young.

The girl told investigators she panicked after dropping the baby at a home day care and then stomped on his head when he began crying. She sobbed during a court appearance in Chippewa County, where she was led away in handcuffs and a restraint.

The age at which children get moved to adult court varies by state and can be discretionary in some cases.

Wisconsin is an outlier in that state law requires homicide or attempted homicide charges to be initially filed in adult court if the suspect is at least 10 years old, according to Marcy Mistrett, chief executive at the Campaign for Youth Justice.

Wisconsin is among 28 states that allow juveniles to be automatically tried in adult court for certain crimes, including murder. For most states, the age at which that is triggered is 15 or 16 years old — while some states have decided 10 is even too young for a child to be held responsible in the juvenile justice system, Mistrett said.

Moving a case to juvenile court depends on establishing certain factors, such as whether the child would get needed services in the adult system, said Eric Nelson, a defense attorney who practices in Wisconsin.

For example, prosecutors in an attempted murder case involving a 12-year-old schizophrenic girl who stabbed a classmate said she belonged in adult court, where she could be monitored for years for a disease that isn’t curable. Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued against those claims.

Homicide cases involving 10-year-old defendants are extremely rare. From 2007 through 2016, 44 children aged 10 or younger were believed to be responsible for homicides in the U.S., according to data compiled by Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. Only seven of those children were girls.

In 2003, two 12-year-old boys fatally beat and stabbed 13-year-old Craig Sorger after they invited him to play in Washington state. Evan Savoie and Jake Eakin ultimately pleaded guilty in adult court and were sentenced to 20 years and 14 years in prison, respectively.



Justice Beth Clement leading Supreme Court race
Topics | 2018/11/08 06:54
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement is leading a six-candidate field for two seats on the state's highest court. Nearly 95 percent of votes have been counted. The top two finishers get black robes.

Justice Kurtis Wilder and appellate lawyer Megan Cavanagh are battling for the second spot. Cavanagh, a Democrat, is the daughter of former Justice Michael Cavanagh.

With Clement and Wilder, Republicans have a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court, though candidates aren't identified by party on the ballot. University of Michigan law professor Sam Bagenstos was far behind in fourth place and threw in the towel — literally.

After a long campaign, he says it's time for him to do some "deferred laundry." Former CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin has defeated Republican Rep. Mike Bishop, denying him a third House term representing their southeastern Michigan district and flipping the seat to the Democrats.

Slotkin, who worked as a CIA analyst under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and who advocates for public service, said that if she was elected Tuesday, she would push for affordable health care.

Both parties spent heavily on the race, with Democrats sensing that the typically reliable Republican district was vulnerable. Two others also ran: Libertarian Party candidate Brian Ellison and U.S. Taxpayers Party candidate David Lillis.



Malaysia court to resume Kim Jong Nam murder trial on Jan. 7
Legal Network | 2018/11/06 20:52
A Malaysian court on Wednesday set Jan. 7 for two Southeast Asian women charged with murdering the North Korean leader’s half brother to begin their defense, as their lawyers complained that some witnesses were unreachable.

A High Court judge in August found there was enough evidence to infer that Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, along with four missing North Korean suspects, had engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim Jong Nam.

The women appeared somber but calm during Wednesday’s hearing. The trial had been due to resume Nov. 1 but was postponed after a defense lawyer fell ill.

Aisyah’s lawyers made a new application to the court to compel prosecutors to provide them with statements that eight witnesses had given to police earlier.

Her lawyer, Kulaselvi Sandrasegaram, said they were informed that one of the witnesses, the man who chauffeured Kim to the airport, had died while two Indonesian women who were Aishah’s roommates were believed to have returned to their homeland. She said they have only managed to interview two of the witnesses offered by prosecutors, while two others didn’t turn up for their appointments and couldn’t be contacted.

The witness statements taken by police are important in “the interest of justice” and to ensure that what they say to defense lawyers is consistent with what they told police, Sandrasegaram told reporters later.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said the police interviews are privileged statements and shouldn’t be made public.

Judge Azmi Ariffin said the court will make a decision on the defense application on Dec. 14. He also set 10 days from Jan. 7 through February for Aishah’s defense and 14 days from March 11 through April for Huong.

The two are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim’s face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. They have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show. They are the only suspects in custody. The four North Korean suspects fled the country the same morning Kim was killed.

Lawyers for Aisyah, 25, and Huong, 29, have told the judge they will testify under oath in their defense.

They have said their clients were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to show the women had any intention to kill. Their intent is key to concluding they are guilty of murder.


Supreme Court agrees to hear Maryland cross memorial case
Court Issues | 2018/11/05 06:24
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a case about whether a nearly 100-year-old, cross-shaped war memorial located on a Maryland highway median violates the Constitution's required separation of church and state, a case that could impact hundreds of similar monuments nationwide.

A federal appeals court in Virginia had previously ruled against the approximately four-story-tall cross. The judges said that it "has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion."

But the Maryland officials who maintain the memorial told the Supreme Court that the monument's context and history show it is intended to convey a secular message of remembrance, not a religious message. They said the appeals court's decision would "compel the removal or dismemberment of a cherished war memorial that has served as a site of solemn commemoration and civic unity for nearly a century." In urging the high court to take the case, officials argued that the lower court's decision puts at risk hundreds of other monuments nationwide.

The approximately 40-foot-tall cross at the center of the case is located in Bladensburg, Maryland, about 5 miles from the Supreme Court. Sometimes called the "Peace Cross," it was completed in 1925, and it honors 49 men from the surrounding county who died in World War I. A plaque on the cross' base lists the names of those soldiers, and both faces of the cross have a circle with the symbol of the American Legion, the veterans organization that helped raise money to build it.

Today, responsibility for the cross falls to a Maryland parks commission that took over ownership and maintenance of it in 1961 because of traffic safety concerns. The massive concrete structure could be dangerous to motorists if it were to fall or crumble.



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