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Federal court orders hearing on mental retardation claim
Law Firm News | 2008/07/10 14:24

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Wednesday ordered a federal court to hold an evidentiary hearing to consider whether a man sentenced to death for murder might be mentally retarded. After Michael Wayne Hall was convicted of the 1998 killing of a 19-year-old woman, he claimed at state habeas proceedings that he was mentally retarded. While Hall's state habeas claim was pending in Texas, the Supreme Court decided Atkins v. Virginia, holding that the execution of mentally retarded individuals is unconstitutional and outlining heightened standards for determining a defendant's developmental status. The Fifth Circuit held Wednesday that Hall is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to prove his contentions because:

[T]he facts before us are a core manifestation of a case where the state fails to provide a full and fair hearing and where such a hearing would bring out facts which, if proven true, support habeas relief...[T]he state court's erroneous factfinding and its refusal to accept more than paper submissions despite the development of a new constitutional standard and a lack of guidance from the state on that standard deprived Hall of a full and fair hearing at the state level...Given the material errors in credibility determinations and factfinding at the state level, we are persuaded that the determination of Hall's claim, caught in the immediate uncertainty following Atkins, was so freighted with a risk of error in factfinding that the failure of the district court below to conduct a meaningful hearing was an abuse of discretion in these unusual and unique circumstances.
Concurring in part and dissenting in part, Judge Patrick Higginbotham asserted that the district court should enter an order that unless the state provides Hall with a constitutionally adequate evidentiary hearing within 120 days, Hall will no longer be eligible to receive a death sentence

In August 2007, the European Union urged Texas officials to halt all executions in the state and to consider introducing a moratorium on death sentences. EU officials specifically praised the ruling in Atkins and asked the state to expand it to those with severe mental illness. Texas has since maintained its death-penalty policy, and other states have followed suit. In 29 states, the defendant carries the burden of proving mental retardation in death-penalty cases to receive a lesser sentence.



Court Shields Bloggers From Disclosing Names
Court Issues | 2008/07/09 14:22
A group of Internet users successfully fought a subpoena seeking their identities for comments written on a blog, but they are not entitled to attorney fees, a California appeals court ruled.

Mordecai Tendler asked Google for subpoenas to get the IP addresses of Web users who allegedly defamed him on jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com.

When Google refused to comply with the subpoena orders, Tendler requested similar subpoenas for the Blogspot addresses of rabbinicintegrity, jewishsurvivors, and newhempsteadnews. The unnamed Doe defendants fought back with a motion to strike.

Justice Mihara reversed the lower court's award of $42,000 in attorney fees and costs after Tendler ultimately withdrew the subpoenas. Mihara ruled that a request for a subpoena does not fall within the anti-SLAPP statute.

"Even the broadest interpretation of the (statute) cannot stretch it to cover a subpoena," the judge ruled. "A request for a subpoena is not a complaint."

Mihara also noted that the third-party subpoena request was not even served on the Internet users and could "not possibly be expected to initiate a 'cause of action' against that adverse party."


Anheuser-Bush Invokes Cuban Embargo To Fight Buyout
Topics | 2008/07/09 14:18
Anheuser-Busch has fired back at InBev, claiming the Belgium-based beer company made false statements about its buyout plan to try to buy the American beer giant at a discount. Among other things, Anheuser-Busch claims that InBev's 570 workers in Cuba, where InBev owns 55 percent of the beer market, would run afoul of the U.S. trade embargo.

In its federal claim, Anheuser-Busch challenges InBev's declaration that it would base its North American headquarters in St. Louis. InBev's Cuban operations would prevent that because of the Trading with the Enemy Act and Cuban Assets Control Regulations, the complaint states.

The lawsuit also questions InBev's statement that it has fully committed financing to buy Anheuser-Busch.

"Given the current state of the credit markets, no group of lenders would unconditionally agree to loan InBev the $40 billion it will need," the complaint states. "Any commitments InBev has received are certainly rife with conditions leaving the proposed lenders free to walk away if, for example, market conditions deteriorate, InBev's or the Company's performance worsens, or they are unable to syndicate their loans. For InBev to tout its purportedly 'fully committed' financing without disclosing these conditions is materially misleading."

Anheuser-Busch seeks an injunction prohibiting InBev from soliciting shareholders until it has clarified the allegedly misleading statements. InBev sued in Delaware state court in June, seeking to oust Anheuser-Busch's Board of Directors after the board rejected InBev's $47 billion offer.

Anheuser-Busch is represented by James Bennett.


Refco CEO Bennett Gets 16 Years
Topics | 2008/07/08 14:19
Former Refco CEO Phillip Bennett was sentenced on July 3 to 16 years in prison and ordered to pay $2.4 billion for his role in the company's $2.4 billion fraud. Bennett pleaded guilty in February to all 20 charges against him, including conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Bennett oversaw massive book juggling to hide losses and inflate revenue. The frauds were discovered after Thomas H. Lee Partners bought Refco in August 2004. The company collapsed in October 2005.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald "held Bennett responsible for stealing approximately $2.4 billion from Refco's banks and investors," the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Bennett, 59, of Gladstone, N.J., was ordered to report to prison on Sept. 4.


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