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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.



Heated congressional, court races on Arkansas midterm ballot
Press Release | 2018/11/04 14:25
A push by Democrats to flip a Republican-held congressional seat that represents the Little Rock area and a state Supreme Court race that has drawn heavy spending by a conservative interest group have drawn the most attention in Arkansas' midterm election.

The campaigns for the 2nd Congressional District and state Supreme Court seats became increasingly bitter and expensive in the run-up to Tuesday's election, especially from outside groups that have been airing attack ads and sending mailers. The races have overshadowed an election in which Democrats face long odds of making gains in the solidly Republican state.
 
The secretary of state's office hasn't predicted how many of Arkansas' nearly 1.8 million registered voters will cast ballots in the election, but more than 350,000 had voted early through Friday.

Republicans have a solid hold on Arkansas' four U.S. House seats and President Donald Trump easily won the state two years ago, but Democrats believe they have a chance to flip a Little Rock-area district by focusing on the incumbent's vote to repeal the federal health care law.

Democrat Clarke Tucker is trying to unseat two-term Republican Rep. French Hill in the 2nd Congressional District, which represents Little Rock and seven surrounding counties. Tucker is a state legislator who regularly talks about his battle with bladder cancer and his support for the Affordable Care Act, especially its protections for those with pre-existing conditions


Attorney files challenge to eastern Iowa judge appointment
Court Watch | 2018/11/02 13:22
An Iowa attorney has filed documents in state court challenging the validity of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ appointment of an eastern Iowa judge.

Lawyer Gary Dickey says Reynolds failed to appoint Judge Jason Besler within 30 days as required by the Iowa Constitution.

Reynolds filed the paperwork to appoint Besler in June five days after the deadline had passed. She says she made the appointment by the deadline verbally to her chief of staff but acknowledges no documentation exists to prove it.

Dickey, who served as former Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack’s chief attorney, filed documents Thursday seeking permission of the court to challenge Besler’s appointment.

Dickey also seeks to move it from eastern Iowa, where Besler sits as a judge, to Des Moines to avoid having fellow district judges ruling on his status.

In October Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady said the governor’s word that the appointment was timely deserves respect unless resolved differently through the legal proces



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