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Officer involved in militia leader's death named in court
Legal Interview | 2018/08/05 23:33
leader who participated in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the officer's name slipped out this week during the trial of indicted FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, who accused of lying about firing shots toward Robert "LaVoy" Finicum's truck.

Authorities have concealed the officers' names for more than two years citing concerns about threats from militias.

People who were involved in or supported the refuge occupation have circulated the officer's name and photo online. Several threats toward the officer followed.

Finicum's widow and Ammon Bundy have spoken out against these actions. The occupiers seized the refuge in 2016 to protest the imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers.



N Carolina elections board back in court in power struggle
Legal Interview | 2018/07/29 23:32
The repeatedly altered composition of North Carolina's elections board returned to court Thursday as a proxy for the lengthy power struggle between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-dominated legislature.

A panel of three trial judges listened for over three hours but didn't immediately rule on the request by Cooper's lawyers to throw out a third iteration of a combined elections and ethics board. Structures of two earlier versions created by GOP lawmakers previously have been declared unconstitutional.

GOP lawmakers and Cooper have been embroiled in litigation and political disputes since Cooper was elected governor in 2016. Lawmakers have passed several bills that eroded Cooper's powers. The board is important because its members can approve early-voting sites that could affect election turnout. They can also assess campaign finance penalties and determine ethics law violations.

Republicans argue their latest attempt — the current nine-member board chosen by Cooper, with four Democrats, four Republicans and a ninth who can't be a member of either party — passes constitutional muster.

But Jim Phillips, a Cooper lawyer, told the judges the new board structure suffers the same flaws as the other versions because it still usurps the governor's constitutional duty to ensure state election laws are faithfully executed. While Cooper appoints the entire board, Phillips said, he only has strong influence over the four Democratic choices, picked from a list provided by the state Democratic Party.


India's top court calls for new law to curb mob violence
Legal Interview | 2018/07/15 00:03
India's highest court on Tuesday asked the federal government to consider enacting a law to deal with an increase in lynchings and mob violence fueled mostly by rumors that the victims either belonged to members of child kidnapping gangs or were beef eaters and cow slaughterers.

The Supreme Court said that "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to become a new norm, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

"Citizens cannot take law into their hands and cannot become law unto themselves," said Chief Justice Dipak Misra and two other judges, A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, who heard a petition related to deadly mob violence. They said the menace needs to be "curbed with iron hands," the news agency reported.

The judges asked the legislature to consider a law that specifically deals with lynchings and cow vigilante groups and provides punishment to offenders.

India has seen a series of mob attacks on minority groups since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won national elections in 2014. The victims have been accused of either smuggling cows for slaughter or carrying beef. Last month, two Muslims were lynched in eastern Jharkhand state on charges of cattle theft. In such mob attacks, at least 20 people have been killed by cow vigilante groups mostly believed to be tied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party.

Most of the attacks waged by so-called cow vigilantes from Hindu groups have targeted Muslims. Cows are considered sacred by many members of India's Hindu majority, and slaughtering cows or eating beef is illegal or restricted across much of the country.

However, most of the mob attacks this year have been fueled mainly by rumors ignited by messages circulated through social media that child-lifting gangs were active in villages and towns. At least 25 people have been lynched and dozens wounded in the attacks. The victims were non-locals, mostly targeted because they looked different or didn't speak the local language.


Kentucky high court: Death penalty IQ law unconstitutional
Legal Interview | 2018/06/16 02:22
The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the state's practice for determining if someone is intellectually disabled and not eligible to receive the death penalty is "unconstitutional."

News outlets report that the court on Thursday deemed Kentucky's use of an IQ test to determine if defendants have the mental competence to be sentenced to death outdated. Trial courts required defendants show an IQ of 70 or below before a hearing to determine intellectual disability.

The court's opinion came in the case of a man convicted of murdering a Muhlenberg County girl 20 years ago. Robert Keith Woodall was sentenced to death after pleading guilty in the killing of 16-year-old Sarah Hansen.

Woodall's attorneys, assistant public advocates Mike O'Hara and Dennis Burke, say the court's decision to abandon Kentucky's statute is modern and appropriate.



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