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Virginia executes serial killer who claimed to be disabled
Court Press News | 2015/10/07 14:57
A twice-condemned serial killer who claimed he was intellectually disabled was executed in Virginia on Thursday after a series of last-minute appeals failed.

Alfredo Prieto was pronounced dead at 9:17 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt. The 49-year-old was injected with a lethal three-drug combination, including the sedative pentobarbital, which Virginia received from the Texas prison system.

Prieto, wearing glasses, jeans and a light blue shirt, did not resist and showed no emotion as he was strapped to the gurney.

"I would like to say thanks to all my lawyers, all my supporters and all my family members," he said, before mumbling, "Get this over with."

The El Salvador native was sentenced to death in Virginia in 2010 for the murder of a young couple more than two decades earlier. Rachael Raver and her boyfriend, Warren Fulton III, both 22, were found shot to death in a wooded area a few days after being seen at a Washington, D.C., nightspot.

Prieto was on death row in California at the time for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl and was linked to the Virginia slayings through DNA evidence. California officials agreed to send him to Virginia on the rationale that it was more likely to carry out the execution.

He has been connected to as many as six other killings in California and Virginia, authorities have said, but he was never prosecuted because he had already been sentenced to death.



Iowa court allows remote dispensing of abortion pill
Court Press News | 2015/06/19 16:04
The Iowa Supreme Court has struck down a restriction that would have prevented doctors from administering abortion-inducing pills remotely via video teleconferencing, saying it would have placed an undue burden on a woman's right to get an abortion.

Iowa is one of only two states that offers so-called telemedicine abortions — Minnesota offers them on a smaller scale — and doctors at Iowa's urban clinics that perform abortions had been allowed to continue offering the remotely-administered abortions while the ruling was pending.

Planned Parenthood's local affiliate, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, had sued the Iowa Board of Medicine over its 2013 decision that would have required a doctor to be in the room with a patient when dispensing abortion-inducing medication.

The board cited safety concerns when it passed the rule requiring a physical examination, but Planned Parenthood and other critics said it was just another attempt by abortion rights opponents to make it harder for women to get abortions. They said the Iowa board's restriction particularly would have made it harder for women in more rural areas who don't live near the few urban clinics where doctors who perform abortions are based.



Man pleads guilty to charge over noose on Ole Miss statue
Court Press News | 2015/06/15 16:03
A federal prosecutor said in court Thursday that Graeme Phillip Harris hatched a plan, after a night of drinking at a University of Mississippi fraternity house, to hang a noose on a campus statue of James Meredith, the first black student at Ole Miss.

Harris, who is white, pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor charge of threatening force to intimidate African-American students and employees at the university. Prosecutors agreed to drop a stiffer felony charge in exchange for the plea arising from the incident last year.

The 20-year-old Harris faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000. U.S. District Judge Michael Mills said sentencing will be within 60 to 90 days, and he allowed Harris to remain free on a $10,000 bond.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Norman told Mills that Harris, who had a history of using racist language and saying African Americans were inferior to whites, proposed the plan to two fellow freshmen while at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house on the night of Feb 15, 2014.

That led to the plan to hang the noose and a former Georgia state flag that features the Confederate battle flag on the statue of Meredith, in a jab at Ole Miss' thorny racial history.

When a federal court ordered the university to admit Meredith in 1962, the African-American student had to be escorted onto campus by armed federal agents. The agents were attacked during an all-night riot that claimed two lives and was ultimately quelled by federal troops.

After the noose and flag were placed on the statue, Norman said Harris and one of the other freshmen returned at sunrise on Feb. 16 to observe and were filmed by a video camera at the Ole Miss student union.



Supreme Court rejects North Carolina appeal on election law
Court Press News | 2015/04/07 13:23
The Supreme Court has passed up an early chance to review a contested North Carolina election law that opponents say limits the ability of African-Americans to cast ballots.

The high court intervened in October to order that the law remain in effect for the fall elections after a lower court ruling blocking part of the law.

But the justices on Monday wiped away their earlier order by rejecting the state's appeal of that lower court ruling. The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia had blocked a part of the law that eliminated same-day registration during early voting in North Carolina.

A trial is set for July in the lawsuit filed by civil rights groups, and the issue of voting restrictions could return to the Supreme Court before the 2016 elections.

North Carolina is among several Republican-led states that have passed election laws imposing photo identification requirements and reducing the number of days set aside for early voting, among other provisions. Officials have said the measures are needed to prevent voter fraud. But critics have called the laws thinly veiled efforts to make it harder for Democratic-leaning minorities to vote.


Two justices once open to cameras in court now reconsider
Court Press News | 2015/02/04 10:37
Two Supreme Court justices who once seemed open to the idea of cameras in the courtroom said Monday they have reconsidered those views, dashing even faint hopes that April's historic arguments over gay marriage might be televised.

In separate appearances, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor said allowing cameras might lead to grandstanding that could fundamentally change the nature of the high court.

Sotomayor told an audience in West Palm Beach, Florida, that cameras could change the behavior of both the justices and lawyers appearing at the court, who might succumb to "this temptation to use it as a stage rather than a courtroom."

"I am moving more closely to saying I think it might be a bad idea," she said.

During her confirmation hearings in 2009, Sotomayor told lawmakers she had a positive experience with cameras and would try to soften other justices' opposition to cameras.

Speaking at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, Kagan told an audience that she is "conflicted" over the issue and noted strong arguments on both sides.

Kagan said that when she used to argue cases before the court as Solicitor General, she wanted the public to see how well prepared the justices were for each case "and really look as though they are trying to get it right."

But Kagan said she is wary now of anything "that may upset the dynamic of the institution."

She pointed to Congress, which televises floor proceedings, saying lawmakers talk more in made-for-TV sound bites than to each other.


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