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Indiana high court to take up police unreasonable force case
Law Firm News | 2017/05/02 23:37
The Indiana Supreme Court is to take up the case of a man who claims Evansville police were too forceful when they used a SWAT team and flash-bang grenades to serve a search warrant.

The Evansville Courier and Press reports the court is to consider 31-year-old Mario Deon Watkins' case, which rises from his felony drug conviction. He claims the Evansville Police Department used unreasonable force when a SWAT team and flash-bang grenades were used to serve a search warrant.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in January reversed Watkins' sentence, criticizing use of the grenades that went off in the same room as a 9-month-old baby. But Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is asking the state's Supreme Court to clarify whether the state constitution prohibits police from using a SWAT team or the grenades.



New Ohio lethal injection process rejected by appeals court
Law Firm News | 2017/04/04 23:00
A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Ohio's new three-drug lethal injection process, jeopardizing the upcoming executions of several condemned killers.

In a 2-1 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati found the proposed use of a contested sedative, midazolam, unconstitutional. The court also ruled that Ohio's planned use of two other drugs the state abandoned years ago prevents their reintroduction in a new execution system.

After repeatedly saying it would no longer use those drugs — pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride — "but now attempting to execute condemned inmates with these very drugs, the State had taken directly contradictory positions," Judge Karen Nelson Moore ruled for the majority.

The court also favored arguments by attorneys for death row inmates that use of another drug altogether — pentobarbital — is still an option, despite Ohio's arguments that it can't find supplies of that drug.

An appeal is likely. Options including asking the full appeals court to consider the case or appealing straight to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio attorney general's office.

The ruling was a blow to the state, which hoped to begin executing several condemned killers next month. The first of those, Ronald Phillips, is scheduled to die May 10 for raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993.

Allen Bohnert, a lawyer for death row inmates challenging Ohio's lethal injection system, applauded the decision, saying the appeals court was correct in rejecting the execution process.

Executions have been on hold since January 2014, when inmate Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die under a never-before-tried two-drug method that began with midazolam. The same drug was involved in a problematic execution later that year in Arizona.

Ohio announced its three-drug method in October and said it had enough for at least four executions, though records obtained by The Associated Press indicated the supply could cover dozens of executions.

The drugs are midazolam, rocuronium bromide — like pancuronium bromide, a drug used to paralyze inmates — and potassium chloride.

The prison system used 10 milligrams of midazolam on McGuire. The new system calls for 500 milligrams. The state said there's plenty of evidence proving the larger amount will keep inmates from feeling pain.

Ohio also said the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in 2015 in a case out of Oklahoma.

The court on Thursday said arguments by death row inmates that even 500 milligrams of midazolam could lead to a risk of pain were more convincing than counterarguments from the state.


Court bars release of videos made by anti-abortion group
Law Firm News | 2017/03/31 15:48
A federal appeals court on Wednesday barred the release of videos made by an anti-abortion group whose leaders are facing felony charges in California accusing them of recording people without permission in violation of state law.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling blocking the recordings made by the Center for Medical Progress at meetings of the National Abortion Federation, an association of abortion providers.

The Center for Medical Progress previously released several secretly recorded videos that it says show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal. Planned Parenthood said the videos were deceptively edited to support false claims.

The videos stoked the American abortion debate when they were released in 2015 and increased Congressional heat against Planned Parenthood that has yet to subside.

It's not clear what's on the bulk of the recordings the group made at National Abortion Federation meetings.

A leader of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, said in a statement that the 9th Circuit was preventing the release of footage of Planned Parenthood leadership discussing criminal conduct at the meetings and its ruling was an attack on the First Amendment.


Philippine president's drug crackdown faces court challenge
Law Firm News | 2017/01/28 17:59
A survivor of a Philippine police raid that killed four other drug suspects asked the Supreme Court Thursday to stop such operations and help him obtain police records to prove his innocence in a test case against the president's bloody crackdown.
 
Lawyer Romel Bagares said his client Efren Morillo and other petitioners also asked the court to order police to stop threatening witnesses.

More than 7,000 drug suspects have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June and ordered the crackdown, alarming human rights group and Western governments.

Four policemen shot Morillo and four other men in impoverished Payatas village in metropolitan Manila in August. Morillo survived and denied police allegations that he and his friends were drug dealers or that they fought back, according to Bagares and the court petition.

Morillo, a 28-year-old vegetable vendor and the four slain men, were garbage collectors who were shot with their hands bound and could not have possibly threatened police, the petition said.


Supreme Court pauses Alabama execution of convicted murderer
Law Firm News | 2016/12/22 00:02
The U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday temporarily paused Alabama's plans to execute a man convicted of killing a convenience store clerk, after defense lawyers argued that a judge unfairly imposed the death penalty after a jury recommended life in prison.

The court had narrowly ruled just a short while earlier Thursday evening that the execution could proceed, although four liberal justices said they would have halted the execution. However, the court then issued a temporary stay — its second of the evening — as attorneys for the condemned inmate quickly sought a reconsideration after that narrow decision.

While the whirlwind of judicial activity unfolded, Ronald Bert Smith Jr., 45, remained steps away from the prison chamber where he was scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday evening for the Nov. 8, 1994, shooting death of Huntsville store clerk Casey Wilson. It would be Alabama's second execution this year if carried out.



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