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Curtis Flowers has been jailed in Mississippi for 22 years, even as prosecutors couldn't get a murder conviction against him to stick through five trials.

Three convictions were tossed out, and two other juries couldn't reach unanimous verdicts.

This week, the Supreme Court will consider whether his conviction and death sentence in a sixth trial should stand or be overturned for a familiar reason: because prosecutors improperly kept African-Americans off the jury.

The justices on Wednesday will examine whether District Attorney Doug Evans' history of excluding black jurors should figure in determining if Evans again crossed a line when he struck five African-Americans from the jury that most recently convicted Flowers of killing four people.

In overturning Flowers' third conviction, the Mississippi Supreme Court called Evans' exclusion of 15 black prospective jurors "as strong a prima facie case of racial discrimination as we have seen" in challenges to jury composition. This time around, though, the state's high court has twice rejected Flowers' claims, even after being ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to take another look.


North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper added a sixth Democrat to the seven-member state Supreme Court on Monday, elevating a current Court of Appeals judge to a vacancy created when Cooper recently named Cheri Beasley the chief justice.

Cooper, also a Democrat, announced he's appointing Judge Mark Davis as an associate justice. Davis will begin serving next month at least through 2020, and says he will campaign for a full term. Davis fills Beasley's old seat, which she held for over six years until she succeeded Chief Justice Mark Martin on March 1.

Davis will "continue to serve the people of North Carolina with great distinction, and I appreciate his willingness to take on this crucial role," Cooper said while presenting Davis at an Executive Mansion news conference.

Martin's surprise resignation to become dean of the Regent University law school in Virginia set in motion some chair shuffling within North Carolina's two appeals courts, which Cooper is empowered by state law to orchestrate. Cooper now also gets to pick Davis' successor on the 15-member Court of Appeals, which usually meets in three-judge panels to hear cases.

Davis' appointment emphasizes the recent dramatic change in the partisan composition of the Supreme Court, which has ruled this decade in politically charged decisions involving redistricting and Republican laws that eroded Cooper's powers. In some states, judicial races are nonpartisan. North Carolina candidates for nearly all judicial offices now run in partisan races, identified by political party.

Registered Republicans held a majority on North Carolina's high court for nearly 20 years before Democrats took a 4-3 seat advantage with the November 2016 election. Democrats picked up another seat last November, leaving Martin and Associate Justice Paul Newby as the only Republicans. Now Davis' appointment gives Democrats a 6-1 seat advantage.

While Cooper had no obligation to keep two Republicans on the court, GOP Senate leader Phil Berger still criticized the governor for picking another Democrat. Berger said in a release Cooper's that previous calls for a nonpartisan judiciary and balanced state government were just "empty rhetoric. Gov. Cooper is the hyper-partisan he has long condemned." Cooper's office didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.


A North Carolina judge has affirmed that a court judgment issued more than 10 years ago stating school districts are owed over $700 million in civil penalties from several state agencies is still nearly all unpaid.

The order signed Wednesday by Wake Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier ends a lawsuit filed last summer by the North Carolina School Boards Association and many local boards.

But Rozier's ruling makes clear he can't direct how and when the General Assembly should pay because of constitutional limitations. The school districts hope the new litigation will revive efforts to get lawmakers to repay the $730 million.

At issue were fees collected by agencies for late tax payments, overweight vehicles and other items that never got forwarded to schools, as the state constitution required.


The Supreme Court is ordering a new state court hearing to determine whether an Alabama death row inmate is so affected by dementia that he can't be executed.

The justices ruled 5-3 on Wednesday in favor of inmate Vernon Madison, who killed a police officer in 1985. His lawyers say he has suffered strokes that have left him with severe dementia.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's four liberals in siding with Madison.

The high court ruling is not the end of the case. Justice Elena Kagan says in her majority opinion that, if the state wants to put Madison to death, an Alabama state court must determine that Madison understands why he is being executed.

The justices have previously said the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment means that people who are insane, delusional or psychotic cannot be executed.

But Kagan, reading a summary of her ruling, said, "Based on our review of the record, we can't be sure that the state court recognized that Madison's dementia might render him incompetent to be executed."

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, who last year would have allowed the execution to proceed without hearing the case, dissented. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was not yet on the court when arguments took place in early October.



The Supreme Court this week is hearing a case challenging the location of a nearly 100-year-old, cross-shaped Maryland war memorial.

Three area residents and the District of Columbia-based American Humanist Association argue the cross' location on public land violates the First Amendment's establishment clause. The clause prohibits the government from favoring one religion over others. They argue the cross should be moved to private property or modified into a slab or obelisk.

The cross' supporters say it doesn't violate the Constitution because it has a secular purpose and meaning: commemorating World War I veterans. The cross' base lists the names of 49 area residents who died in the war.

The American Legion and Maryland officials are defending the cross. They have the support of the Trump administration and 30 states.



The developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline is going after the environmental group Greenpeace in state court in North Dakota, after a judge tossed the company's $1 billion racketeering claim out of federal court.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners on Thursday sued Greenpeace and several activists it also had targeted in the federal lawsuit that U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed on Feb. 14. Wilson said he found no evidence of a coordinated criminal enterprise that had worked to undermine ETP and its pipeline project.

ETP had made claims under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and also under North Dakota laws. Wilson did not address the merits of the state claims.

ETP seeks "millions of dollars of damages" in the state lawsuit, which makes similar claims to its federal lawsuit — that Greenpeace and activists conspired to use illegal and violent means such as arson and harassment to disrupt pipeline construction and damage the company, all the while using the highly publicized and prolonged protest to enrich themselves through donations.

"Defendants thus advanced their extremist agenda ... through means far outside the bounds of democratic political action, protest, and peaceful, legally protected expression of dissent," company attorney Lawrence Bender wrote in the complaint.

Greenpeace on Friday had not yet been served with the lawsuit and declined to comment on its specifics. However, Greenpeace attorney Deepa Padmanabha said ETP "is clearly still trying to bully Greenpeace through the legal system."

"We are confident that this latest attempt to silence peaceful advocacy will receive the same fate as the last meritless attack," he said.


A French court ordered Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, to pay 4.5 billion euros ($5.1 billion) in fines and damages for helping wealthy French clients evade tax authorities, sending a stern warning to tax dodgers and the banks that aid them.

The Paris court convicted Zurich-based UBS AG on Wednesday of aggravated money laundering of the proceeds of tax fraud and illegal bank soliciting, issuing what French media called a record fine.

UBS, one of the world’s largest wealth management banks, slammed the ruling and vowed to appeal. It denied criminal wrongdoing, saying in a statement that the conviction was based on “unfounded allegations of former employees.”

UBS suggested the ruling was based on prejudices in France — which is known for its high taxes — against Swiss tax practices. It insisted that the bank was only offering “legitimate and standard services under Swiss law that are also common in other jurisdictions.”

The Paris court disagreed, and ordered exceptional criminal fines of 3.7 billion euros ($4.2 billion) for UBS’ Swiss head office and 15 million euros ($17 million) for its French subsidiary, and civil damages of 800 million euros ($907 million). Five former UBS executives were also given fines and suspended prison sentences.

Investigators say the Swiss bank sent employees to solicit business from wealthy executives or athletes during sports or music events in France, urging them to place their money in Switzerland.

The assets illegally concealed by French clients in Switzerland in 2004-2012 allegedly amounted to some 10 billion euros ($10.75 billion).

French government attorney Xavier Normand Bodard called Wednesday’s verdict a “very important” ruling and suggested it could set a legal precedent for cases involving the laundering of proceeds of tax fraud.


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