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  Court Watch - Legal News


The Supreme Court will consider banning non-unanimous juries in criminal cases in Louisiana, the only state that still allows them.

The justices said Monday they will hear an appeal from a man who was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury's 10-2 vote. First-degree murder charges already require a unanimous jury to convict.

Oregon voters recently approved a state constitutional amendment that ended Oregon's use of divided juries to convict some criminal defendants.

The high court also is agreeing Monday to decide whether states can eliminate the so-called insanity defense for criminal defendants without violating the Constitution.

The appeal comes from a Kansas man who has been sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, their two daughters and the wife's grandmother. The cases will be argued in the fall.


The Supreme Court is rejecting a new appeal from a Georgia death row inmate, despite evidence that a juror in his capital case used racial slurs.

The high court had previously blocked the execution of Georgia inmate Keith Leroy Tharpe. But the justices on Monday refused to take up his case after a lower court ruled against him.

The 59-year-old Tharpe is trying to get his death sentence thrown out because of comments the juror made to defense investigators several years after Tharpe’s trial. The juror signed an affidavit, though he later testified that he voted for Tharpe’s death sentence because of the evidence against him. The juror has since died.



The Connecticut Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on whether gun maker Remington can be sued for making the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Justices are split on the question as the court is scheduled to release majority and dissenting opinions Thursday.

The plaintiffs include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre. They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza was designed as a military killing machine and is too dangerous for the public, but Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.

A lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2016, agreeing with Remington that federal law shields gun makers from liability when their products are used in crimes.



Massachusetts' highest court on Wednesday reinstated the late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction, which was erased after the former NFL star killed himself in prison.

The Supreme Judicial Court also scrapped the legal principle that wiped out Hernandez's conviction for future cases, calling it "outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life."

"We are pleased justice is served in this case, the antiquated practice of vacating a valid conviction is being eliminated and the victim's family can get the closure they deserve," Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said in a tweet.

Hernandez was convicted in 2015 of killing semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Two years later, the 27-year-old killed himself in his prison cell days after being acquitted of most charges in a separate double-murder case.

A judge threw out Hernandez's conviction that year, citing the legal principle that holds that a defendant convicted at trial who dies before an appeal is heard should no longer be considered guilty in the eyes of the law, thereby returning the case to its pretrial status.

Under the doctrine, rooted in centuries of English law, a conviction should not be considered final until an appeal can determine whether mistakes were made that deprived the defendant of a fair trial, legal experts say.

Prosecutors argued the legal doctrine is outdated and unfair to victims. Quinn told the court that the defendant's estate should be allowed to appeal the case, if they wish. Otherwise, the conviction should stand, he argued.

Under the new rule laid out by the court, the conviction will stand but the court record will note the conviction was neither affirmed nor reversed because the defendant died while the appeal was pending.



Attorneys for Ohio Republican officials will call witnesses this week to defend the state's congressional map.

A federal trial enters its second week Monday in a lawsuit by voter rights groups that say the current seats resulted from "an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander." Their witnesses have included Democratic activists and voters who have expressed frustration and confusion with districts that have stayed at 12 Republicans, four Democrats, since they were drawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

Attorneys for the Republican officials being sued say the map resulted from bipartisan compromise, with each party losing one seat after population shifts in the 2010 U.S. Census caused Ohio to lose two congressional seats.

Among potential GOP witnesses is former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur) of West Chester, Ohio.


A challenge against British government plans to expand Heathrow Airport through the construction of a third runway has begun in one of the country's highest courts.

A coalition of local councils, environmentalists and London residents claim the government has failed to properly address the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion that expansion would bring.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is also backing the lawsuit. Demonstrators gathered outside the High Court on Monday for the first day of a two-week hearing.

Parliament approved plans last year for the third runway, backing what the government described as the most important transportation project in a generation.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said the expansion will boost economic growth.


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.

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