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The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of a former police chief found guilty in the 2009 death of his pregnant fiancée.

Russell Bertram was sentenced in 2016 to life in prison for fatally shooting 26-year-old Leonila Stickney. The high court this week declined to vacate Bertram's conviction.

At the time of the incident, Bertram told authorities he was putting his shotgun into his truck after a hunting trip when the weapon fired accidentally, striking Stickney.

Officials accused the one-time Harrisburg police chief of shooting Stickney out of jealousy and to collect more than $900,000 in insurance benefits.

Supreme Court justices ruled the circuit court didn't abuse its discretion by excluding polygraph evidence from Bertram or admitting prosecutors' evidence of his sexual encounters with other women in the days before Stickney's death.



A court order blocking Louisiana from carrying out any executions has been extended indefinitely after the death of the federal judge who issued it.

A lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocols has kept death sentences on hold since 2014. U.S. District Judge James Brady, who died Dec. 9 after a brief illness, oversaw the lawsuit and agreed to order the temporary stay of all executions.

Brady's order was due to expire next Monday, but U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick agreed Thursday to extend it until another judge is assigned to the lawsuit.

Louisiana has 72 inmates on death row, according to state corrections department spokesman Ken Pastorick. The state's last execution was in January 2010, when it carried out a death sentence for Gerald Bordelon, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2002.

Drug shortages have forced the corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010. Under the state's current execution protocols, its primary method is a single-drug injection of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative. The alternative method is a two-drug combination of the painkiller hydromorphone and the sedative midazolam.

The most recent order that Brady issued to halt executions — at the request of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry — is limited to death row inmates who are plaintiffs in the litigation. But others can join the lawsuit if an execution date is set by the courts.


Russia's former economics minister was handed an eight-year prison sentence Friday after being convicted of accepting a $2 million bribe from one of President Vladimir Putin's top associates. The high-profile trial of Alexei Ulyukayev has been widely seen as part of infighting between Kremlin clans. Ulyukayev was a key member of a group of liberal-minded technocrats in the Cabinet, while his accuser, Igor Sechin is the most prominent representative of the hard-line flank of the Russian elite.

Sechin heads Russia's largest oil producer, Rosneft, and his clout seconds only that of Putin. The 61-year-old Ulyukayev is the highest-ranking Russian official to be arrested in more than two decades. The case was viewed by many as Sechin's personal vendetta against Ulyukayev, who had been critical of a Rosneft privatization plan proposed by Sechin.

Ulyukayev was detained a year ago at Rosneft's headquarters following a sting operation by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main KGB successor agency.

Sechin claimed in written testimony that Ulyukayev was extorting a bribe from him in exchange for issuing a positive assessment of Rosneft's bid to take over another oil company, Bashneft.

Ulyukayev denied the charges, calling them a provocation set up by Sechin. The minister argued that a person would have to be insane to try to extort a bride from the powerful Sechin.

Sechin has flaunted repeated court orders to testify as a witness at Ulyukayev's trial, citing urgent business. Asked Thursday about Sechin's failure to show up, Putin said at his marathon news conference that he saw no violation of legal procedures by his lieutenant.

A Moscow court on Friday also ordered Ulyukayev to pay a $2.2 million fine.


A divided Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday rejected requests for unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 4-3 that the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio does not have to release the reports with complete information.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority, said Ohio law regarding coroner records clearly exempts the redacted material as "confidential law enforcement investigatory records."

The case before the court involved seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in rural southern Ohio, on April 22, 2016.

Heavily redacted versions of the autopsy reports released last year showed all but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head, but details about any other injuries and toxicology test results weren't released.

Once a criminal investigation ends, confidential information in autopsy reports can become public records, but the process leading to a suspect can sometimes take time, O'Connor wrote.

"In order that justice might be delivered to all, patience may be required of some," the chief justice said.

The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer separately sued for access to the full final autopsies. The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which is leading the investigation, sought to shield the information, arguing that its release could compromise the investigation.

Jack Greiner, an attorney representing the newspapers, called the majority's decision "a classic case of the court making up its mind on how it wanted the case to come out and then finding a path there." He said the ruling sets a negative precedent that will allow police to put whatever they want under the "investigatory records" umbrella.



Authorities say an Idaho man tried to crash a car into a courthouse in downtown Boise because he was upset with the court system.

The Ada County Sheriff's office says 37-year-old Jonathan Joseph Locksmith drove toward the courthouse in the state's capital city Sunday morning.

According to authorities, Locksmith apparently made it onto the courthouse plaza in the car, spinning it around in a "doughnut" before landing the vehicle in a fountain. There were no injuries reported.

Locksmith has been arrested on a misdemeanor reckless driving charge and is now in jail.  It's unclear if he has an attorney.

The sheriff's office says Locksmith told a passer-by that he was upset with the court system and wanted to be arrested to go back to jail.



The girlfriend of a Connecticut man charged with killing his parents for threatening to cut him out of their will has pleaded guilty to related charges and agreed to serve eight years in prison.

Jennifer Valiante pleaded guilty Friday in Bridgeport Superior Court to conspiracy to commit murder and hindering prosecution.

The plea to the conspiracy charge came under the Alford doctrine, which allows defendants to not admit guilt but concede there's enough evidence for a conviction.

Prosecutors say she knew about or helped Kyle Navin plan the murders of his parents, Jeffrey and Jeanette Navin, of Easton, whose bodies were found in Weston in October 2015. They had been shot.

Navin is detained on $2.5 million bond awaiting trial. The 33-year-old Valiante is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 26.


Burundi has become the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, but officials say the court's prosecutor will move ahead with an examination of the East African nation's deadly political turmoil.

An ICC spokesman confirmed that the pullout took effect Friday, a year after Burundi notified the United Nations secretary-general of its intention to leave the court that prosecutes the world's worst atrocities.

Burundi is the only one of three African nations to go ahead with withdrawal after they made moves last year to leave amid accusations that the court focuses too much on the continent. South Africa's withdrawal was revoked in March. Gambia's new government reversed its withdrawal in February.

On Friday, Burundi's justice minister called the ICC withdrawal "a great achievement" in reinforcing the country's independence. Aimee Laurentine Kanyana also called on police and prosecutors to respect human rights so that "white people" won't have "false proofs to rely on in accusing Burundi."

Burundi's withdrawal doesn't affect the preliminary examination of the country's situation already underway by the court's prosecutor, ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told The Associated Press. That examination began in April 2016.

Burundi has faced deadly political turmoil since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to seek a disputed third term that he ultimately won.

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