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Prosecutor asks for prison terms in Paris terror trial
Legal Focuses | 2018/02/04 23:28
A French prosecutor has requested four years in prison for a man accused of harboring killers in the 2015 Islamic State attacks on Paris, less than the maximum term.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Nicolas Le Bris said Jawad Bendaoud knew he was hiding criminals, but that there wasn't sufficient evidence he knew they were involved in the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks.

However, he called for the maximum 5-year sentence for co-defendant Youssef Ait-Boulhacen, arguing that Ait-Boulhacen knew who the men were, what they had done, and that they were plotting another attack.

Ait-Boulahacen's sister, Hasna, found the hideout for the fugitives and died with them in a police standoff.

The trial is the first time a French court has heard a case related to the attacks, which killed 130 people.



Court: Lawsuit alleging coerced confessions can go to trial
Court Watch | 2018/02/03 23:28
A lawsuit that accuses Evansville police officers of violating three teenagers' constitutional rights by coercing confessions in the killing of a homeless man can proceed to trial, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed there's enough evidence that officers deliberately coerced confessions from siblings William and Deadra Hurt in the death of 54-year-old Marcus Golike to warrant a civil trial.

"False confessions are a real problem ...," the judges wrote in their opinion, which describes the issue of whether police tactics are enough to make confessions involuntary "the ultimate legal question," The Evansville Courier & Press reported .

The suit filed in 2014 on behalf of William, Deadra and Andrea Hurt and their mother, Debbie Hurt, accuses detectives of threatening the teenagers, feeding them facts to coerce confessions and then ignoring evidence disproving those statements, and even manufacturing some evidence.

William Hurt was 18, Deadra Hurt 19 and Andrea Hurt 16 at the time of their arrests in the June 2012 killing of Golike, who was beaten, strangled and dumped in the Ohio River. Another teenager who was also arrested is not a party to the suit.

All charges in the case were ultimately dismissed against everyone but William Hurt, who refused a plea deal. A jury acquitted him of murder in February 2013.

Police began focusing on the teenagers after learning that Golike had visited the Hurt family before his death.

The suit's defendants include the city of Evansville, its police department, four city police detectives and their three supervisors at the time, one of whom is now deceased. The suit also names two Kentucky State Police detectives who were involved because Golike's body was found in their jurisdiction.

"At this juncture, the court has to take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and then there is an issue for a jury or a judge to decide," said Keith Vonderahe, who's one of several attorneys representing the Evansville officers.



Samsung heir freed after appeal wins suspended jail term
Court Watch | 2018/02/02 23:28
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong was freed Monday after a South Korean appeals court gave him a 2 ½-year suspended jail sentence for corruption in connection with a scandal that toppled the country's president.

The Seoul High Court softened the original ruling against Lee, rejecting most of the bribery charges leveled against Lee by prosecutors who sought a 12-year prison term.

While the ruling clears the way for the Samsung vice chairman to resume his role at the helm of the industrial giant founded by his grandfather after a year in prison, he faces a slew of challenges outside prison.

Chief among them will be winning trust that he is capable of running South Korea's biggest company, and assuaging public anger among those who viewed the court's surprise decision as a setback in the war on corruptions.

"The past year was a precious time for personal reflection," Lee told reporters waiting outside the gates of a detention center in southern Seoul.

Lee's first stop from the prison was a Samsung hospital where his father has been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack in 2014.

Lee was charged with offering $38 million in bribes to former President Park Geun-hye and her confidant Choi Soon-sil, embezzling Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas, concealing proceeds from criminal activities and perjury.

The appeals court said Lee was unable to reject the then-president's request to financially support her confidante and was coerced into making the payments. The court still found Lee guilty of giving 3.6 billion won ($3.3 million) in bribes for equestrian training of Choi's daughter and of embezzling the money from Samsung funds.

Lee's lawyer, Lee Injae, told reporters that the Samsung vice chairman still plans to appeal his conviction. Prosecutors also were expected to appeal the court's ruling, making it almost certain the case will go to the Supreme Court.

Lee, 49 and the only son of Samsung's ailing chairman, was given a five-year prison term in August on bribery and other charges linked to a political scandal that took down former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Lee has pleaded not guilty to charges he used Samsung corporate funds to bribe Park and a confidante, seeking to consolidate his control over Samsung and facilitate a smooth transfer of corporate leadership from his father. The appeals court rejected the lower court's view that corporate succession was one of the issues at stake.

Many South Koreans were expecting a tough stance from the appeals court and took to social media and online news portals to vent their anger at the ruling and the judge who issued the verdict.

"Republic of Samsung" and the name of the judge who handed down Monday's verdict were among the top trending words on Twitter in Korean.

The earlier ruling against Lee was seen as a departure from the previous court cases that had been criticized for being too soft toward white-collar crime and toward executives of chaebol, the big conglomerates that helped South Korea's rapid industrialization.

Lee's case and the current trial of the former president are seen as tests of the country's commitment to ending cozy ties among South Korea's political and business elite. Such links once were seen as the key to South Korea's impressive rise from the ashes of its 1950-53 war but now are blamed for corruption, inequality and stifling innovation.

Before the final hearing at the appeals court Lee paid back 8 billion won ($7.3 million) to Samsung Electronics. The lower court had said Lee embezzled that amount from Samsung to bribe Choi.



Supreme Court delays order for North Carolina to redraw maps
Opinions | 2018/01/30 09:41
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday delayed a lower-court order that would have forced North Carolina Republican lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional districts by next week because of excessive partisan bias in current lines.

The justices announced the stay after legal briefs were filed for and against the GOP legislators' request for a delay. Their lawyers successfully argued that a three-judge panel's ruling last week declaring the state congressional map an illegal partisan gerrymander should be on hold while similar cases involving Wisconsin legislative districts and one Maryland congressional district before the Supreme Court are considered. The court has never declared that the inherently political process of redistricting can be too partisan.

Voter advocacy groups and Democratic voters who sued over the map — heavily weighted toward Republicans in a closely divided state — argued no delay was necessary because it would be struck down however the justices rule in the other cases.

The Supreme Court's order said the delay remains in place while the case is appealed. The request was considered by the entire court, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the request for the delay, according to the order.

GOP Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise, redistricting leaders at the state General Assembly, praised the intervention in a release. "We are grateful that a bipartisan U.S. Supreme Court has overwhelmingly halted the lower court's 11th-hour attempt to intervene in election outcomes" and restored certainty to voters about their districts, they said.




Court seems to favor death row inmate in dispute with lawyer
Topics | 2018/01/30 09:41
The Supreme Court seems ready to say that a lawyer for a criminal defendant cannot override his client's wish and concede his guilt at trial, even if the lawyer's aim is to avoid a death sentence.

The court on Wednesday dived into the case of Louisiana death row inmate Robert McCoy. He repeatedly objected to his lawyer's decision to acknowledge that McCoy killed the son, mother and step-father of his estranged wife in 2008.

Lawyer Larry English has said the evidence against McCoy was overwhelming and that the only way to keep McCoy off death row was to beg for mercy. In the end, the strategy failed and a jury sentenced McCoy to death. If he wins at the Supreme Court, he could get a new trial.

Supreme Court won't take case of ex-NY assembly speaker

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for a re-trial of ex-New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The high court declined Tuesday to get involved in the case. That allows for a re-trial tentatively set for April to proceed.

Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was convicted of public corruption charges in late 2015. But the U.S. court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned that conviction last year and sent the case back to the trial court.

The appeals court said that the trial judge would need to instruct jurors on the law in a different manner to conform with a 2016 Supreme Court decision that reversed the public corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.



Officials ask court to send Kennedy cousin back to prison
Legal Interview | 2018/01/28 09:41
Connecticut officials are asking the state's highest court to revoke Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's bail and send him back to prison, reminding justices it has been more than a year since they reinstated his murder conviction.

The chief state's attorney's office filed the request Monday with the state Supreme Court.

Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy and his widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 in the bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood in 1975, when they were both teenagers.

He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. But another judge granted him a new trial in 2013, citing mistakes by his lawyer. Skakel was then freed after being allowed to post $1.2 million bail while he awaited the new trial.

Prosecutors appealed the lower court ruling to the state Supreme Court, which reinstated the conviction in December 2016 in a 4-3 ruling. Skakel's lawyers asked the high court to reconsider the decision — a request that remains pending. Skakel has been allowed to remain free on bail pending that ruling.

In Monday's petition to the Supreme Court, prosecutor James Killen wrote the court's usual practice is to rule on a request to reconsider a decision within weeks, and it's not clear why it is taking so long.



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