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Court reverses itself and restores woman's murder conviction
Legal Interview | 2017/12/14 09:46
Georgia's highest court has reversed it own recent decision and restored the murder conviction of a woman whose husband shot and killed a police officer.

The Georgia Supreme Court issued a new opinion Monday that upholds Lisa Ann Lebis' felony murder conviction in the 2012 slaying of Clayton County police officer Sean Callahan.

Barely a month ago the same court had axed Lebis' conviction, saying prosecutors failed to prove she "jointly possessed" the gun that her husband, Tremaine Lebis, used to kill the officer as the couple tried to flee a Stockbridge motel.

The new decision concludes that Lisa Ann Lebis could still be held accountable for the slaying as a co-conspirator.

The opinion Monday does not say why the high court chose to revisit the case.


Ohio high court shields full autopsy reports in slaying of 8
Headline News | 2017/12/14 09:44
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.


S Carolina Rep. Quinn pleads guilty to corruption charge
Topics | 2017/12/13 09:44
South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. pleaded guilty to corruption charges Wednesday, becoming the third Republican lawmaker convicted in a wide-ranging Statehouse corruption probe.

Prosecutors said they will ask for prison time for the 52-year-old former House Majority leader. Quinn faces up to a year behind bars on a charge of misconduct in office. The other two lawmakers who have pleaded guilty in the investigation have received probation.

Quinn planned to plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor misconduct in office, prosecutor David Pascoe said as Wednesday's hearing started. Pascoe agreed to drop a second charge.

Quinn broke the law by taking $4 million in unreported money from lobbyists, Pascoe said. "It wasn't about service to the people, it was about service to his pocketbook," Pascoe said.

As part of the deal, Pascoe also agreed to drop corruption charges against Quinn's Republican consultant father Richard Quinn Sr., but he must testify before a grand jury that continues to investigate legislators and others and fully cooperate with the State Law Enforcement Division. Quinn has dozens of high-powered clients in the state, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Attorney General Alan Wilson.

The consulting business, First Impressions, is also pleading guilty to not registering as a lobbyist and will pay a fine. Quinn resigned an hour before the hearing. He called his 21 years in the South Carolina House "one of the greatest honors of my life" in a letter to House Speaker Jay Lucas.



Ex-police officer pleads guilty in daughter's hot car death
Legal Interview | 2017/12/12 09:44
A former Mississippi police officer charged in the death of her daughter in a hot patrol car has pleaded not guilty.

The Sun Herald reports 28-year-old Cassie Barker was arraigned Monday on a charge of second-degree murder in the 3-year-old girl's death.

The former Long Beach officer is accused of leaving Cheyenne Hyer unattended in a patrol car for more than four hours while she was in another officer's home. The car's air conditioner was on but wasn't blowing cold air. Hyer was found unresponsive in the car and died Sept. 30, 2016.

Barker was fired days later and initially charged with manslaughter.



Travel ban is headed back to a federal appeals court in Virginia
Politics | 2017/12/11 09:46
Thirteen judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be asked to decide if the ban violates the constitution by discriminating against Muslims, as opponents say, or is necessary to protect national security, as the Trump administration says.

The hearing scheduled Friday comes four days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can fully enforce the ban even as the separate challenges continue before the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit and the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit appeals courts.

The 4th Circuit is being asked to reverse the decision of a Maryland judge whose injunction in October barred the administration from enforcing the ban against travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen who have bona fide relationships with people or organizations in the U.S. The ban also applies to travelers from North Korea and to some Venezuelan government officials and their families, but the lawsuits didn't challenge those restrictions.

Trump announced his initial travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations in late January, bringing havoc and protests to airports around the country. A federal judge in Seattle soon blocked it, and courts since then have wrestled with the restrictions as the administration has rewritten them. The latest version blocks travelers from the listed countries to varying degrees, allowing for students from some of the countries while blocking other business travelers and tourists, and allowing for admissions on a case-by-case basis.

Opponents say the latest version of the ban is another attempt by Trump to fulfill his campaign pledge to keep Muslims out of the U.S. The administration, however, says the ban is based on legitimate national security concerns.

The 4th Circuit rejected an earlier version in May, finding that it "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination" toward Muslims. The judges cited Trump's campaign pledge on Muslim travelers, as well as tweets and remarks he has made since taking office.



Greek court backs extraditing Russian bitcoin suspect to US
Legal Focuses | 2017/12/11 09:44
Greece's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extraditing a Russian cybercrime suspect to the United States to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency bitcoin.

Alexander Vinnik made his final appearance at an Athens court Wednesday amid an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. and Russia, who are both seeking his extradition.

Greece's justice minister will ultimately decide on whether Vinnik will be sent to Russia or the U.S.

The case was heard amid growing global interest in virtual currencies and their underlying blockchain technology, fuelled by the ongoing boom in the price of bitcoin.

The 38-year-old former bitcoin platform operator denies any wrongdoing but is not contesting the Russian request on less serious charges.

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.

Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, said bitcoin's growing acceptance by mainstream markets makes criminal cases surrounding the currency more significant.

"For bitcoin to continue to attract regulated and institutional investors it will need to operate within the law," he told the AP.

"The United States, with the support of evidence from various cyber sleuths, is arguing that Vinnik and BTC-e were two of the biggest bad actors in the crypto-currency industry. Bringing bad actors to justice will help bitcoin move beyond its tainted history."

Vinnik was arrested at a northern Greek holiday resort in July and a lower court has already approved his extradition to the U.S.

Ilias Spyrliadis, a lawyer for Vinnik's defense, said they would formally respond after Wednesday's decision is published, in about one week.

"The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States," the lawyer said. "Our client has not made any response. He listened to the ruling as it was read out ... It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent."



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