Court Round Up

Ohio: Dismemberment trial defendant denies killing wife
CINCINNATI (AP) — A man on trial in Cincinnati in the grisly slaying of his wife testifies that he did not kill her or have anything to do with the dismemberment of her body.

The 31-year-old John Strutz testified repeatedly Monday under both defense and prosecution questioning that he doesn’t know what happened to his wife.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge John West earlier Monday acquitted Strutz on one of two murder counts in the death of 28-year-old Kristan Strutz. Police have said they found part of the woman’s torso in a garbage can last August.

Strutz, of Delhi Township, faces the remaining murder count and charges of tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a court.

Strutz was the final witness in the trial. Closing arguments begin today.

California: JPL worker sues over intelligent design demotion
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — A Jet Propulsion Laboratory worker who distributed religious DVDs on the job is suing the JPL for discrimination after he was demoted.

David Coppedge’s lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles County says he was demoted last April for sharing his views in the workplace. He wants a court order allowing him to discuss his beliefs.

Coppedge is an information technology specialist on the Cassini space mission. He’s also a Christian who promotes the concept that an intelligent being created the universe.

Defendants in the lawsuit include his supervisor, JPL and the California Institute of Technology, which runs JPL.

Georgia: Judge allows prison inmate’s interview in trial
ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that an interview of a prison inmate who boasts of killing his cellmate and vows to kill again can be used against him in an upcoming federal death penalty trial.

Senior U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper has reversed a ruling by a magistrate judge who recommended the interview with inmate Brian Richardson be suppressed.

Richardson boasts in the interview about how he stabbed and strangled cellmate Steven Obara at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

Richardson, who was serving time for bank robbery, is charged with killing Obara in July 2007. Obara was serving a 10-year sentence for possessing child pornography.

Washington: Death penalty phase of trial in Kirkland killings
SEATTLE (AP) — The death penalty phase of a trial began Monday in Seattle for the man convicted of aggravated murder in the killing of four members of a Kirkland family.

The King County Superior Court jury will decide whether 28-year-old Conner Schierman should be sentenced to execution or life in prison for killing two women and two children in 2006 and setting their home on fire.

The jury returned the guilty verdict April 12. The penalty phase is expected to last up to three weeks.

Virginia: Man gets life for decapitating  graduate student
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former Virginia Tech graduate student who admitted to decapitating a classmate has been sentenced to life in prison.

Haiyang Zhu was sentenced Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court to life without parole. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of fellow Chinese student Xin Yang. Zhu attacked and decapitated the 22-year-old Yang as the pair had coffee at a campus eatery in January 2009.

Zhu spoke through an interpreter at Monday’s hearing to express his “sincere apology and deepest remorse” for the attack.

Tennessee: State rep asks judge to dismiss libel lawsuit
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican state Rep. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville wants a libel lawsuit against him dismissed because he says he didn’t know he was repeating false information about a Democratic candidate on his blog.

Campfield wrote on his blog in 2008 that Roger Byrge, who ultimately lost the state House election to Republican Rep. Chad Faulkner of Luttrell, had “multiple separate drug arrests.”

According to the court filing, Campfield found out later that the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son, not the candidate.

Byrge filed a $750,000 libel lawsuit against Campfield after the election.