National Roundup

Georgia

Court upholds man's conviction in 2006 killing

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Georgia Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a murder conviction and life prison sentence for the man authorities say gunned down a liquor store owner in DeKalb County.

Rodney Ennis Battles was convicted of malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault after a trial in the 2006 killing of Sashamer "Rocky" Tucker.

The trial court denied Battles' motion for a new trial and he then appealed to the state Supreme Court. He claimed that four errors were made during the trial.

In its decision released Monday, the court rejected all four claims and found that evidence was sufficient to find Battles guilty.

Police said Tucker was shot after driving to his Stone Mountain subdivision with his wife around 1 a.m. Sunday after closing Rocky's Package Store.

Iowa

Arguments set in Iowa birth certificate lawsuit

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Arguments have been scheduled in a lawsuit against the Iowa Department of Public Health filed by a lesbian couple who want both their names placed on their daughter's birth certificate.

Heather Gartner is the biological mother of Mackenzie and is the sole parent listed on her birth certificate, although Heather and Melissa Gartner have been legally married in Iowa.

They say that listing only one parent deprives their daughter the benefit of two legal parents being present from birth.

The Des Moines Register reports that the arguments are scheduled to be heard Monday.

Officials say state law allows only a husband's name to accompany the mother's on birth certificates. Iowa law says the husband is presumed to be the father of her child, unless a court declares otherwise.

West Virginia

Nursing home challenges $91M jury award

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A Charleston nursing home is challenging a $91 million damage award in a lawsuit stemming from the death of an elderly woman hours after she left the facility.

Lawyers for Heartland of Charleston claim in a recent court filing that the defense misstated the earnings of the facility's parent company to inflame the jury.

The Charleston Gazette reports that the filing also cites other trial errors. Heartland asks the Kanawha County Circuit Court to throw out the case, grant a new trial or substantially reduce the damage award.

In August, jurors found the facility responsible for the death of 87-year-old Dorothy Douglas. The verdict came in a lawsuit filed by Douglas' son, Tom Douglas.

Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib cut about $400,000 in non-economic damages from the jury's award in October.

Mississippi

Man accused of retaliating again st a federal judge

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) -- A Waynesboro man faces prosecution in Gulfport on a charge alleging he retaliated against a federal judge by filing a false lien against him for $10 million.

The Sun Herald reports James Allan Hennis filed the maritime lien in Forrest County in November 2010 while U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett was presiding over a civil lawsuit Hennis had filed in federal court.

Starrett recused himself from the lawsuit and contacted the FBI. It is a federal offense to make a false claim or statement against a judge or to slander a judge.

Hennis has pleaded not guilty.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker set a trial date of Nov. 27.

Kansas

Man sues university over ADHD medication

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- A Lawrence man is suing Washburn University and a health care contractor at a Kansas prison over his dismissal from a graduate program that he says was caused by his attention deficit disorder.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 30-year-old Ryan Talley alleges that he was dismissed from the clinical psychology graduate program because he needed medication to treat his ADHD.

Talley was working as an intern at the Topeka Correctional Facility in 2010 who needed a daily dose of Aderall to treat his ADHD. He says six months into his internship, a guard made him take his medication before he went into the prison.

Shortly after that, Talley was dismissed from the program.

Washburn spokesman Amanda Hughes said the university would have no comment.

Arkansas

Texarkana sch o ols: Jury wrong in teacher lawsuit

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) -- Texarkana school officials say a teacher fired for giving math test answers to three special-needs students shouldn't be entitled to $500,000 or her job.

Andrea Johnson claimed racial discrimination and retaliation after being fired in April 2009, but the Texarkana, Ark., School District says it fired her for giving students test answers, not because she is black.

Johnson said she was not the only teacher to give students answers to end-of-semester tests, and a federal jury Sept. 29 awarded Johnson $500,000 in back pay and damages and said she should be reappointed to her post.

District lawyer Ned Stewart said the federal jury that heard her case erred and that U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes should reverse part of the judgment or modify it.

The school board voted 4-3 to fire Johnson. At the trial on Johnson's claims this fall, school board member Adger Smith said he initially was leaning toward voting for Johnson until her lawyer suggested in April 2009 that the teacher was targeted because of her race.

"They had me until he pulled the race card," Smith testified in September.

Johnson's husband, Ron, testified that Smith told him after the hearing the matter would have to be taken out of the school board's hands if justice were to be served. Stewart said the district should not be held liable for Smith's remarks.

The Texarkana Gazette reported the district wants Barnes to reject Johnson's discrimination claim and limit any award to $300,000 under an Arkansas cap on certain damages. The district also says it shouldn't have to put the teacher back on the payroll.

The all-white jury determined there was a "mixed-motive" behind Johnson's dismissal after the students received test answers in December 2008, determining that Johnson would have been fired regardless of her race. Stewart said Barnes could take that into consideration and release the district from any obligation to reinstate Johnson.

Stewart said if Barnes doesn't modify the jury's findings, he will consider an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Johnson, who has 25 years of experience teaching, sought $750,000.

Published: Tue, Nov 8, 2011