National Roundup

 North Carolina

U.S. Army general seeks dismis­s­al of sex charges 
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — A U.S. Army general facing court martial on sexual assault charges is again seeking to have the case against him dismissed.
Lawyers for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair filed a motion made public Tuesday asking Military Judge Col. James Pohl to throw out the case. Sinclair’s lawyers argued that testimony from the primary witness against him is unreliable and that top Pentagon brass improperly meddled in prosecutorial decisions.
Pohl has denied at least two past motions to dismiss from the defense. Sinclair’s court martial is set to begin March 4 at Fort Bragg.
Sinclair has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal counts, including forcible sodomy, indecent acts and conduct unbecoming an officer. The 51-year-old married father of two faces life in prison if convicted.
Appeals court re­verses mu­r­der conviction of man 
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Court of Appeals has reversed a murder conviction stemming from a shooting outside a Surry County nightclub.
A divided three-judge panel said Tuesday that Ronald Taft Davis III’s acquittal on a misdemeanor charge of reckless handling of a firearm precluded his later prosecution for murder based on the same 2008 incident.
Davis was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder after someone fired at least 10 rounds into a parked car, killing a passenger. However, a general district court judge previously had acquitted Davis on the misdemeanor charge, saying prosecutors failed to prove Davis was the gunman.
Applying a legal doctrine based on double jeopardy, the appeals court said the failure to prove Davis did the shooting meant he could not be convicted of murder.
High court hears arguments over school sh­elter 
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An attorney for supporters of an initiative petition to place storm shelters in public schools told the Oklahoma Supreme Court that Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office abused its discretion by re-writing a ballot title that he says was not legally incorrect.
The state’s highest court heard oral arguments Tuesday from attorneys in the lawsuit over an initiative petition that asks voters to decide a $500 million bond issue to pay for school storm shelters.
David Slane, who represents supporters of the petition, says the attorney general’s ballot title overemphasizes the funding method and underemphasizes the purpose of the petition.
The lawsuit was filed in October by Take Shelter Oklahoma and Kristi Conatzer, the mother of one of seven children killed when a tornado struck a school in Moore last May.
State high court assigns liability in liquor cases 
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hosts who charge admission to parties may be held legally responsible if a drunken underage guest is hurt or injures someone else, California’s high court has ruled.
A cover charge amounts to a sale of alcohol, and state law creates liability for those who sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated minors, the state Supreme Court said in the unanimous decision Monday.
The ruling, which overturned two lower court decisions, was most likely to affect student parties, where underage drinking and cover charges are common.
“We should err on the side of permitting liability, for the possibility of liability may provide a strong deterrent against the provision of alcohol to minors, especially those who are already obviously intoxicated,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote for the court.
The case stemmed from a 2007 party organized by then-20-year-old Jessica Manosa at a rental home owned by her parents, though without their permission. Andrew Ennabe, a 19-year-old student at California State University, Fullerton, died after being hit by a car driven by a man who had been asked to leave the gathering.
Ennabe’s family sought to hold Manosa liable for his death, through her parents and their homeowners insurance.
Strangers who showed up at Manosa’s party were charged $3 to $5 at the door to cover the cost of liquor.
A trial court and an appeals court previously decided Manosa was not legally responsible because she did not intend to profit from the entrance fee, but merely to defray the cost of the alcohol.
Her attorneys argued that the ruling would make all sorts of hosts vulnerable if they asked for any compensation or even demanded a dish at a potluck, they insisted.
“The assertion is exaggerated,” Werdegar wrote. “One does not normally charge guests an entrance fee to attend bar mitzvahs, weddings or gallery openings.”
Amer Innabi, who represents Ennabe’s parents, called the ruling “common sense.”
Manosa’s attorney declined to comment.
The driver of the car, Thomas Garcia, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received a 14-year sentence. He said he had been drinking heavily before he arrived at the party and had no memory of hitting Ennabe.
In the 1970s, the California Supreme Court made social hosts who serve alcohol to intoxicated guests legally liable for their harmful behavior. The Legislature responded by creating immunity for hosts, but later carved out an exception for individuals who sell alcohol, whether they are licensed or not.
Since Ennabe’s death, the Legislature has further expanded liability, making parents, guardians and “any adult” responsible if they knowingly serve alcohol at their homes to minors. That law affects only adult hosts, whereas Monday’s ruling for Ennabe’s parents could now open the way for lawsuits against minors as long as cover charges were involved.
State committee approves fetal heartbeat bill 
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama legislative committee has voted to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected — something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
The House Health Committee approved the fetal heartbeat bill Tuesday. Both sides of the abortion debate agree the proposal would ban most abortions if it becomes law. They also agreed the proposal will be destined for a court fight if given final approval.
North Dakota approved similar legislation, but a federal judge put the law on hold while a legal challenge plays out in court.
The committee also approved bills to increase the waiting period before an abortion; require proof of parenthood for parental consent for an abortion; and require expectant parents seeking an abortion because of lethal fetal anomalies to be advised about perinatal hospice services.