National Roundup . . .

Prison magazine files suit against county sheriff

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A monthly magazine that advocates for inmate rights has filed a lawsuit accusing the Tulare County sheriff of violating the free speech rights of inmates by not delivering its publication.

The Fresno Bee reports that Prison Legal News filed a lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Fresno, claiming 336 issues of the journal were not delivered and were returned to the sender with no explanation.

According to the lawsuit, the jail won’t deliver the magazine because it uses staples to hold pages together, but a Christian magazine with similar staples is delivered.

A jail commander says staples are not allowed in county jails without exceptions as staples contain metal and can be used to start a fire.

Conviction upheld of mother who killed neighbor

EARLY, Iowa (AP) — A judge has upheld the murder conviction of an Iowa mother who shot and killed her 20-year-old neighbor in 2001.

Judge Michael Moon rejected an application for post-conviction relief filed by Tracey Richter, who’s serving life in prison in the slaying of 20-year-old Dustin Wehde.

Prosecutors contend Richter lured Wehde into her home in the tiny northwest Iowa town of Early, and shot him several times in her bedroom. They say she killed Wehde as part of a plot to frame her ex-husband during a custody battle.

Richter contends she acted in self-defense during a home invasion. She argued her 2011 conviction was tainted by errors at the trial by her defense lawyer, the prosecutor and the judge.

Moon rejected all of those arguments in a 30-page ruling last month.

New York
Man arrested in wife’s death in tub, after 5 years

NEW YORK (AP) — For nearly five years after a finance executive was found strangled in her Manhattan bathtub, suspicion swirled around her estranged husband.

But Roderick Covlin denied involvement, and law enforcement authorities eyed but never accused him until Monday, when he was arrested on a murder charge in a case full of dramatic twists: a death initially seen as accidental and later ruled a homicide, an exhumed body, a divorce that was reaching a crucial point and a trail of accusations in civil court papers.

Covlin’s lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, declined to comment ahead of Covlin’s arraignment. Gottlieb has previously said there was “no basis to even consider charging Mr. Covlin with the tragic death of his wife.”

Shele Covlin, 47, was a money manager at UBS, part of a finance family in which she worked alongside her brother and father. Her 42-year-old husband, known as Rod, had been a trader and was a noted figure in the backgammon world, having helped found the U.S. Backgammon Federation.

After years of marriage and two children, their relationship was falling apart. He had moved into an apartment across the hall in their Upper West Side building, and they were embroiled in a bitter divorce, according to court papers filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, which handles estates.

And Shele Covlin was due to meet an attorney on Jan. 1, 2010 — the day after she died — to cut her husband out of her will. He stood to get half her roughly $4 million estate, with the rest going to their children.

“She was fearful for her life, believed Rod intended to kill her, and there was some urgency to make changes in her will,” documents filed in Surrogate’s Court say.
Then their daughter, 9 at the time, found Shele Covlin lifeless in the tub.

With the only obvious sign of trauma a cut on the back of her head, investigators initially thought she had slipped and fallen. After her Orthodox Jewish family objected to an autopsy for religious reasons, the cause of her death was listed as undetermined.

But as an investigation began, her body was exhumed and autopsied with her family’s permission. Medical examiners concluded in April 2010 she had been strangled.

And her relatives — and later, a court agency — said Roderick Covlin was to blame.

Her father scorned his son-in-law as “an animal” in a newspaper interview, and the family fought him for custody of the children. His guardianship was eventually suspended after information on the criminal investigation surfaced.

And the Manhattan public administrator, a government figure who handles complicated estates and was named temporary custodian of Shele Covlin’s, filed a 2011 wrongful death suit accusing her husband of killing her.

South Carolina
State responds to suit alleging segregation

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s only historically black public university says that it has immunity and that current and former students who brought a federal court lawsuit alleging that the state operates a segregated system of higher education have no standing to sue.

A lawsuit naming the state of South Carolina and the state Commission on Higher Education filed earlier this year alleges that duplication of programs at other public universities hurts financially troubled South Carolina State’s enrollment and finances.

It alleges that if white students can take courses elsewhere, they are not likely to attend South Carolina State in Orangeburg to take such courses. The lawsuit seeks
unspecified monetary damages and asks a federal judge to appoint a special mediator to recommend a remedy for what it calls a segregated higher education system.

The school was later added as a defendant, and attorneys for the university filed their response last month.

They argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it fails to state a claim for which a federal court can grant relief. The response also says some of the allegations involve actions by the state or the commission, not the university, and that the statute of limitations has expired.

The attorneys also responded that the university has immunity from the lawsuit under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution, which says that a state cannot be sued in federal court without its consent.

In addition, the response says that the university is not a “person” subject to being sued as contemplated under a federal law permitting civil lawsuits for deprivation of constitutional rights.

Attorneys for the state and Commission on Higher Education earlier responded to the lawsuit, saying the state was required decades ago to dismantle its segregated system of higher education.

Their response said that the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights determined in back in 1988 that the state’s desegregation efforts complied with federal law.