Court Roundup


Appeals Court to decide fight over frozen embryos

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Missouri Court of Appeals is being asked to decide whether a divorced St. Louis County couple's two frozen embryos are property or human beings with constitutional rights.

Jalesia McQueen, 44, is suing to be able to use the embryos, which have been stored for six years, to have more children. Her ex-husband, Justin Gadberry, 34, doesn't want to have any more children with McQueen and doesn't believe he should be required to reproduce.

The two signed an agreement in 2010 that would give McQueen the embryos if they divorced, but Gadberry sought to prevent that from happening when the pair did split. St. Louis County Family Court Commissioner Victoria McKee ruled in 2015 that the embryos were "marital property" and gave joint custody to the estranged couple, which required McQueen and Gadberry to agree on the embryos' future use.

Attorneys argued the case Tuesday before the Missouri Court of Appeals, which is not expected to rule for months, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

McQueen's appeal argues that Missouri law defines embryos as humans created at conception, giving her embryos a right to life. She also claims the lower court's decision improperly invalidated her right to them under the pre-divorce agreement. She is being supported by a conservative public interest law firm and groups such as Missouri Right to Life, which filed briefs with the appeals court.

Gadberry's lawyer, Tim Schlesinger, said Wednesday that giving the embryos to McQueen would violate his client's right not to reproduce. He said Gadberry would be willing to donate the embryos for research or to an infertile couple or have the embryos destroyed. He also argued that "forced procreation" is unconstitutional and could have a "dramatic chilling effect" on people seeking fertility treatments.

McQueen and Gadberry have 8-year-old twins from in vitro fertilization, and she has a 2-year-old son with another man.

North Carolina

Murder conviction overturned when juror changes vote

WHITEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A Columbus County jury has resumed deliberations after a juror changed her mind on a murder conviction.

The Fayetteville Observer reported a jury in Whiteville returned guilty verdicts on murder and armed robbery charges Wednesday against 32-year-old Kenneth Harold Gore Jr.

When the guilty verdict was announced, one juror told Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser she had changed her mind on the murder charge.

Gore is charged in the 2010 stabbing death of 77-year-old Bonnie Jean Jeanette Fowler, whose was found at her apartment in Chadbourn.

The judge ordered the jury to resume deliberations Wednesday afternoon and Thursday when no decision was reached.

Prosecutor Heath Nance said the juror may have been influenced by a profanity-filled outburst from one of Gore's family members when the verdict was announced.


Judge: Addition to millionaire's will wasn't authentic

HAYS, Kan. (AP) - A judge has ruled that a purported updated will from a Kansas multimillionaire was not valid and the man's former caretaker will not receive most of his $21 million estate.

The Hutchinson News reports this week's ruling by Kansas Senior Judge William Lyle Jr. is a victory for the Fort Hays State University Foundation, the primary beneficiary of the estate of 98-year-old Earl O. Field, of Hays.

Field's former caretaker, Wanda Oborny said she found a letter typed on Field's stationary after his death. She says the letter said Field decided to give most of his estate to her, rather than to the foundation.

Steve and Kathy Little, of Hays, who said they witnessed Field sign the new will, died in a murder-suicide in August 2015.

New York

High court: Case against ex-AIG execs can go on

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York's highest court says the state attorney general can continue his effort to bar two former American International Group Inc. executives from the securities industry and forfeit any improperly gained profits.

The Court of Appeals for the second time has refused to dismiss the lawsuit originally filed in 2005 by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, ruling it should go to trial.

The suit claims ex-AIG chief executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg and ex-chief financial officer Howard Smith engaged in accounting fraud.

AIG itself resolved state charges as part of a $1.64 billion agreement with regulators in 2006. The insurance giant was bailed out by the federal government in the 2008 financial crisis.

Greenberg and Smith settled related federal Securities and Exchange Commission complaints without admitting wrongdoing in 2009.


Justice lawyer who defended Obamacare at high court leaving

WASHINGTON (AP) - The top Justice Department official who defended the president's health care law at the Supreme Court is leaving his job.

President Barack Obama says in a statement that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. is ending his five-year tenure as the administration's chief lawyer at the high court.

Verrilli made the principal argument in defense of the health law against a major challenge in 2012 and an attack on subsidies for low-income Americans last year.

Among his more than two dozen arguments were support for same-sex marriage and preservation of a key voting rights provision. The court ruled for same-sex marriage last year and struck down the voting rights provision in 2013.

Verrilli will step down in late June. Deputy Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn will serve as acting solicitor general.


Man convicted of '78 killing denied bid for new trial

WOBURN, Mass. (AP) - A Burlington man convicted of killing a suspected drug dealer in 1978 has had his bid for a new trial denied.

A Superior Court judge recently rejected James Rodwell's seventh retrial bid after a 16-day hearing involving 29 witnesses and 148 pieces of evidence.

Rodwell was convicted of shooting Louis Rose Jr. multiple times in the head in Somerville during a drug robbery.

The Sun of Lowell reports that his attorneys argued in their appeal that the prosecution's key witness made a deal to testify about Rodwell's alleged jailhouse confession in exchange for a lesser sentence. The defense also argued that police covered up the disappearance of portions of Rodwell's case file.

The judge in his decision rejected those arguments.

Rodwell's lawyer suggested she will appeal.

Published: Fri, Jun 03, 2016