National Roundup

Executed man’s daughter asks court to order DNA testing

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A woman whose father was executed for murder in Tennessee 13 years ago asked a judge on Monday to order the testing of DNA evidence in the case.

The hearing in Memphis focused largely on whether April Alley can legally bring a petition for DNA testing on behalf of her father’s estate.

Sedley Alley was convicted of the 1985 murder of 19-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Suzanne Collins in Millington. She had been out jogging when she was kidnapped, beaten, raped and mutilated. Alley confessed to the crime, but later said the confession was coerced.

He was executed by lethal injection in 2006.

April Alley’s attorneys include Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck, who told the court they filed the petition for DNA testing after law enforcement officers in St. Louis contacted him about a possible alternative suspect in Collins’ murder.

Scheck argued that it was a matter of justice to test the DNA evidence, and the court has the power to order the testing.

“April Alley wants to know the truth. She has the courage to seek the truth. DNA testing can ... provide that truth,” Scheck said.

Evidence they want tested includes a pair of men’s underwear recovered at the scene. DNA testing of evidence was in early stages in the 1980s, and no DNA evidence has ever been tested in Sedley Alley’s case.

Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Steve Jones argued the state’s DNA analysis law allows only the person convicted of the crime to request testing.

He also argued that even if DNA from a third party were found on some of the evidence, it would not prove Sedley Alley was innocent. Alley was convicted based on “a combination of factors that corroborated his confession,” Jones said.

April Alley was at the Monday hearing but declined to speak with reporters.

She and her brother witnessed her father’s execution. They had their hands up against the glass as he spoke his last words, telling them he loved them and to “stay strong.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said they are in touch with Collins’ family, and the family has made no public statement on the DNA testing petition.

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Paula Skahan said she will rule on the petition on November 18.

Death-row inmate’s appeal remains ongoing

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Court hearings for a death-row inmate appealing based on his contention that he had ineffective counsel and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meddled in his trial are taking longer than expected.

The hearings for Douglas Lovell’s appeal were expected to be wrapped up by August, but additional days have been scheduled for late October and early November, the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden reported Sunday.

Lovell, 61, has twice been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the 1985 killing of Joyce Yost. Lovell killed Yost in 1985 to prevent her from testifying after he had been charged with raping her, according to court documents.

Lovell’s attorneys have accused The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of stopping a bishop from the faith who counseled Lovell in prison from testifying as a character witness.

A former prison bishop, John “Jack” Newton, said during a hearing earlier this year that church leadership suggested it would be preferable if he did not testify on behalf of Lovell at the 2015 trial. Newton worked with Lovell at the state prison.

Court records reveal his former attorney, Michael Bouw­huis, testified last month that church lawyers asked him to call fewer church members to testify in Lovell’s 2015 trial.

Church officials didn’t immediately respond for comment Monday. But they have said previously that local leaders usually don’t participate in legal proceedings, and defense attorneys agreed to any limitations on members’ testimony.

Lovell pleaded guilty in 1993, agreeing to show authorities the location of Yost’s body. The body was never found, leading to Lovell being sentenced to death.

The Utah Supreme Court in 2011 allowed Lovell to withdraw his guilty plea. He was then convicted at trial and again sentenced to death.

The state Supreme Court in 2017 heard the case again and sent it back to a district court to determine if Lovell’s attorneys did their jobs properly and if the church asked ecclesiastical leaders to not testify.

AG: New law lets felons have antique guns

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s attorney general says a new state law allows felons to have antique guns.

An opinion last week by Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office says the law removed a ban on guns manufactured before 1899, certain replicas and black powder-using muzzleloaders for people convicted of felonies or certain misdemeanors.

The bill passed this year without any state lawmakers voting against it. The change took effect in May.

Federal law doesn’t prohibit felons from having antique guns. But a 2015 state attorney general’s opinion concluded that Tennessee law generally prohibited it.

Republican bill sponsor Sen. Kerry Roberts requested the legal opinion. He says the antiquated weapons do not use modern ammunition and said his research found they are seldom if ever used to commit a violent crime.

Jury: No criminal wrongdoing by police in fatal shooting

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Multnomah County grand jury has found no criminal wrongdoing by Portland police who fatally shot Lane Martin in the courtyard of a Portland apartment complex.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the grand jury determined Monday the fatal shooting by officer Gary Doran was “a lawful act of self-defense and/or defense of a third person,” according to the district attorney’s office.

Officer witnesses said in police reports that Martin was cornered in the courtyard by police and was shot after he took steps with a knife.

After the grand jury findings were made public, Martin’s family filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit against the city and police, alleging police used excessive force against the 31-year-old who they say was suffering a psychotic break when police encountered him.

It also alleges disability discrimination, accusing the city of failing to de-escalate the encounter with Martin, considering his mental illness.