Court Roundup

Prosecution links defendant to fatal shooting

STILLWATER, Minn. (AP) -- Prosecution witnesses in Washington County District Court say a defendant's fingerprints and DNA link him to a fatal shooting authorities have connected to stolen car parts.

The witnesses testified Dao Xiong's (zhong's) fingerprints were found on Youa Lor's stolen Nissan 350Z and his DNA was found on the gun investigators say was used to kill the 33-year-old St. Paul man. Prosecutors called 10 witnesses to the stand Monday, including forensic scientists and law enforcement investigators. The 20-year-old Xiong, of Oakdale, is accused of killing Lor after seeing his Nissan posted on Craigslist. Prosecutors say Xiong wanted Lor's car parts for his own Nissan 350Z.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press says Lor was found shot in Lake Elmo last September. His car was found stripped of parts and abandoned the next day.

Kentucky

Final man sentenced in robbery slaying

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) -- A western Kentucky teen has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in a case involving murder and robbery.

Dakota C. Galloway received the sentence Monday in Daviess Circuit Court, according to the Messenger-Inquirer. He was the last of five men charged in the February 2010 shooting death of 23-year-old Joshua E. Newcomb of Maceo.

Prosecutors say the five attempted to rob Newcomb, who was fatally shot when he tried to flee.

Galloway entered a guilty plea to complicity to commit murder, robbery, burglary and tampering with physical evidence. He did not make a statement during the sentencing hearing, other than to acknowledge he was being charged as a violent offender. That means he will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

Cox's speeches tipped off authorities

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) -- Court documents indicate that it was Schaeffer Cox's speeches in the Lower 48 that got the FBI's attention and led to an investigation of the man charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner says Cox's attorney wants to know exactly which speeches led to the investigation.

The FBI ended up sending at least two confidential informants to investigate Cox and his Alaska Peacemaker's Militia. The investigation concluded Cox and four of his associates had illegal weapons and were planning to kill law enforcement and court officials.

Cox Attorney Nelson Traverso says he wants to know exactly which Cox speech triggered the investigation.

Cox and several others associated with the Peacemakers Militia were arrested in March. They have pleaded not guilty.

Virginia

U.S. filing reveals details on accused pirate

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A government court filing is revealing new details about the arrest of a Somali man prosecutors have called the biggest catch in the U.S. battle against piracy.

The revelations involve Mohammad Saaili Shibin, who is accused of piracy, kidnapping and weapons charges for his alleged role in the February hijacking of the Quest off the coast of Africa. Four Americans were killed aboard the yacht.

According to the court filing in Norfolk, Shibin used cell phone alerts to learn of hijacked ships off Somalia and conducted Internet searches about the Americans who were sailing the Quest.

The details were contained in the government's response to a defense claim he was unlawfully questioned aboard a government plane. Prosecutors say their interrogation was legal and proper.

Idaho

murder suspect pleads not guilty

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) -- A Pocatello man charged with first-degree murder in connection with his estranged wife's death has pleaded not guilty to the crime.

Michael Lane Sparks entered the plea in 6th District Court on Monday.

Sparks' attorney, Bannock County Chief Deputy Public Defender David Martinez, said in court last week that his client had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. The Idaho State Journal reports that on Monday, Martinez reiterated that a tentative plea agreement had been reached, but said a few details still needed to be worked out before it could go in the court record.

Sparks was arrested in May and charged with first-degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Judith Rachel Johnson. Police said Johnson was beaten with a rifle and a baseball bat.

Kansas

No parole for man whose conviction is challenged

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A Wichita man who has served 30 years in prison for a murder conviction that some legal advocates have questioned has lost another bid for parole.

Ronnie Rhodes learned Monday that the state's Prisoner Review Board denied his eighth request for parole. He was convicted in 1981 in the stabbing death of Cleother Burrell in an apartment in Wichita. Rhodes has always vehemently denied that he committed the murder.

Questions about Rhodes' conviction intensified after students at Washburn School of Law said they discovered problems with case, including that evidence had been destroyed or lost in the 1980s before DNA testing was available, The Wichita Eagle reported Tuesday.

"It's almost like they want to keep me in here until I admit to committing this crime, and I just can't do that," Rhodes said in a telephone interview from the Lansing Correctional Facility.

Rebecca Woodman, an adjunct professor at Washburn who presented the students' finding to the review board, was unhappy with the review board's decision.

"It's simply a travesty of justice that Ronnie would be denied parole after 30 years, given a trial record so full of holes as his is, and evidence that could prove his innocence once and for all has, unbelievably, been destroyed, lost, or remains unaccounted for," Woodman said.

The Washburn students also raised questions about an eyewitness, Bruce Elliott, who shared an apartment with Burrell and was covered in blood when picked up by police. Elliott testified that Rhodes didn't kill Burrell. They also questioned whether Rhodes received adequate legal counsel or a thorough review by Kansas appellate courts.

Rhodes presented the review board with nearly 20 letters recommending him for parole written by mentors from inmate programs and from correctional officers at Lansing.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said the review board would not discuss its decision.

Rhodes, who will face the parole board again next summer, said the board ordered him to seek a minimum-wage job with two private businesses inside the prison and remain free of disciplinary reports. He said those were the same conditions the parole board gave him in 2000.

He said he's held a job while he was in prison and filled out an application for the private industries on Monday.

"I'm not giving up," he said.

North Dakota

4-year-old might testify in ND murder case

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A judge who will preside over the murder trial of a Bismarck man charged with murdering his wife must decide whether to allow witness testimony from her 4-year-old son and whether the boy would have to testify in court.

Derek Bollinger, 29, is set to stand trial later this month in the March 12, 2010, beating death of his 30-year-old wife, Jessica. Authorities say Jessica's son, who was 3 years old at the time, was home when she was killed.

Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Pam Nesvig said Monday that prosecutors want to keep the child out of the courtroom, instead introducing evidence of statements the toddler made to a police officer at the scene, according to The Bismarck Tribune. Nesvig contends that the boy made statements such as "mommy died" and "daddy killed mommy" without being questioned by the officer.

If the statements are not allowed, Nesvig said, prosecutors want the boy to testify either through interactive television or in the courtroom with the assistance of a therapy dog.

The defense opposes both options and also wants to exclude testimony from the boy's counselors and people who interviewed him. Defense attorney Jodi Colling said Bollinger admitted to being involved in the incident.

"I don't see why the child's statements are even relevant," she told the judge Monday.

Bollinger said she intends to prove that her client committed the crime while suffering from extreme emotional disturbance. She said Jessica Bollinger had substance abuse and domestic violence problems in numerous past relationships.

Nesvig said the defense is trying to put the victim on trial, and that there have been no allegations or evidence that Jessica Bollinger attacked her husband or even fought with him.

Jorgenson will rule on whether the defense can raise issues about Jessica Bollinger's character.

Derek Bollinger also faces a charge of child abuse or neglect for allegedly committing a homicide with a child present. He is to stand trial on that charge beginning Oct. 3.

Published: Wed, Aug 10, 2011

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