National Roundup

New York

Group, university to study rape kit backlog

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) -- A recently formed organization contends there is a nationwide backlog of untested rape kits. Now it is teaming with a New York university to try to figure out how many are sitting on shelves in police department storage closets.

Natasha's Justice Project, based on New York's Long Island, believes there could be as many as 180,000 untested rape kits nationwide. But no one really knows for sure. The kits are the physical evidence collected after a sexual assault.

Natasha Alexenko started the organization this year. She says Stony Brook University researchers and a group called Strategic Planning will try to determine the number.

Alexenko has publicly identified herself as a survivor of sexual assault. Manhattan prosecutors caught her attacker when they tested her rape kit nine years after the crime.

New York

Debate still simmers over hate crime stabbing

PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (AP) -- A new PBS documentary portrays efforts community leaders have made to put the 2008 killing of an Ecuadorean immigrant by a mob of teenagers behind them.

But a letter last week from the U.S. Justice Department indicates much still needs to be done.

The 28-page missive from the department's Civil Rights Division lists recommendations for improving hate crime investigations on New York's eastern Long Island. It also cites vague policies and procedures that preceded Lucero's killing. Local authorities say they have taken steps to address the problems.

Patchogue-Medford librarian Gilda (Jill-dah) Ramos says she has seen many positive changes in her community. She says because the seven teenagers were sent to prison in the killing of Marcelo Lucero, Hispanics are more likely to call police.

Connecticut

2nd home invasion trial begins in Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- The trial of a Connecticut man charged with the killings of a woman and her two daughters during a home invasion is getting off to a contentious start.

The trial of thirty-one-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky (koh-mih-sar-JEV'-skee) began Monday in New Haven. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted. His co-defendant, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death last year.

Authorities say the two paroled burglars broke into a Cheshire home in 2007, beat Dr. William Petit and killed his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and their two daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley.

Jeremiah Donovan, Komisarjevsky's attorney, noted Petit family supporters were wearing pins in memory of the victims. The defense has expressed concerns about their client's right to a fair trial.

Donovan called the supporters "the Petit posse," sparking a prosecutor's objection.

Arkansas

Appeals court to weigh desegregation case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A federal appeals court was set to hear arguments over whether Arkansas can stop making desegregation payments to Little Rock-area schools more than 50 years after troops escorted nine black students into an all-white school.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis began hearing arguments Monday about whether a judge erred in May by cutting most of the $70 million that the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County districts receive to help them racially balance their schools.

The payments are part of a 1989 settlement after the Little Rock schools accused the other districts and the state of not doing enough to help them desegregate.

The state argues that the payments are no longer necessary.

Arizona

Guru's attorneys make case for lesser sentence

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) -- Supporters of a self-help author convicted in the deaths of three people following an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony are set to testify this week in an effort to convince a judge that James Arthur Ray deserves a lenient sentence.

Ray faces anything from probation to nine years in prison after a jury found him guilty in late June of three counts of negligent homicide.

His attorneys have lined up 19 people to testify on his behalf during a weeklong hearing that started Monday. The witnesses include Ray's mother and brother, who often were in the courtroom during his four-month trial, colleagues in the self-help industry and his former financial controller.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow will use the testimony to determine how long Ray, who led dozens of people in the ceremony near Sedona in October 2009, could spend in prison. Ray has no prior convictions.

This week's hearing and the Sept. 26 sentencing date were affirmed after Darrow denied the latest defense motion for a new trial.

Of the people who became ill during the two-hour ceremony, James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, and Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., were pronounced dead shortly after it ended. Liz Neuman, 48, of Prior Lake, Minn., never regained consciousness and died more than a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized, but some participants reported no major problems.

Ray touted the ceremony as the highlight of his five-day "Spiritual Warrior" retreat. It was meant to be a re-birth for participants.

Prosecutors say they'll call Brown's mother and six other people to the stand this week to rebut the testimony of defense witnesses.

A woman who wrote a book about her life in Ray's inner circle, the lead detective in the case and a corporate risk management expert are on the prosecution's list.

Massachusetts

Court reinstates $675,000 damages for downloading

BOSTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court has reinstated a $675,000 judgment against a Boston University student who illegally downloaded and shared songs on the Internet.

In 2009, a jury in Boston awarded $675,000 to the Recording Industry Association of America, representing four record labels, in a lawsuit filed against Joel Tenenbaum.

A judge later reduced the award to $67,500, finding the original penalty "unconstitutionally excessive."

In his appeal, Tenenbaum sought to overturn the penalty. But the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the full award in a ruling Friday.

Tenenbaum's lawyers argue that federal copyright laws and the Digital Theft Deterrence Act were not meant to target consumers. Lawyers representing the recording industry argue that the economic impact of illegal downloading is much greater than the sharing of one song.

Published: Tue, Sep 20, 2011

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