National Roundup

Ohio

State postponing execution, waits for top U.S. court

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio won't go forward with an execution that had been scheduled for this week as it asks the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the state's protocol for lethal injections is constitutional.

Ohio is one of 34 states that have the death penalty.

Forty-five-year-old Charles Lorraine had been scheduled to die Wednesday, but a U.S. district judge halted the procedure last week, saying the state had failed to follow its own rules for executions. A federal appeals court agreed that the execution should be delayed while those changes and reasons for them are reviewed.

Gov. John Kasich announced Sunday that the state was appealing to the U.S Supreme Court.

Lorraine faces death for killing a 77-year-old man and his 80-year-old bedridden wife.

Louisiana

Former mayor ta k ing case to the state High Court

MONROE, La. (AP) -- Former Richwood Mayor Ed Harris is asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to overturn his malfeasance conviction for illegally writing checks to himself and other employees during the last hours of his administration in 2008.

Defense attorney Charles Kincade asked the high court last week to consider the case.

"We respect the decisions of the lower courts, but we don't believe they took into account fully that Mr. Harris was acting pursuant to a town ordinance," Kincade told The News-Star Monday.

Harris said the money was for vacation he never took and severance packages.

Harris was convicted in October 2010, and the state Second Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in December.

Judge Wilson Rambo suspended a five-year prison term, put Harris on five years of supervised probation and ordered him to repay the town $65,360 -- a $54,000 check written to himself and one for $11,360 to town employee Yvette Griffin.

He was the town's mayor for 24 years before he lost the 2008 election to Steve Hunter.

Prosecutors said he wrote more than $90,000 worth of checks before leaving office in 2008, but some of them bounced.

Harris had implemented a new policy manual for the town shortly before he was to leave office. The manual featured modifications to vacation and severance packages owed to employees, and Harris testified that he was just doing what the manual said when he issued the checks to himself and city employees.

Vermont

Man: exclude old sex charges in death trial

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- Lawyers for the Vermont man facing the federal death penalty when he goes to trial for kidnapping and killing his 12-year-old niece are urging an appeals court to uphold an order preventing prosecutors from mentioning other cases of alleged sexual misconduct.

A judge has already excluded the allegations against 45-year-old Michael Jacques of Randolph, but prosecutors are asking the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to the other cases to be used in the upcoming trial.

The Burlington Free Press says prosecutors want to use some of the allegations, should Jacques be convicted and it go to a penalty phase.

Jacques is facing federal charges he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and then killed his niece Brooke Bennett in June 2008.

Nevada

Trucker facing sentencing in 452 lb. cocaine case

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A 52-year-old Canadian trucker is facing sentencing Feb. 21 after pleading guilty to felony drug trafficking stemming from the discovery by police of 452 pounds of cocaine in the cab of his big rig on Interstate 15 outside Las Vegas.

Officials valued the drugs at more than $16 million. They say it was the largest cocaine bust ever in Nevada.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that Gaston Danjou's plea Dec. 20 in Clark County District Court avoided trial next week on cocaine trafficking and transporting a controlled substance charges.

Danjou is from Quebec. He's been jailed on $1 million bail since his arrest last August while driving from California to the Midwest.

Police say the cocaine was found in duffel bags in a compartment in the truck's sleeper area.

Pennsylvania

Lawyer wants PU C probe of power lines after death

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The attorney for the surviving family of a western Pennsylvania woman killed by a downed power line wants the state Public Utility Commission to investigate the way utility workers were instructed to clean its lines.

Attorney Shanin Specter is suing West Penn Power and related entities, claiming he's taken depositions from maintenance workers who say they were trained to clean power lines with knives and other tools instead of wire brushes which -- the attorney and the power line's manufacturer say -- is the only way to keep the lines from rusting through and failing.

West Penn isn't commenting, the PUC says it's looking into Specter's claims.

The attorney took the depositions in a lawsuit filed in the June 2009 death of Carrie Goretzka, who was badly burned when a line fell in her yard in Irwin.

Pennsylvania

District pays settlement over har assment claim

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A central Pennsylvania school district has paid more than a half-million dollars to settle a student's lawsuit involving a teacher acquitted of sexually assaulting her in 2006.

Susquehanna Township School District's insurance will cover the $600,000 payment for the student's suit alleging the district retaliated against her for reporting an alleged sexual assault by a former driver education teacher.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported the settlement Tuesday.

The student sued the district claiming a hostile educational environment and a letter sent by the high school principal asking district employees to donate money to the teacher's defense.

The district says it's setting up sexual harassment reporting guidelines and educational programs for students.

The teacher was acquitted by a Dauphin County jury in 2007.

Published: Wed, Jan 18, 2012