National Roundup

Louisiana

Judge sets execution date for Jason Reeves

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) -- A Ragley man convicted of murdering and raping a 4-year-old Moss Bluff girl has an execution date.

The American Press reports state District Judge Mike Canaday signed the order Wednesday for Jason Reeves to be executed by lethal injection on Aug. 15 for the Nov. 12, 2001, abduction, rape and murder of Mary Jean Thigpen.

Thigpen's body was found two days later at LeBleu Cemetery off La. Highway 397.

Although it was in 2004 that Reeves was found guilty of capital murder, District Attorney John DeRosier said a date had not been set as Reeves appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court, both of which upheld his conviction and sentence.

"This case warrants the death penalty," DeRosier said. "This was a young, 4-year-old girl who was brutally assaulted and murdered and left out in LeBleu Cemetery."

Louisiana has executed 28 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1979, but only two in the past decade, according to the Death Penalty Information Center website.

Although a date has been set, DeRosier and Canaday said it could be extended if attorneys for Reeves file for any post-conviction relief, which are challenges to the conviction, although they are not direct appeals.

DeRosier was adamant that "if any case ever warranted the death penalty in Calcasieu Parish, this case did. This defendant deserves to be put to death for what he did to this 4-year-old girl."

Tennessee

Judge dismisses lawsuit against city by family

MILAN, Tenn. (AP) -- A judge in Milan has dismissed a lawsuit against the city by the family of a man who died in custody after police used a Taser to subdue him.

The family of Jermaine Ward filed suit over Ward's death of four years ago, claiming police didn't follow proper procedure during a traffic stop after Ward ingested drugs. A coroner's report showed the cause of Ward's death was cocaine toxicity.

The Jackson Sun reported city attorney Michael Hill argued Thursday that police who stopped Ward's car smelled marijuana and believed that's what Ward had in his mouth. The family's lawyer, Stephen Leffler, told the court police should have gotten Ward immediate medical attention.

Ward was found passed out in a jail cell and taken to a hospital, where he later died.

A judge dismissed the case on the grounds that Ward's lawyer did not sufficiently demonstrate that police should have been concerned enough about his health to have him immediately taken to the hospital.

Ohio

Jury finds civil rights group's ex-chair guilty

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A jury has found a civil rights organization's former chairman guilty of 51 felony charges including grand theft involving a meal program for older poor people in southwest Ohio.

A prosecutor's spokesman says the Rev. Raleigh Trammell was found guilty Friday in Dayton on one grand theft charge and 25 counts each of forgery and tampering with government documents.

The counts involve a home-delivered meals service run from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Dayton chapter headquarters.

Trammell was the chapter president and national chairman of the Atlanta-based civil rights group. Trammell lost his leadership roles with the organization in 2010.

Trammell's attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.

Alabama

Ex-judge to keep $111K pension despite scandal

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) -- Officials say a former Alabama judge who retired under an ethics cloud and surrendered his law license remains eligible for his state pension of more than $111,000 annually.

The state retirement system says that's because former Houston County District Judge John Steensland Jr. was only found guilty of violating judicial ethics rules, not a felony crime.

A state retirement official on Friday said Steensland would have lost the money had he been tried and convicted in a regular criminal court.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary found Steensland guilty of violating three judicial ethics rules a year ago for the way he conducted court. He retired in May 2010 and was never charged with a crime.

An attorney for Steensland didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Washington

Appeals court rules against ex-Gitmo prosecutor

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A divided federal appeals court has thrown out a lawsuit by the former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, who was fired by the Library of Congress for publicly criticizing the Obama administration over Guantanamo detainees.

Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis made his critique in op-eds in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post in 2009. The administration says Davis violated his responsibility as a high-level official at the library's Congressional Research Service in writing the pieces.

Davis said the government violated his constitutional right to free speech. A lower court refused to dismiss the lawsuit.

But on Friday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed that decision, and instructed the lower court to dismiss.

Massachusetts

Rockefeller impostor challenges conviction

BOSTON (AP) -- Lawyers for a German man who pretended to be a member of the Rockefeller family say his conviction for kidnapping his daughter should be thrown out because a Massachusetts prosecutor denigrated his insanity defense.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who used the name Clark Rockefeller, is serving a four- to five-year sentence.

During closing arguments at his trial, the prosecutor noted the defendant's history of using aliases and urged jurors not to let his insanity claim "be the culminating manipulation in a lifetime of lies."

Gerhartsreiter's lawyer argued before the Massachusetts Appeals Court on Friday the statement helped "eviscerate" his defense.

A prosecutor says the statement highlighted evidence of lying.

Gerhartsreiter has nearly completed his Massachusetts sentence. He is awaiting trial in California on a charge of murdering his landlady's son in 1985.

Published: Mon, Jun 4, 2012

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