National Roundup

Court rejects appeal over personhood

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that said a proposal to grant “personhood” to human embryos would be an improper ban on abortion.
The proposed constitutional amendment, which was never considered by voters, would have given human embryos the rights and privileges of citizens in Oklahoma and was called “clearly unconstitutional” by the state Supreme Court in an April ruling.
The measure was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of several Oklahoma doctors and residents before it could be placed on the ballot.
“Today’s rejection by the highest court in the nation is yet another resounding message to the opponents of reproductive freedom that such extremist assaults on our fundamental rights will not stand,” Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said Monday.
“Pure and simple, these tactics are an affront to our nation’s Constitution and a bald-faced attempt to foreclose women’s access to a full range of reproductive health care,” Northrup said.
Mathew Staver, founder of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which filed the appeal on behalf of Personhood Oklahoma, expressed disappointment but said supporters of the measure would not give up.
“Certainly we would have hoped the court would review this issue because we think it’s a significant one that grants citizens the right to express their opinion,” Staver said. “We’ll continue to move forward with these initiatives.” He said the group may ask legislators to weigh in.
A personhood bill passed in the state Senate during this year’s legislative session but was not heard by the House.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Staver acknowledged that his group’s goal is to provide the U.S. Supreme Court with a case that allows it to review the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
“It’s the first step in that direction,” Staver said.

State high court orders new trial in murder case

ATLANTA (AP) — A man convicted of murder in south Georgia will get a new trial, Georgia’s highest court ruled.
In a unanimous opinion released Monday, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed John Woods’ murder conviction and ordered a new trial in the Berrien County case.
Justice P. Harris Hines wrote that the trial court failed to instruct jurors on the law of self-defense before their deliberations, as the defense attorney had requested.
The ruling states that Woods told his father he had killed Travis Sauls in self-defense and disposed of the body in the fall of 2009. He gave a general statement to law enforcement that he had shot Sauls because he feared for his life, the court ruling states.
In an Oct. 5, 2009 interview with law enforcement officers, Woods gave more details of the crime, “stating that while Sauls was washing his truck, Sauls said if anyone ever crossed him, he would kill the person,” the court’s opinion states.
“John said he feared for his life as Sauls began circling him, moving his hands and looking ‘bug eyed,’” the court opinion states. “John went into his house, got his gun and concealing it in a Tom’s Potato Chips bag, came back outside and shot Sauls in the back at least twice,” the court ruling states.
In the opinion released Monday, the court found that the trial court failed to instruct jurors on the state’s self-defense laws before they began their deliberations.
“Absent such an instruction, the jury was not provided with the proper guidelines for determining guilt or innocence,’” the opinion states.
It wasn’t immediately clear when a new trial might be held. A district attorney in the region that covers Berrien County did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.

TV ad spurs complaint in judicial race

MOUNT VERNON, Ill. (AP) — A Republican seeking election to a southern Illinois appellate court wants the state’s bar association to compel his Democratic opponent to pull a foreclosure-related television campaign ad.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Steve McGlynn’s campaign for the Mount Vernon, Ill.-based 5th District Appellate Court has filed a complaint with the Illinois State Bar Association. McGlynn says the ad goes too far.
McGlynn says it’s “flatly false” when Judy Cates says in her ad that McGlynn played a major role in Illinois’ foreclosure crisis because he is assigned to his district’s foreclosure docket.
The spot says McGlynn has signed more than 2,000 foreclosure orders “evicting families from their homes,” and that McGlynn routinely “rubber stamps” foreclosure orders.
A message left with Cates’ law firm Monday hasn’t been returned.

Former church worker pleads guilty to rape

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A former employee of a Tulsa megachurch accused of raping a 13-year-old girl pleaded guilty Monday to six sex-crime charges.
Chris Denman, 20, faces up to life in prison after entering the plea. He is due in court Dec. 12 for sentencing.
Denman was accused in August of raping the girl on the campus of Victory Christian Center, a megachurch that has 17,000 members. Denman was also charged with molesting a 15-year-old girl and making a lewd proposal to a 12-year-old girl.
He pleaded guilty Monday to all charges filed against him: first-degree rape, forcible oral sodomy of a child, lewd molestation, lewd proposal to a child and two counts of using a computer to facilitate a sex crime.
Attorneys said Denman’s plea was not a result of an agreement with prosecutors, who plan to call an “aggravation hearing” at his sentencing to demonstrate the need for a tough sentence.
Denman told a judge at Monday’s hearing that he made the decision on his own to accept the plea deal.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys weren’t immediately available for comment.
Five employees of the church also face misdemeanor charges for allegedly waiting two weeks to report the alleged rape. They have pleaded not guilty and are due in court Wednesday.
The 13-year-old’s mother has sued the church seeking more than $75,000. She claims the church sought “damage control” rather than pursuing the case properly.


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