National Roundup

North Carolina
No new inmates on state’s death row in 2012

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina is on track to not send any new inmates to death row for the first time since its current death penalty law took effect in 1977.
The state also hasn’t executed anyone since 2006, and won’t any time soon because of an unofficial moratorium on executions over what the role of doctors should be in administering lethal injections that remains unresolved after more than five years.

“It’s been over six years now since an execution has been carried out, so we’re a state that still has the death penalty as a law but does not have executions as a reality,” Ben David, district attorney in New Hanover County and president of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, told The Fayetteville Observer.

North Carolina hasn’t always been so ambivalent about executions. Juries in the state have sent 400 people to death row since the state’s most recent death penalty law was passed in 1977. Forty-three of those people have been executed.

But the pace of new death sentences has slowed considerably. In 1999, 24 people were sentenced to death across North Carolina. In 2009, it dropped to two people, and this year, no new inmates will make it to death row.

Fewer people being sent to death row is a trend in many places as laws allowing for a life sentence without parole offer an alternative to a costly death penalty trial and appeals, said Ken Rose, a lawyer with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

The Racial Justice Act is also slowing down executions by adding another layer of appeals. State officials said 147 of North Carolina’s 155 death row inmates are appealing their sentences under the law, which allows them to try and prove there was racial bias in their murder trials and have death sentences commuted to life in prison.

But death penalty supporters said they expect executions will resume eventually.

The state expects to win the pending case over how to administer lethal injection next year, said N.C. House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake. The eight death row inmates that don’t have a Racial Justice Act claims will immediately start using up any remaining appeals.

If the lawsuit is resolved in favor of the state, the more than 140 Racial Justice Act claims will then need to be dealt with, a process that will take up to four years, said Stam, who was a critic of the act and help get changes passed that supporters of the original law say waters it down substantially.

Illinois
DOJ probes four convictions that were wrongful

CHICAGO (AP) — Federal officials are investigating the wrongful convictions of four men convicted as teenagers in the 1994 murder of a 30-year-old Chicago woman.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office confirms that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating. Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly says Cook County officials are cooperating. It’s unclear exactly what the federal investigation is focusing on.

Earlier this year, prosecutors dropped charges against the men.

The four — Michael Saunders, Harold Richardson, Terrill Swift and Vincent Thames — were teenagers when they were convicted of killing Nina Glover of Chicago.

Their attorneys say the men’s confessions were coerced. DNA tests conducted last year linked another man — now dead — to the crime.

Last month the four men filed separate lawsuits in federal court alleging they were framed.

New Mexico
Sheriff sued  after crash over DWI claim

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — A woman injured in a crash is suing a northern New Mexico sheriff over claims he failed to hold a drunken driver accountable in her accident.
The Las Vegas Optic reports that 28-year-old Mora County Josephine Torres in a recent lawsuit claims that Mora County Sheriff Thomas Garza let an intoxicated driver who injured her off the hook.

The suit says Torres was injured on NM 518 in May when a truck swerved into her lane and collided with her vehicle head on. The lawsuit says a deputy determined that the driver might be highly intoxicated, but the deputy allowed the driver to go free at Garza’s command.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

Garza didn’t immediately respond to an email from the Associated Press.

Washington
District court can hear complaints from fed workers 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says some discrimination complaints from federal workers can go to federal district court, instead of being forced into the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The justices on Monday ruled unanimously that some appeals from the Merit Systems Protection Board can go before U.S. district judges if they involve discrimination claims dismissed for procedural reasons.

Carolyn M. Kloeckner was fired from the Labor Department in 2005 after complaining of sex and age discrimination and a hostile work environment, as well as being declared “absent without leave.”

The Merit Systems board dismissed her claims as untimely, and she tried to appeal to district court. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said her appeal could only be heard by the D.C.-based Federal Circuit.

Justices reversed that decision.

Pennsylvania
Police: Boys, 7 and 11, attempt robbery with gun
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two boys, ages 7 and 11, are accused of trying to rob a woman with a loaded gun, police said Sunday.
The boys tried to carjack a 22-year-old woman who was in her family’s truck waiting for her parents in a church parking lot, Portland police said in a statement.
Ami Garrett, of southeast Portland, told officers that when the boys approached her, the younger boy told the older boy to “show her your piece.”
The woman said that when she refused to give them her vehicle, they demanded cash and her phone. She said that as she drove away, she saw the 11-year-old boy pull a gun from his pocket.
The boys were apprehended in the parking lot by officers responding to reports of children with guns. Police said they recovered a loaded .22 caliber handgun from the older boy’s pockets.
Detectives were investigating how the boys obtained a gun. Because of their age, the boys could not be taken into custody at a juvenile detention center, so they were returned to their families, police said.
The 11-year-old tried to escape his parents’ house but was quickly caught by officers and returned to his parents.

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