National Roundup

Confrontation issue before state high court

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court, in a rare 4-4 vote, has denied an appeal from prosecutors seeking to reinstate the murder conviction of Jeffrey Dale Beecham.
Beecham won a new trial last year after the state Court of Appeals ruled prosecutors failed to offer testimony to authenticate a death certificate in a fatal DUI case.
The Appeals Court said Beecham’s attorney was not allowed to question the doctor who prepared Freda Lovelace’s death certificate. Beecham claimed — and the Appeals Court agreed — that it was a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers.
Beecham was convicted in 2008 in DeSoto County of being intoxicated when he was involved in a fatal wreck. Prosecutors said Beecham’s blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Beecham was sentenced to 25 years. Beecham died in 2011 while in prison.
In an order filed this past week, Justice Michael Randolph said four justices wanted to uphold the Appeals Court decision while four others wanted to reverse it. In court procedures, a tie vote usually means an earlier decision stands.
Justice Leslie King did not participate in the case. King formerly served on the Appeals Court.
The Supreme Court did not offer any other comment on the case.
At trial, Circuit Judge Robert Chamberlin had allowed a certified copy of Lovelace’s death certificate to be introduced by prosecutors without a sponsoring witness.
The Court of Appeals ruled the death certificate was tantamount to testimony in that it offered a conclusion that Lovelace died from “complications of blunt-force injuries to head and chest sustained in an automobile accident.”
The Appeals Court said the only information that Lovelace died in 2007 as a result of the automobile accident was the death certificate.

Washington, D.C.
Court appearance postponed for former Gray aide

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has postponed a court appearance for a former campaign aide to District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray.
Eugenia “Jeanne” Clarke Harris admitted facilitating a $650,000 “shadow campaign” to help Gray get elected in 2010. She’s one of three former Gray campaign aides to plead guilty to felonies, and the investigation continues.
She had been due in court Monday morning for a status conference, but a judge agreed to postpone the appearance after learning that prosecutors didn’t intend to seek a sentencing date. Harris is now due in court on March 22.
Harris admitted to conspiring with a district businessman to funnel $650,000 in unreported funds into Gray’s campaign. Prosecutors said Gray’s victory was tainted because voters didn’t know the source of the funds.

Inmate charged after needle found under bunk

WHITESBURG, Ky. (AP) — An eastern Kentucky man facing a possible death sentence in a murder case has been charged with promoting contraband after officers say they found a hypodermic needle taped under his bunk at the Letcher County Jail.
The Mountain Eagle reports that jailers found the needle during a search of 33-year-old James Ray Maggard’s cell.
Maggard, of Neon, is scheduled to appear at preliminary hearing in Letcher District Court at 1 p.m. on December 20.
Maggard has been held in the county jail since late June on a charge of killing Dradrick “Drad” Fleming after an ambush near Fleming’s Millstone home. Fleming’s remains were found near a mine site in the Eolia area.
Two others have been charged with complicity in the case.

Inmate’s capital murder trial is put on hold again

BRYAN, Texas (AP) — Closing arguments expected Monday for a second Texas inmate on trial over a guard’s death during a 2007 escape attempt have been delayed again.
Prosecutors have appealed a ruling that rejected their challenge to jury instructions working in the Bryan capital murder trial of John Falk Jr. He’s charged in the death of Wynne Unit Officer Susan Canfield.
Prosecutors seeking the death penalty lost their appeal last Wednesday before the 10th Court of Appeals, then Friday appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Attorneys for Falk and the judge who approved the jury instructions have 10 days to respond.
Canfield was thrown from a horse hit by a truck driven by inmate Jerry Martin. He’s on death row for the slaying. Falk is charged with being equally responsible.

AG Horne’s case in hit-and-run is delayed by court

PHOENIX (AP) — A court proceeding on a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge against Arizona Attorney Tom Horne is being postponed again and his lawyer says he is trying to reach a settlement with prosecutors.
Horne’s attorney requested and obtained a second one-month delay in a pretrial conference that was scheduled Monday in Phoenix Municipal Court.
Michael Kimerer’s request says he needs more time to evaluate the evidence and interview “critical witnesses.” He also wrote in a Dec. 13 motion he is having ongoing settlement communications with city prosecutors he hopes lead to a resolution.
Horne is accused of not leaving a note after FBI agents saw him tap another vehicle while driving a borrowed car earlier this year.
Horne says he didn’t think the other vehicle was damaged. He has pleaded not guilty.

Appeals court rejects ex-vet center head’s suit

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by a former Cedar Rapids Veterans Memorial director against the city.
The Gazette of Cedar Rapids reports that the appeals court rejected Gary Craig’s motion last week.
Craig was charged with felonious misconduct in 2010, but those charges were dismissed by a judge after the state couldn’t prove its case. Craig then sued, saying the false allegations and charge damaged Craig’s reputation.
A Linn County District Court dismissed the lawsuit, and Craig appealed.
The appeals court found that probable cause existed to arrest Craig, so he could not have been falsely arrested or maliciously prosecuted. The appeals court also ruled that any alleged defaming statements made against him were protected speech.a