National Roundup

Idaho
State High Court upholds domestic violence case

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court says a judge correctly allowed testimony involving the statements of a domestic violence victim even though the woman later changed her story.
The ruling was handed down last week in an appeal from Darin William Parton, an Ada County man who was convicted of domestic violence and attempted strangulation after his girlfriend reported that he beat her and choked her until she was unconscious.
Parton was convicted in a jury trial, but he appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, contending that police shouldn’t have testified about what the woman said when she first contacted them, and that expert testimony from a domestic violence investigator was inappropriate.
The unanimous high court disagreed, saying the woman’s statement was an “excited utterance” and was valid testimony.

Georgia
Court rules against death row inmate

ATLANTA (AP) — The Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled against a death row inmate who accused prison officials of violating state procedures by failing to hold a public notice hearing before changing the state’s execution procedure.
In a ruling released Monday, the court ruled that the decision to replace a three-drug cocktail with one drug for executions is not subject to the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act, so it does not require public hearings before making the change.
With Monday’s unanimous decision, the high court lifted the stay of execution it granted last July to Warren Lee Hill hours before he was to die by lethal injection for the 1990 killing of a prison inmate.
Hill was set to be executed July 18. The day before, the Department of Corrections announced the change in its execution protocol and delayed Hill’s execution until July 23.
Hill’s lawyers challenged the new execution protocol. They said the change was not preceded by a 30-day notice period as required by the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act — meaning the new method is invalid.
State lawyers countered that the injection protocol is part of the Department of Corrections’ standing operating procedures that can be changed by the department commissioner without additional steps.
A few hours before Hill was to be executed, the Georgia Supreme Court stayed the execution so it could determine whether corrections officials broke the law.
Hill was convicted in the 1990 beating death of fellow inmate Joseph Handspike.
He “removed a two-by-six board embedded with nails that served as a sink leg in the prison bathroom and, as Handspike slept, pounded him in his head and chest with the board as onlooking prisoners pleaded with him to stop,” Monday’s Supreme Court ruling states.

Wisconsin
Brother sure conviction for murder will stick

MANITOWOC, Wis. (AP) — The Manitowoc County brother of a slain photographer says he’s confident the convictions of his sister’s killers will never be overturned.
Mike Halbach says the appeals process is still ongoing for 50-year-old Steven Avery and 23-year-old Brendan Dassey. But he’s expecting the same outcome as past appeals by Avery and his nephew.
An appeals court last week rejected Dassey’s request for a new trial. A similar appeal by Avery was rejected last year. The two were convicted in Manitowoc County of first-degree intentional homicide, sexual assault and mutilating a corpse.
The Appleton Post-Crescent says Dassey’s attorneys plan to ask the state Supreme Court to review the case.
Twenty-five-year-old Teresa Halbach was killed Oct. 31, 2005 when she went to the Avery farm to photograph a vehicle for an auto magazine.

Georgia
Court upholds dismissal of murder charge

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s ruling dismissing charges against Bobby Lavon Buckner, who was accused of raping and killing a 12-year-old girl in 2003 in Chatham County.
A lower court judge in May dismissed charges against Buckner, saying years of delays and vanishing evidence violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
Buckner was charged in the slaying of Ashleigh Moore, his girlfriend’s daughter. The girl went missing in April 2003 and her body was found a month later by a man fishing along the Savannah River.
Lawyers for the state argued that trial prosecutors did not needlessly delay Buckner’s trial, and a trial court judge shouldn’t have dismissed the case. The Supreme Court justices disagreed, and unanimously upheld the dismissal of charges.

North Dakota
Bills takes aim at citizen-initiated grand juries

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A bill in the North Dakota House would change the process for citizen-initiated grand juries, a law few people were aware was on the books until Dunn County residents petitioned during last year’s election campaign season to investigate the governor.
Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, the prime sponsor of the legislation, said he does not want to eliminate the ability of citizens to convene a grand jury but he wants to raise the bar by increasing the number of signatures required.
His bill would require more citizen input to prevent abuse of the process for political purposes, Kasper said. The bill would require a number of signatures equal to at least 25 percent of the county’s Census population, but not greater than 5,000 signatures. The current statute requires signatures from 10 percent of the number of voters in the most recent general election in the county.
A group of Dunn County residents late last year unsuccessfully sought a grand jury probe of Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple related to campaign contributions from oil companies that the group said could be considered bribery since Dalrymple sits on the state Industrial Commission, which regulates the oil industry. The governor’s campaign called the petition baseless and politically motivated. A judge ultimately dismissed the case and the state Supreme Court last month rejected an appeal.
Kasper said his bill is not in response to that case, but Grand Forks attorney David Thompson, who drafted the Dunn County petition, said the Republican sponsors of the bill ought to be ashamed of themselves.
A second petition for a grand jury probe of Dalrymple has been circulating and is expected to be filed next week, according to Thompson. One of the circulators is Ellen Chaffee, the lieutenant governor candidate on the Democratic ticket last fall.o

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