National Roundup

Court upholds conviction in Snellville slaying

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld the conviction and life prison sentence for a woman accused of killing her daughter-in-law in a Target store parking lot in Snellville.
Joanna Hayes has appealed her 2011 conviction to the Supreme Court, arguing that there was not enough evidence to convict her of killing Heather Strube in 2009. In a ruling released Monday, the high court disagreed and upheld the conviction.
Authorities say Strube was in the middle of a divorce with her husband, Stephen. Prosecutors say the couple had just completed a child custody swap when Strube was killed. Prosecutors contended Hayes didn’t want her daughter-in-law to get custody of the child.
Prosecutors say Hayes wore a wig and mustache to look like a man when she shot Strube.

Stun gun case damages award of $250K upheld

PITTSBURG, Calif. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld $250,000 in damages to a San Francisco Bay area man who was shot with a stun gun during a confrontation with police five years ago.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s ruling, including an additional award of nearly $350,000 in attorneys’ fees.
A jury found that Pittsburg officers had used excessive force on Frederick Jackson after an angry and profane exchange outside a neighbor’s home in 2008. Jurors also said that one officer, Gerald Lombardi, had retaliated against Jackson for exercising his right of free speech.
Jackson was arrested in the incident but was not prosecuted.
Peter Edrington, a lawyer for Pittsburg and its officers, said no decision had been made about whether to appeal.

High court rules on community property issue

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona Supreme Court ruling says a married person has some flexibility in deciding how to divvy up a retirement account that’s his or her marriage’s community property.
According to the court, a spouse who dies can leave more than one-half of a retirement account to a beneficiary other than his or her spouse even if the retirement account is community property.
The unanimous ruling says that can be done as long as the surviving spouse receives at least one-half of the value of the total community property.
The court issued its ruling Friday in a Pima County case in which a man listed his son from a previous marriage as the beneficiary of 83 percent of an individual retirement account.
The account was community property in his current marriage.

Woman will act as own lawyer in murder case

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A Toledo woman says she’s going to court to represent herself in her trial on aggravated murder and other charges.
Experts say it’s rare — and not advisable — for someone to represent themselves against such serious criminal charges.
The Blade newspaper reports that jury selection in 49-year-old Melody Williams’ trial is scheduled to begin Monday morning.
She is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, and two counts of tampering with evidence. The victim, L.C. Lyons Jr., was found shot to death inside his burned-out home on July 4, 2011.
A judge has appointed a Toledo attorney to act as Williams’ “advisory counsel.”
If convicted, she could face life in prison.

Inmate continues to try to win new trial in slaying

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A death row inmate is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to allow him to file a post-conviction petition seeking a new trial for his role in the 2004 slaying of a Hattiesburg couple.
The appeal by Roger Lee Gillett is among dozens the Supreme Court will consider during its March-April term. A decision is expected later this year. The Supreme Court has not scheduled the case for oral arguments.
The Supreme Court upheld Gillett’s capital murder conviction and death sentence in 2010.
In a post-conviction petition, an inmate argues he has found new evidence — or a possible constitutional issue — that could persuade a court to order a new trial.
Gillett was one of two people charged in the 2004 deaths of Linda Heintzelman and Heintzelman’s boyfriend, Vernon Hullett. Their bodies were found inside a freezer at an abandoned farm in Russell County, Kan., by law officers who were searching for drugs.
Gillett was convicted and sentenced to death in 2007. The other defendant, Lisa Jo Chamberlin, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006.
Prosecutors said Gillett and Chamberlin fled Mississippi to cover their tracks and hide the crime.
The investigation began when authorities learned in March 2004 that Chamberlin and Gillett had a stolen vehicle and were making methamphetamine at the Kansas farm.
Officers arrested the couple on March 29, 2004, at the Kansas home and a search found illegal drugs. A second search uncovered a freezer in which a dismembered body was found. The body was determined to be Vernon Hullett, Gillett’s cousin. When they pulled the body out, Linda Heintzelman’s frozen body was found underneath.
Prosecutors said Gillett and Chamberlin were living with the victims in Hattiesburg, Miss., at the time of the slayings.
Chamberlin, in a taped confession played at her trial, said the victims were killed because they wouldn’t open a safe in Hullett’s home, according to court records.
In Mississippi, capital murder is defined as murder committed along with another crime; in this case, robbery.

Man convicted of 2007 revenge shooting fatality

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah man accused of fatally shooting another man for testifying against his friend has been found guilty of murder.
A 3rd District Court jury deliberated about seven hours before finding 28-year-old Anthony Prater guilty of various charges on Thursday, including aggravated murder.
Prosecutors say Prater shot 35-year-old Vincent Samora in November 2007 as an act of revenge designed to silence the man who testified against Prater’s friend in a 2005 shooting case.
Defense attorneys insist Prater was framed.
Prater awaits sentencing May 6.l