Court Roundup

 Texas

Condemned killer of Houston jogger loses his appeal 
HOUSTON (AP) — A man sent to Texas death row for strangling and trying to rape a woman jogging on a trail near her Houston home 16 years ago has lost a federal court appeal.
Arthur Lee Burton argued to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals his admission to a prison sociologist that he killed 48-year-old Nancy Adleman was improperly obtained and shouldn’t have been used during his second punishment trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2001 threw out his original sentence and a new punishment trial was held the following year.
The 5th Circuit late Tuesday also rejected arguments the 43-year-old Burton had deficient legal help at his trial and in earlier appeals.
Evidence showed Adleman, a mother of three, was strangled with one of her own shoe laces.
 
Minnesota
Synthetic drug defendants want new federal trial 
DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Attorneys for three people convicted in a synthetic drug case in northeastern Minnesota have filed for a new trial.
Motions filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis say judicial rulings during the defendants’ trial unfairly limited defense evidence, so they deserve a new trial.
Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson was found guilty earlier this month on 51 charges, including dealing in misbranded drugs as well as conspiracy. Carlson’s girlfriend, Lava Haugen was convicted of four counts and his son, Joseph Gellerman, was found guilty of two charges.
The Duluth News Tribune says the motion also claims Judge David Doty improperly instructed jurors on several points, including the law regarding analogue drugs and labeling violations.
 
Pennsylvania
Police: Woman created phoney Facebook page 
OIL CITY, Pa. (AP) — Police say a western Pennsylvania woman created a fake Facebook page on which she posed as her live-in boyfriend’s estranged wife.
Online court records don’t list an attorney for 29-year-old Jessica Kelly, of Titusville. She didn’t immediately return a call for comment on charges of identity theft and harassment filed Monday by police in Oil City.
Police say Kelly used the fake Facebook page to “defame” the victim.
Police used a search warrant to obtain 100 pages of Facebook records, and say a computer address linked to the page belonged to Kelly’s live-in boyfriend — the estranged husband of the woman Kelly allegedly impersonated and harassed on the social media website.
Police say the incidents happened from November through April.
Kelly faces a preliminary hearing Dec. 4.
 
Ohio
Law firms lined   up for defense of IRS employees 
CINCINNATI (AP) — The federal government has hired two major Cincinnati law firms to defend Internal Revenue Service employees in one of the lawsuits arising from targeting of conservative groups.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in Tuesday’s editions that the firms of Taft Stettinius & Hollister and Squire Sanders have been retained at taxpayer expense for up to $200 an hour plus costs to represent 19 employees being sued in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.
The Justice Department says it is a longstanding policy to provide representation for federal employees being sued for conduct performed as part of their jobs.
“No one would be willing to take these jobs at places like the IRS if the government wasn’t willing to help protect them from legal suits like this,” said Donald Tobin, a law professor at Ohio State University and a former Justice Department attorney.
Legal experts said the outside counsel is needed to help represent IRS individuals to avoid any conflict of interest.
“In a situation like this, there can be a lot of finger-pointing going on ... especially if someone accuses another person of acting outside their official capacity and in a personal capacity,” said Phillip Sparkes, at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase School of Law.
The suit initiated in May by NorCal Tea Party Patriots has been joined by other conservative groups, saying they were subjected to intrusive scrutiny when seeking tax-exempt status. They said that cost them valuable time and expenses. There are other federal lawsuits pending in other courts filed by other groups since the IRS acknowledged tea party groups had gotten extra attention.
The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to dismiss the suit in Cincinnati.
 
New Mexico
State officials sued by man with West Nile virus 
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A federal appeals court is allowing a Texas man to sue southern New Mexico officials for not promptly providing him medical care after being arrested for drunken driving although he was suffering from West Nile virus.
The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday turned down a request by Eddy County officials to reject a lawsuit by Irving Marquez of El Paso, who was arrested by a sheriff’s deputy in 2009.
Marquez couldn’t keep his balance when he got out of his pickup truck. He failed a field sobriety test although a chemical breath analysis showed no alcohol.
He wasn’t evaluated for illness until hours later when his condition deteriorated. Marquez was rushed to a hospital but suffered permanent injuries from brain swelling.
Arkansas
Trial delayed in wrongful-death shooting suit 
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge has stayed next month’s civil trial for two Little Rock police officers accused of wrongfully causing the death of a 67-year-old man.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller agreed Monday to stay proceedings in the lawsuit filed against officers Donna Lesher and Tabitha McCrillis. The two were sued, along with the owner of an apartment complex, over the shooting death of Eugene Ellison.
Police said the two officers were working security at an apartment complex and entered Ellison’s apartment to check on him. The officers said Ellison attacked them and one drew her pistol and shot him. The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by a Little Rock police internal investigation.
In their lawsuit, Ellison’s family argues that the officers entered his home without permission and then used excessive force when Lesher shot Ellison. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the case is on hold so a federal appeals court can consider whether the two officers should be immune from the lawsuit.
Last week, Miller dismissed Police Chief Stuart Thomas and the city of Little Rock from the lawsuit.
In a brief order filed Monday, Miller removed the case from his trial docket, noting that it will be rescheduled, if necessary, once the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals resolves the issue on appeal. The trial was once scheduled to begin last May but was rescheduled for November.
 
California
Jury awards $3.7M in SF firefighter lawsuit 
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A jury has awarded more than a dozen firefighters a total of $3.7 million in a case where the San Francisco Fire Department was accused of age discrimination.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports jurors voted 9-3 Monday in favor of the 15 firefighters, three of whom have retired. The lawsuit claimed the city arbitrarily altered dozens of scores for a promotional exam and shredded scoring records before firefighters could legally challenge the results.
The firefighters also believe the exam process was skewed against those who were over the age of 40.
The city had no immediate response to the verdict.
Questions surrounding the department’s promotional exams have dogged the city since 2008, prompting a string of unresolved lawsuits.

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