National Roundup

Texas
Judge: State must reveal execution drug maker

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A judge has ordered Texas to release the name of the compounding pharmacy that provides the lethal drugs used in state executions.

District Judge Darlene Byrne on Thursday rejected arguments from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The agency argued that the name of the company should be kept secret for public security reasons.

But the judge sided with attorneys who argue that the name should be public record.

Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said Friday that the agency will appeal, and that disclosing the identity of the pharmacy "would raise serious safety concerns."

One of the attorneys suing the state, Maurie Levin, says the order is a victory even if short lived.

North Carolina
Man bounces checks for $58K in postage stamps

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Perhaps Javorick Alexander Moore has a really long Christmas card list. Or a lot of pen pals.

The 40-year-old Greensboro, North Carolina, man was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for bank fraud after writing more than $58,000 in bad checks for postage stamps.

Documents filed in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, say Moore opened a checking account and deposited about $5,000 before visiting several post offices in Virginia and North Carolina to stockpile stamps. He also spent about $5,000 at office supply and clothing stores.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, defense attorney Suzanne Katchmar wrote in court papers that her client was abused as a child, loves to cook and hopes to someday operate a food truck. But she said nothing about his interest in stamps.

Kansas
Man guilty of stealing dying woman's ring

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas jury has convicted one of three men accused of stealing a wedding ring and other items from a dying woman after she suffered a brain aneurysm at a Taco Bell drive-thru.

The Kansas City Star reports the Sedgwick County jury on Thursday convicted 20-year-old Wichita resident Daquantrius S. Johnson of aggravated burglary, robbery and misdemeanor theft. The panel deliberated about three hours.

Johnson faces a maximum prison term of more than 15 years when he is sentenced Jan. 29.

Forty-three-year-old Danielle Zimmerman died Dec. 30, one day after the fatal brain injury. She was unconscious and her pickup hit the drive-thru speaker box.

Another defendant was sentenced to 19 months in prison after pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft. A third still faces trial.

Florida
Would-be carjackers couldn't drive stick shift

OCALA, Fla. (AP) - Police in Florida say two would-be carjackers almost got away with a vehicle in Ocala but didn't know how to drive a stick shift.

The Ocala Star-Banner (http://bit.ly/1yHpghG ) reports the owner of a 2014 Toyota Corolla told police he was sitting in his car talking on his cell phone when a man with a gun tapped the window. Another man was by the passenger side window.

Police say the gunman demanded the man get out of the car and demanded his keys. He gave them the keys, they got in the car and he walked away. The man stopped another motorist who called police.

But the carjackers couldn't move the car because it was a stick shift. The duo ran before police arrived, leaving the keys in the ignition.

Nebraska
Lawmakers get plan to ease prison crunch

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A research group says its $33 million plan to expand probation and other programs could save Nebraska more than nine times as much in prison construction and operational costs as officials try to ease overcrowding in the state system.

The recommendations from the Council of State Governments Justice Center were presented Thursday to an ad hoc working group of top Nebraska officeholders charged with devising justice system and prison reforms to avoid possible federal intervention or the construction of a costly new prison.

The Justice Center consultants said that in addition to expanding probation, the $33 million would be invested in parole and community treatment programs, oversight and evaluation. Such measures could reduce the prison population by 10 percent, the consultants said, and avert spending $261 million on prison construction and $45 million in operational costs over the next five years.

"Really, in many ways, this is just the beginning," said Gov. Dave Heineman, a member of the working group of state officials, judges, attorneys, court administrators and law enforcement.

State prisons reached 159 percent of capacity last month, and, without system changes or the addition of prison beds, officials have said, the prison population could be at 170 percent of capacity within five years.

State Sen. Heath Mello said the recommendations don't eliminate the need for more prison beds, but they provide a "very comprehensive road map" for handling the overcrowding.

A final report from the working group is due in mid-January and is expected to lead to legislation.

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist said he's already drafting measures to improve data tracking of prison reforms and to provide more ways to prevent juvenile offenders from becoming adult criminals.

Maryland
County to continue disputed prayer policy

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) - The Carroll County Commissioners have voted to continue a disputed policy allowing members to open their meetings with sectarian prayers.

Thursday's 3-2 decision leaves it to the courts to decide whether the practice violates the First Amendment's prohibition on state-sponsored religion.

The issue had been unresolved since the November election put three new members on the all-Republican, five-member board.

Proponents say the policy conforms to a Supreme Court ruling in May allowing clergy to invoke specific deities in opening prayers at government meetings. That opinion didn't address Carroll County's practice of having prayers said in rotation by the elected commissioners. Veteran Commissioner Richard Rothschild has shown a preference for overtly Christian prayers.

Plaintiffs in a pending lawsuit contend that sectarian prayers said by government officials violate the U.S. Constitution.

Published: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

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