National Roundup

Judge refuses investigation of ex-speaker’s ethics trial

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Ex-Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, now a convicted felon, wanted to have a sheriff investigate possible juror misconduct at his ethics trial but a judge on Friday said no.

However, Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker said he is open to taking testimony from a juror who says others made biased remarks against Hubbard. The former speaker is seeking a new trial after being convicted in June on 12 felony ethics charges that he used his position as speaker to benefit his companies and clients.

Hubbard’s lawyers argued that prosecutors stretched the meaning of the state ethics law to obtain a conviction and that some jurors displayed bias against Hubbard such as calling him “plain greedy”.

“There is no way Mike Hubbard could have gotten a fair trial,” defense lawyer Lance Bell told Walker during a Thursday hearing.

One juror claimed another juror called Hubbard “plain greedy,” according to an affidavit submitted by Hubbard’s defense. And one said “yeah right” after describing how they assured a defense lawyer during jury selection that they could base their verdict on the evidence alone, according to the affidavit.

Court Administrator Trisha Campbell testified Friday that a juror complained early in the trial that another juror was saying things like “now the truth is coming out.” She says the juror was asked to be quiet.

Prosecutors contended those muttered remarks, if they happened, fell far short of the type of behavior that would merit a new trial.

Walker said there was no legal precedent for ordering an investigation by the sheriff.

The judge has not yet ruled on the motion for a new trial or set a date for another hearing.

Hubbard, 54, and his wife attended the Friday hearing in his first courtroom appearance since Walker sentenced him to four years in prison. He remains free while he appeals his conviction.

Judge rejects appeal from British woman on death row

HOUSTON (AP) — A judge has rejected arguments from attorneys for a British woman on Texas death row that prosecutors coerced witnesses and improperly hid information that could have affected the outcome of her murder trial 14 years ago.

State District Judge David Garner says Harris County prosecutors had overwhelming evidence Linda Carty led a plot to kill her 20-year-old neighbor, Joana Rodriguez, in 2001 and abduct the woman’s infant. The child was rescued.

Garner presided over a weeklong hearing in June ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to address the claims from Carty’s appeals lawyers. His findings made Thursday now get forwarded to the appeals court.

The 57-year-old Carty is from St. Kitts when it was a British territory. She has received international attention as the only condemned British woman.

New Mexico
Court upholds man’s convictions in 2 homicides

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld a man’s murder convictions in the 2010 robbery killings of a man and woman at a home in the Albuquerque area.

The high court issued the ruling Thursday in an appeal filed for Rigoberto Rodriguez, who was convicted in the shooting death of David Maldonado and the fatal stabbing of his ex-wife, Connie Maldonado.

The ruling overturned three of Rodriguez’s four convictions of conspiracy, ruling that those allegations should be included in a remaining conspiracy conviction.

Much of the prosecution’s case was based on law enforcement testimony about phone calls between Rodriguez and co-conspirators and between Rodriguez and at least one victim. The trial judge allowed use of that evidence, and the Supreme Court upheld it.

2 men get life in 2013 stabbing death of teen

BROCKTON, Mass. (AP) — Two Brockton men have been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years for their roles in the 2013 stabbing death of a Taunton teen during a home invasion.

The Enterprise reports that Vladimir Verdieu and Eric Claudio pleaded guilty to charges including murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed home invasion.

Police responding to a home invasion report found two men suffering from stab wounds in May 2013.

Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Semedo died at a hospital. The other victim was treated and released for a neck wound.

Investigators determined Claudio and Verdieu participated in an armed robbery of the third-floor apartment under the direction of another man, who is scheduled to stand trial in December.

Attorneys want new murder trial date, new venue

CARTHAGE, Ill. (AP) — Attorneys for a former Illinois prosecutor who faces a second murder trial in his first wife’s death have asked for a new trial date and for proceedings to be moved.

Curtis Lovelace’s defense attorneys on Thursday filed motions in Adams County Circuit Court asking that the Oct. 24 be moved and that it be outside Adams County.

The Quincy Herald-Whig reports Judge Bob Hardwick could set a new trial date as early as Sept. 8 when a status hearing is scheduled. Lovelace’s change of venue motion wouldn’t be considered until Sept. 30 when other motions are scheduled to be heard.

Lovelace’s attorneys say a new venue is necessary because their survey results show Adams County residents have prejudice in the case.

Prosecutors want the trial held in Adams County.

Soda shop objects to ­attorney order in dirty soda suit

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah soda shop locked in a court battle over flavor-shot-spiked “dirty sodas” is pushing back against a judge’s order requiring them to hire a new lawyer because their current attorney is married to one of the shop’s co-owners.

Sodalicious lawyer Tessa Meyer Santiago argues there’s no evidence she would break ethical rules by sharing information about the case with her husband. Sodalicious says hiring another attorney in the fight against competitor Swig would be unfairly expensive.

The soda shop is objecting to an August order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead. He decided there was a risk that Santiago could inadvertently share sensitive financial information with her husband.

Swig’s lawsuit claims Sodalicious ripped off the dirty soda concept. They deny that, contending dirty is a common drink moniker. A trial is for 2017.