National Roundup

RFK Jr: Court’s Skakel decision an ‘exoneration’

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Robert Kennedy Jr. says the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down the murder conviction of his cousin, Michael Skakel, is effectively an “exoneration.”

Kennedy said on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday that he has recently spoken to Skakel, who was “elated” by the court’s ruling May 4.

Skakel was convicted in 2002 of fatally beating Martha Moxley with a golf club in 1975, when they were teenage neighbors in Greenwich. He was freed on $1.2 million bail in 2013 when a lower court judge overturned his conviction.

Connecticut’s high court reinstated the conviction in 2016, but reversed itself this month.

Robert Kennedy Jr. said Tuesday multiple people had placed Skakel 5 miles away at the time of the killing, and police have refused to investigate other suspects, including one person who confessed.

Justice sues to block group’s  ads in court race

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas Supreme Court justice filed a lawsuit Monday to block a conservative group’s television ads targeting her re-election bid, while one of her challengers was criticized by the group in a new spot calling him soft on crime.

Justice Courtney Goodson asked a Pulaski County judge to prevent several Little Rock-area TV stations from airing the ad from the Judicial Crisis Network, which has been running the spots statewide ahead of the May 22 nonpartisan judicial election. The group’s ad criticizes Goodson over gifts accepted from donors and for a pay raise the court requested last year. The justice’s lawsuit called the spots “defamatory, false and misleading.” Goodson said she planned similar suits in other parts of the state where the ad is airing.

“The Judicial Crisis Network has flooded our television, our mailboxes and our internet with lies about me personally and my service as a judge for the past 10 years,” Goodson told The Associated Press “This is one step in fighting back against these faceless cowards.”

A hearing is scheduled Friday morning in Goodson’s lawsuit. JCN said the lawsuit is “without merit” in an email to the AP. In a previous letter sent in response to an earlier cease-and-desist demand from Goodson’s campaign, the group defended the ads and said the justice was free to buy advertising time if she wanted to respond.

The lawsuit came as JCN began airing a new ad targeting state Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson, who is challenging state Goodson. Department of Human Services Chief Counsel David Sterling is also running for Goodson’s seat.

The group’s spot criticized Hixson for a 5-1 ruling he authored on the court that granted a new trial for a convicted rapist, Ramon Perez. The ad doesn’t mention that four other judges joined in on the decision reversing Perez’s conviction. It also portrays Perez, who has an active warrant issued for failing to appear in court, as a threat to children everywhere.

“Tell Kenneth Hixson: don’t let another convict threaten our children,” the ad’s narrator says.

Hixson criticized the ad and accused JCN of “exploiting an apparent assault of a young girl for political gain.”

“DC special interest groups are attacking me because they know that I cannot be bought,” Hixson said in a statement. “It’s time for the voters of Arkansas to let them know this seat on the Supreme Court cannot be bought either.”

The appeals court in 2016 ruled that prosecutors in the Perez trial should not have been allowed to show to the jury, in its entirety, a 30-minute interview of the victim during her cross-examination. Perez’s attorney, who had been questioning the victim about inconsistencies between the interview and her testimony, had objected and said the video would give the victim “a tutorial of exactly what she needs to say.”

A failure to appear warrant was issued for Perez last year after he didn’t show up for a hearing ahead of his new trial.

Judicial Crisis Network, which targeted Goodson during her unsuccessful bid for chief justice two years ago, has spent more than $519,000 on television ads in this year’s race, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks spending in judicial races. That number, however, doesn’t include cable.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has spent $200,000 on television ads in support of Sterling.

Judge: NRA  must use real names in lawsuit

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge ruled that the National Rifle Association must disclose the names of two teenagers if it wants to use them in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s new gun law.

The NRA is suing to block Florida’s new gun law that requires anyone wanting to buy a gun to be 21 years old. The state included the age restrictions in a sweeping gun safety bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott shortly after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Citing the harassment of one of its top Florida officials who was subjecting to threatening and profanity-laced emails and phone calls, attorneys for the NRA wanted to include a 19-year-old woman as a plaintiff in the lawsuit but wanted to keep her name confidential and instead identify her as Jane Doe.

The NRA also sought to include testimony from another 19-year-old man as well. The move was challenged by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

But U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled Sunday that parties in lawsuits must use their real names except in a select number of cases. He said that he sympathized with the position of the NRA, but said his hands were tied by previous court decisions on the use of anonymous names.

“If it were entirely up to this court, the court would not hesitate to grant the NRA’s motion,” Walker wrote in his ruling.

“One need only look to the harassment suffered by some of the Parkland shooting survivors to appreciate the vitriol that has infected public discourse about the Second Amendment. And this court has no doubt the harassment goes both ways,” he wrote.

Marion Hammer, a former president of the NRA and its top Florida lobbyist, said the NRA was “very disappointed” in the judge’s decision, but said that it was “too soon” to know what steps the organization would take next.

“We’re trying to shield these young adults from some of the most evil, hateful stuff you can imagine,” Hammer said in an email. “... Individuals should be able to stand up for their rights and beliefs in the Second Amendment without having to expose themselves to harassment and bullying.”



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