Courts Round Up


Judge: Mother's negligence lawsuit can proceed

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) ? A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed against several state agencies and individuals by a Utah woman whose teen son died while in state custody.

Dillon Whitney, 16, died Nov. 24, 2007. He was in state custody after a juvenile court referral and placed with a private provider, Quest Youth Services. Quest placed Whitney in a proctor home operated by a relative of a Quest employee.

Court records show that while he was away from the proctor home on an approved family visit, Whitney became intoxicated at a party at an apartment and fell down a flight of stairs. He was found the next day and died on the way to a hospital.

Whitney's mother, Donna Whitney, sued the Department of Human Services, the Division of Juvenile Justice Services, Quest and several individuals, claiming negligence and civil rights violations because no one searched for him or reported him missing.

The lawsuit also contends that proctor father assigned to care for Dillon "allowed the proctored children to violate their respective court orders, the laws of the state of Utah and the policies and procedures of (the Division of Juvenile Justice Services)."

Last week, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball dismissed the civil rights claims, but said negligence claims can go forward. In his ruling, Kimball said Whitney's placement at Quest did not amount to incarceration in a place of "legal confinement" ? the standard required by the governmental immunity act. Therefore, Kimball said the state could not claim immunity from Donna Whitney's negligence claims.

State attorneys had asked for a dismissal.

No future hearings have been scheduled.


Federal jury to hear case of jail, medical care case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) ? A federal jury is set to hear a case involving a 22-year-old Iraq War veteran who suffered severe brain damage after slipping into a coma in the Garland County jail in 2007.

Steven McFarland's family has sued the sheriff's office, alleging he was denied necessary medical care while in jail in violation of his civil rights.

The case is set for trial Tuesday.

An attorney for the sheriff's office argues that the drugs McFarland took, including muscle relaxers and painkillers, caused his brain damage and questions whether CPR would have helped.

Hot Springs attorney Ralph Ohm also argues in court papers that a nurse checked McFarland's blood pressure and pulse and didn't think he needed medical care.


Alleged teen killer, now 32, to be tried as adult

THIBODAUX, La. (AP) ? A 32-year-old man accused of killing a priest when he was 14 years old will be tried as an adult.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Derrick Odomes' arguments for a trial in juvenile court, leaving intact rulings by three Louisiana courts.

He is charged with first-degree murder of the Rev. Hunter Horgan, who was bludgeoned, stabbed and robbed in the rectory of St. John Episcopal Church in August 1992.

Odomes was arrested 15 years later, on Sept. 17, 2007.

He and defense attorney Lynden Burton contended that he should be tried in juvenile court because he was a juvenile when Horgan was killed. Juvenile court trials are closed to the public, without a jury.

A jury will decide Odomes' guilt or innocence, in open court.


Federal court allows Dec. 8


CINCINNATI (AP) ? A federal court has ruled that an execution set for Dec. 8 can go forward due to a change in Ohio's execution policies.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Wednesday that the change renders moot Kenneth Biros' argument that the state's former policy using a three-drug vein injection is unconstitutional.

A federal judge had temporarily delayed Biros' execution but left open the possibility the execution could still happen if the state revised its execution rules in time.

The state changed its protocol Nov. 30 to use a one-drug vein injection with a backup two-drug muscle injection.


Prison over attempt to rob armored car

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) ? Three Odessa men who tried to rob an armored car are going to prison for more than 25 years.

A federal judge in Midland on Tuesday sentenced 20-year-old Christopher Simmons, 20-year old Joshua Bell and 19-year-old Preston Savell (suh-VEL').

All three pleaded guilty in August to attempted bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery and use of a firearm during a violent crime. They were captured hours after the June 4 robbery attempt in Odessa that left a guard shot four times.

The three must serve 20 years for the firearm count.

They were sentenced to 71 months for attempted bank robbery and 60 months for conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Robert Junell says those two sentences, to run concurrently, must be served after the prison term for the weapons count is completed.


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