National Roundup

Georgia

Trial delayed for Ala. man on school gun charges

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) -- The trial for a man accused of bringing a loaded shotgun to Athens High School has been postponed.

Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones says the attorney for 53-year-old Thomas Brian Smoak has withdrawn from the case and the court is appointing a new attorney.

The trial had been scheduled to begin on Monday in Circuit Court.

Athens Police officers arrested Smoak last May. According to authorities, Principal Chris Bolen had suspended Smoak's son that day for five days for uttering a racial slur to a classmate. Records show that when the father learned of the suspension, he got a shotgun and headed to the school.

Police arrested Smoak when he arrived at the school.

Tennessee

Teen held in grandparents' slaying hanged in jail

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- An East Tennessee teenager charged with killing his grandparents has been found hanged in a Knox County jail cell where he had been transferred after being held on suicide watch in a juvenile lockup.

Brandon Fannin, 17, was transferred from Knox County's juvenile detention center Jan. 7 after he attacked a guard in a Jan. 1 escape attempt.

The youth was found dead after apparently hanging himself with a bed sheet late Saturday night, according to a Knox County Sheriff's Office report cited by The Knoxville News Sentinel.

Fannin was charged with fatally shooting his grandfather, 64-year-old Clyde Hoyt Fannin, and fatally stabbing his 54-year-old grandmother, Linda Sue Fannin, in April 2010.

The case had been moved to adult court in Hawkins County, where he lived with his grandparents.

Richard L. Bean, director of the Knox County juvenile center, said Fannin initially was transferred there in November 2010 after threatening suicide while in Hawkins County's custody.

Bean said Fannin was placed under suicide watch following the attack on the guard. He said mental health providers had since determined that Fannin no longer posed a threat to himself and he was no longer under suicide watch when he was transferred to the Knox County Jail. Fannin was being held in a separate three-cell area reserved for juveniles.

The report says "witnesses stated that the victim had not made any statement to them or indicated to them in any way that he was wanting to do harm to himself."

Knox County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Marth Dooley said jailers saw Fannin alive about 11:02 p.m. and found him hanged about 11:30 p.m. The report shows that a note indicating Fannin's intentions was found, although its contents were not released.

Georgia

Court tosses convictions over juror dismissal

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Georgia Supreme Court has reversed the murder convictions of two men because a judge excused a juror without the knowledge or consent of defense lawyers.

The court issued an opinion on Monday throwing out the convictions of James Ward and Jonathan Kilgore for murder, burglary and aggravated assault in the 2003 shooting death of John Reid and attack on Jarvis Winder in Fulton County.

The court said evidence showed the killing occurred during a drug robbery shootout.

Ward and Kilgore were sentenced to life in prison, with Ward getting life plus 25 years.

In a unanimous ruling, the high court found the judge was mistaken when he excused a juror during a lunch break because she had been having anxiety attacks.

The Supreme Court ordered a new trial.

Wisconsin

Maker of alcohol wipes sued by Texas couple

HARTLAND, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin company that makes alcohol wipes and swabs is being sued by a Texas couple who lost their 2-year-old son to a fatal bacterial infection.

Shanoop and Sandra Kothari say an alcohol wipe made by Triad Group, of Hartland, was the likely source of the infection that killed their son, Harry, in November. Triad voluntarily recalled all its alcohol wipe products.

The Kotharis' attorney, Donald Kidd, says the boy was exposed to Triad alcohol pads after he had a benign cyst removed from his brain. Kidd says the alcohol pads had bacteria contamination that caused the boy's death.

The Journal Sentinel says the lawsuit was filed in federal court in Houston. The Triad Group did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

California

El Camino College settles suit for $2.5 million

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) -- A former secretary who claimed she was sexually harassed by a former dean at a Southern California college will receive $2.5 million.

The Daily Breeze of Torrance says El Camino College settled a lawsuit with Nyesha Artiaga last month. The community college will pay about a third of the settlement and its insurance company will pay most of the rest. The former dean James Schwartz, will pay $25,000.

Under last month's settlement Artiaga agreed to quit her job and never to apply for employment with the college again.

In court documents, Artiaga claimed that between 2007 and 2009, Schwartz groped her and threatened to fire her if she refused to have sex with him.

Schwartz said the two had a consensual relationship.

Ownership fight continues for Last Island

HOUMA, La. (AP) -- Descendants of an 18th century French settler have filed suit against the federal government to reassert ownership of the Isles Dernieres, a once-solid chain of barrier islands off the Terrebonne Parish Coast that are also known as Last Island.

Since the 1840s, the descendants of Jean Voisin, who was given an "order of survey" in 1788 to what the family claims is Last Island, have fought the federal and state governments and an oil company to regain title to the island, which they claim was illegally sold out from under the rightful heirs.

The Courier of Houma reports the most recent lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Orleans Feb. 16.

Family members say they are optimistic that years of historical research and a solid legal argument are on their side. A spokesman for the U.S. Interior Department declined comment when queried by The Courier.

Now a chain of grassy sandbars off Terrebonne's coast, Last Island was once a solid land mass about 25 miles long and a mile wide, famous as a leisure spot for Louisiana's pre-Civil War plantation aristocracy and wealthy New Orleans families. A catastrophic 1856 hurricane killed some 200 vacationers there and leveled the growing Gulf resort.

Published: Tue, Mar 1, 2011

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