SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Whitey Bulger appeal turned away by court

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has turned away James "Whitey" Bulger's appeal of his racketeering convictions and life sentence.

The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place Bulger's convictions for playing a role in 11 murders and many other crimes.

The 87-year-old Bulger was a fugitive for 17 years until his arrest in 2011. A jury convicted him in 2013.

Bulger argued that the judge at his trial should have let him tell the jury that a now-dead federal prosecutor had granted him immunity from prosecution. The judge said Bulger hadn't offered hard evidence that such an agreement existed.

Bulger also contended that federal prosecutors failed to disclose "promises, rewards and inducements" made to John Martorano, a hit man who testified against the Boston gangster at his trial.


Court decides against hearing appeal over police stun gun use

WASHINGTON (AP) - Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from police officers challenging new restrictions on their ability to use Taser guns on people trying to resist arrest.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that said police should not use stun guns on suspects trying to evade custody if they pose no threat to officers or others.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January established the guidelines in a case involving the 2011 death of a North Carolina man.

Pinehurst police shot Ronald Armstrong five times with a Taser as the mentally ill man refused to let go of a sign post to avoid being taken to a hospital. Armstrong later died.

The appeals court said police used excessive force because Armstrong posed no safety risk.


Justices deny Texas inmate call for DNA testing

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court will not allow additional DNA testing of evidence a death row inmate in Texas says could show he didn't kill a suburban Houston college student.

The justices on Monday rejected an appeal from Larry Swearingen, who was convicted of abducting, raping and killing 19-year-old Melissa Trotter in 1998.

Swearingen has sought to test fingernail scrapings from Trotter, items of her clothing and cigarette butts found near her body. The trial court in his case has twice ordered the testing, but was reversed by the state Court of Criminal Appeals on both occasions.


Court turns down challenge to military death penalty

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court won't hear a challenge to the death penalty for members of the military.

The justices on Monday rejected an appeal from the former soldier who was sentenced to death for killing two fellow soldiers and injuring 14 others in an attack in Kuwait in 2003.

The appeal from Hasan Akbar focused on whether the way in which the armed forces impose a death sentence complies with recent Supreme Court rulings.

Akbar is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was convicted of killing Army Capt. Christopher S. Seifert and Air Force Maj. Gregory L. Stone in Kuwait during the early days of the Iraq war.

The military hasn't carried out an execution since 1961.


Appeal over New Hampshire auto dealer law rejected

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from John Deere and other farm equipment manufacturers seeking to overturn a New Hampshire law they say unfairly treats their products like cars and trucks.

The justices on Monday let stand a New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling that upheld the state's Automobile Dealer Bill of Rights law. It was expanded in 2013 to include protections for farm equipment distributors in addition to auto and truck dealers.

The law bars manufacturers from terminating dealer contracts without just cause.

Farm equipment makers claim the law unconstitutionally interferes with their contracts. The state says the law simply merges regulations that dealt separately with auto makers and farm and tractor manufacturers.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said the law leveled the playing field between manufacturers and dealers.


Justices won't hear AZ death sentence case

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court won't hear Arizona's appeal of a lower court ruling that overturned a convicted murderer's death sentence and opened the door for other death row inmates in the state to challenge their sentences.

The justices Monday let stand the ruling that said Arizona unconstitutionally excluded evidence about James McKinney's troubled childhood and post-traumatic stress disorder that might have led to a lesser punishment. McKinney was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death in 1993.

From 1989 to 2005, Arizona's highest court allowed leniency factors to be considered only if they were directly related to the crime committed.

A divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Arizona's "causal nexus" test violated the Constitution. The state court abandoned the test in 2005.


Court rejects NCAA appeal of antitrust ruling

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is leaving in place court rulings that found the NCAA's amateurism rules for big-time college basketball and football players violated federal antitrust law.

The justices on Monday rejected the NCAA's appeal in a class-action lawsuit originally filed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and other athletes. The court also rejected O'Bannon's separate appeal that called on the justices to reinstate a plan to pay football and basketball players.

The effect of the high court action is to leave the NCAA vulnerable to more legal challenges that are working their way through the courts.

"While we are disappointed with this decision not to review this case, we remain pleased that the 9th Circuit agreed with us that amateurism is an essential component of college sports and that NCAA members should not be forced by the courts to provide benefits untethered to education, including providing any payments beyond the full cost of attendance," NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement.

In 2014, a U.S. district judge decided the NCAA's use of names, images and likenesses of college athletes without compensation violated antitrust law. Judge Claudia Wilken ruled schools could - but were not required to - pay football and men's basketball players up to $5,000 per year.

The money would go into a trust and be available to the athletes after leaving college. Wilken also ruled schools could increase the value of the athletic scholarship to meet the federal cost of attendance figure for each institution.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year overturned Wilken's ruling on the payments of $5,000 but upheld the antitrust violation.

The NCAA has said it already has addressed one aspect of Wilken's ruling by increasing the amount of aid schools may provide athletes.


Justices won't review appeal from Virginia death row inmate

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court won't review the case of a Virginia death row inmate convicted of hiring a man to kill his ex-girlfriend.

The justices on Monday declined to take up an appeal from Ivan Teleguz, who claims he should get another chance to show that his defense lawyers were inadequate during his 2006 trial.

Teleguz was sentenced to death in 2006 in the murder-for-hire scheme targeting his former girlfriend, Stephanie Sipe, in Harrisonburg. Since then, two key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.

A federal judge refused to overturn Teleguz's conviction after a new hearing and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

Teleguz was set to be executed on April 13. But the appeals court temporarily halted his execution in March while the Supreme Court considered his case.


Bid to reopen Walker investigation denied

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to reopen an investigation into whether Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign to fend off his ouster from office illegally coordinated with outside conservative groups.

The justices on Monday left in place a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that shut down the probe of the Republican governor. Walker won his recall election in 2012.

A group of prosecutors began an investigation the same year into whether Walker's campaign coordinated with Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative groups on advertising during the recall without reporting the groups' contributions.

Conservative-leaning justices who control the Wisconsin Supreme Court halted the investigation last year. They ruled that the coordination amounts to free speech and isn't subject to disclosure requirements.


Justices refuse to step into fight over Backpage sex ads

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from an Illinois sheriff who was ordered to stop threatening credit card companies doing business with classified ad website Backpage.com.

The justices Monday let stand a lower court order that forbids Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart from contacting Visa and MasterCard to disrupt online sex ads linked to human trafficking.

Dart sent "cease and desist" letters last year urging the companies to stop providing payment services for any ads on the website. The companies complied within 48 hours.

Backpage sued, alleging Dart was illegally interfering with its ability to do business.

A federal judge sided with Dart, finding his letters were protected by the Constitution's First Amendment. A federal appeals court reversed that ruling.

Dart's office says it's disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision.


Court will not re-hear immigration case

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Monday declined an Obama administration request to break its recent tie over plans to protect millions of immigrants.

The justices rejected the appeal with no comment. The high court had split 4-4 in late June, effectively killing the White House's plans to shield from deportation immigrants who are in the country illegally and provide them work permits. The administration had asked the court to reconsider the case once a ninth justice is on the bench.

The court has been short-handed since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February and will have to wait for the Nov. 8 presidential election to get a sense of who might join them as the ninth justice. President Barack Obama has nominated Judge Merrick Garland, but Senate Republicans have refused to act, saying the next president should fill the Scalia seat.

The immigration case still could return to the court, but probably not until a later term.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday the administration was disappointed by the immigration decision and called on Senate Republicans to "confirm a ninth justice to the Supreme Court so that the business of the American people can be conducted in the Supreme Court."


Court rejects one Redskins appeal; other case pending

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a long-shot appeal from the Washington Redskins challenging a law that bars offensive trademarks, although the justices could still resolve the same issue in another pending case.

The court turned away the team's unusual request to have its case heard before a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, weighs in. The Redskins are appealing the government's decision to cancel its trademarks over concerns the nickname disparages Native Americans.

Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said the team would not comment.

In a separate case, the justices will decide whether the trademark law violates the First Amendment. That case involves The Slants, an Asian-American rock band that was denied a trademark on the ground that its name disparages Asians.

A federal appeals court sided with the band. The Redskins wanted both cases heard together.

Both the team and the band argue that it is unconstitutional for the government to reject trademark rights for offensive speech.

Band member Simon Tam has said he wanted to transform a derisive term about the shape of Asian eyes into a statement of ethnic and cultural pride.

The Redskins have similarly claimed their name honors Native Americans, but the team has faced years of legal challenges from Indian groups that say the name is racist.

Despite a lot of attention to the nickname and public pressure to change it, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has said he never would agree to a switch.

Even without trademark protection, the Redskins can continue using their nickname. But the team could lose money by being unable to block the sale of counterfeit merchandise by suing competitors that infringe on the trademark.

The team registered six trademarks including the name from 1967 to 1990.


Appeal under NC racial bias law denied

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from four North Carolina inmates who claimed systemic racial bias contributed to their death sentences.

The justices said Monday they will not disturb a state Supreme Court ruling that could result in new death sentences for the one Native American and three African-American inmates.

The defendants had their sentences reduced from death to life in prison under the state's unique Racial Justice Act.

The law allowed prisoners on death row and defendants in capital cases to use statistics to prove racial bias. The law has since been repealed.

But appeals filed under the law have essentially halted executions in North Carolina, where no one has been executed in more than 10 years.


Justices won't hear appeal over Florida man's death sentence

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court won't hear Florida's appeal of a lower court ruling that threw out the death sentence of a Jacksonville man convicted of a 1984 murder.

The justices on Monday left in place an appeals court ruling that said John Gary Hardwick's lawyer should have brought up evidence of his client's troubled childhood and history of drug abuse that might have led to a lesser punishment.

Florida officials argued that Hardwick told his attorney not to present evidence at the sentencing hearing and prevented him from locating witnesses who might testify about his childhood abuse and drug use.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Hardwick's lawyer was inadequate. He was convicted of killing 17-year-old Keith Pullum after a drug dispute.

Published: Wed, Oct 05, 2016

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