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   Sentencing for Cornell McKay will go on as scheduled, despite his attorney's pleas for a review of the jury's verdict against him.  McKay will be sentenced March 20th for armed robbery.  

   His attorneys had asked St. Louis Circuit Judge Robin Vannoy to give them 60 days to investigate whether evidence that suggests Megan Boken's killer may have committed the crime was improperly kept out of McKay’s trial.  Boken was killed by Keith Esters during a similar robbery a few days later in the same neighborhood.  

   The judge declined the request.

   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Vannoy also declined a prosecution request to bar McKay's often vocal supporters from the courtroom during sentencing.

   McKay's attorneys say they plan to take the case to the state appellate court.

Published in Local News
Friday, 07 February 2014 02:51

IL appeals FEMA denial for Nov. tornado aid

   The state of Illinois is steadfast in its insistence that local governments devastated by deadly tornadoes in November should be eligible for federal assistance.  They're appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency's denial of aid.  

   State officials argue that FEMA's population-based formula penalizes small towns in large states.  

   The Illinois Emergency Management Agency filed the appeal on Thursday.

   At least seven people were killed statewide and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed in the storms.

Published in Local News
SEATTLE (AP) — Amanda Knox is facing what seemed like a distant worry when she was giving national television interviews and promoting her autobiography last year: the possibility of being returned to Italy to serve decades in prison for the death of her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
 
Any decision on whether to extradite the 26-year-old from the U.S. is likely months away, at least. Experts have said it's unlikely that Italy's justice ministry would request Knox's extradition before the verdict is finalized by the country's high court.
 
If the conviction is upheld, a lengthy extradition process would likely ensue, with the U.S. State Department ultimately deciding whether to turn Knox back over to Italian authorities to finish serving her sentence.
 
Here's how that might play out.
 
___
 
EXTRADITION
 
Extradition is the process of one country surrendering to another country a person who has been accused or convicted of a crime. Under the terms of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Italy, the offense must be a crime in each country and punishable by more than one year in prison.
 
Any request to extradite Knox would go to the U.S. State Department, which would evaluate whether Italy has a sufficient case for seeking Knox's return. If so, the State Department would transfer the case to the Justice Department, which would represent the interests of the Italian government in seeking her arrest and transfer in U.S. District Court.
 
American courts have limited ability to review extradition requests from other countries, but rather ensure the extradition request meets basic legal requirements, said Mary Fan, a former U.S. federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Washington in Seattle.
 
"The U.S. courts don't sit in judgment of another nation's legal system," Fan said.
 
___
 
THE POLITICAL AND THE LEGAL
 
Fan suggested that any decision by the State Department on whether to return Knox to Italy is "a matter of both law and politics." From an American standpoint, the case at first seems to raise questions about double jeopardy — being tried twice for the same offense, as barred by the U.S. Constitution. Knox was first convicted, then acquitted, then, on Thursday, the initial conviction was reinstated.
 
Some observers have dismissed the double-jeopardy issue because Knox's acquittal was not finalized by Italy's highest court.
 
That said, creative defense lawyers might make an effort to fight extradition over concerns about the legal process or the validity of the conviction, Fan said, and those arguments could carry political weight too. "Many Americans are quite astonished by the ups and downs in this case, and it's the U.S. that will ultimately be making the call about whether to extradite," Fan said.
 
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a statement Thursday she was "very concerned and disappointed by this verdict."
 
"I will continue to closely monitor this case as it moves forward through the Italian legal system," Cantwell said.
 
Christopher Jenks, a former Army attorney who served as a State Department legal adviser and now teaches at Southern Methodist University's law school, said Italy has a low bar to clear in compiling a legally sufficient extradition request.
 
"There would be a political or policy decision to be made by the State Department, but it's got to be founded in law or in reason," he said.
 
Jenks noted that the extradition treaty works both ways.
 
"If the U.S. ever wants to have any chance of extraditing an Italian murder suspect who has allegedly killed people in the U.S.," he said, "you have to give to get."
 
___
 
HAS ITALY HAD ENOUGH?
 
There have been other high-profile tussles over whether Americans suspected of crimes in Italy would face justice there.
 
In 1998, a low- and fast-flying U.S. Marine jet sliced a cable supporting a gondola at a ski resort in the Italian Alps, killing 20 people. Many Italians wanted the pilot and crew tried in Italy, though NATO rules gave jurisdiction to the U.S. military. The pilot faced a court martial in the U.S. and was acquitted of negligent homicide charges.
 
Italian courts convicted — in absentia — 26 CIA and U.S. government employees in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric suspected of recruiting terrorists in Milan. One, a U.S. Air Force colonel, was pardoned last year on the grounds that it was unprecedented to try an officer of a NATO country for acts committed in Italy. Another, the former CIA base chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, has also requested a pardon. Lady was briefly held last summer in Panama based on an international arrest warrant issued by Italy, which has not yet formally requested his extradition.
 
"I suspect that the Italians feel there have been enough incidents of them not being able to prosecute Americans for crimes committed in Italy," Jenks wrote in an email.
Published in National News
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 17:08

UPDATE: Missouri executes Smulls

   Convicted killer Herbert Smulls is dead.  The Missouri man was executed Wednesday night at the state prison in Bonne Terre.  He was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m.  
   The U.S. Supreme Court had granted a temporary stay late Tuesday, which had halted Smull's scheduled midnight execution.  Smulls' attorneys had filed several appeals, mostly challenging the state's refusal to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy that supplies its execution drug.  The high court reviewed his case and eventually revoked the last remaining stay late Wednesday evening.  
   Smulls made no final statement, verbally or in writing.
   The 56 year old had been sentenced to death for killing Stephen Honickman and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery at the couple's St. Louis County jewelry store.
    He was the third person in as many months Missouri has executed by lethal injection.
 
   
 
Published in Local News

   It's unclear when or if Missouri death row inmate Herbert Smulls will be executed.  

   The U.S. Supreme Court has granted him a stay of execution.  Justice Samuel Alito signed the order and it was sent out Tuesday night, just hours before Smulls midnight execution date.  

   The 56 year old was convicted of killing a St. Louis County jeweler and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery.  His juvenile accomplice, now 37, is serving a life sentence.   

   Smulls' lawyer says the stay is temporary while the high court reviews the case.  She had made last-minute pleas to spare Smulls' life, focusing on Smulls "due process" rights, since he still has appeals pending that challenge Missouri's execution method.  Attorney Cheryl Pilate is arguing that Missouri's refusal to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy that makes the pentobarbitol used in executions makes it impossible for Smulls' advocates to know whether it could cause pain and suffering.

   Earlier on Tuesday, Pilate revealed the name of the company she believes is making the drug.  She told The Associated Press that her research indicates the drug is made by The Apothecary Shoppe, based in Tulsa, Okla. She says an Oklahoma City-based lab tested the drug.   

 

 

Published in Local News
Friday, 03 January 2014 14:55

Appeals court ruling sides with archdiocese

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Missouri appeals court has ruled that the Archdiocese of St. Louis will not have to immediately turn over name of priests accused of sexual abuse in the past 20 years.
 
   A St. Louis judge had given the archdiocese a Friday deadline to turn over the names to a woman who sued, alleging that she was molested by a priest when she was a child, and to the woman's attorney. Otherwise, the names were to be kept under seal.
 
   The Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals ruling on Friday did not say if turning over the names would eventually be required, or set a new deadline.
 
   Messages seeking comment from the archdiocese were not returned. The woman's attorney, Kenneth M. Chackes, called the ruling disappointing
Published in Local News

   A man appealing his conviction in the 1982 murder of a St. Louis woman and the sexual assault of her young daughters will remain in prison.  St. Louis Circuit Judge Robin Vannoy on Tuesday rejected a motion from Rodney Lee Lincoln based on new DNA tests.  

   Lincoln is serving a double life sentence for the murder of 35-year old JoAnn Tate and the sexual assaults of her 7- and 4-year old daughters.  

   The judge ruled that the DNA evidence doesn't prove Lincoln's innocence.  The results showed no male DNA, just that of the victims.  

   Prosecutors say Lincoln's conviction came largely because the two girls had identified him as their attacker.  

Published in Local News

   ST. LOUIS (AP) - An Arizona company that installs and operates red-light cameras across Missouri has hired a former state Supreme Court chief justice to lead an appeal before that court.

   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports former justice Michael Wolff will spearhead an appeal sought by American Traffic Solutions Inc. and Ellisville of a ruling earlier this month that said Ellisville's red-light camera ordinance is not enforceable.

   The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern Division said in a Nov. 5 opinion that state law requires points to be assessed for moving violations, which can be committed only by a driver or pedestrian.

   Many cities ticket the owner of a vehicle caught running a red light, regardless of who was driving, and do not report the infraction to the state to have points assessed.

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois' top Democratic legislative leaders are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to reject Gov. Pat Quinn's appeal of a lawsuit over legislative pay.

   Quinn halted lawmakers' pay in July until pension reform was achieved. A Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled last month that the move was unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to be sent back pay, with interest. An appeal is being reviewed by the state Supreme Court.

   House Speaker Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton dispute Quinn's argument that the Illinois constitution only bans mid-term increases in pay.Illinois' unfunded pension liability is close to $100 billion, due largely to lawmakers shorting or skipping payments. A committee of lawmakers has been working on one possible reform package that could save $138 billion over 30 years.

 
Published in Local News

   There's more fallout from the St. Clair County Courts scandal.

   A metro-east man who was supposed to be sentenced on a murder conviction yesterday is instead getting a new trial.  

    Twenty-nine-year-old William Cosby had been convicted in April of shooting a man to death outside an East St. Louis nightclub.  

   Yesterday, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida ordered a new trial.  The problem?  Cosby's trial judge had been Michael Cook, who is now facing drug and weapons charges.  

   Cosby's attorneys argued that it had been unfair that prosecutors had known Cook was being investigated and the defense had not.  Judge Haida agreed.  

   Cosby remains in the St. Clair County Jail on a million dollar bond while he awaits that new trial.

Published in Local News
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