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Court fight likely in 10-year-old girl’s homicide case
Court Line | 2018/11/11 20:55

When a 10-year-old Wisconsin girl was charged with homicide this week in the death of an infant, it was a rare — but not unprecedented — case of adult charges being filed against someone so young.

The girl told investigators she panicked after dropping the baby at a home day care and then stomped on his head when he began crying. She sobbed during a court appearance in Chippewa County, where she was led away in handcuffs and a restraint.

The age at which children get moved to adult court varies by state and can be discretionary in some cases.

Wisconsin is an outlier in that state law requires homicide or attempted homicide charges to be initially filed in adult court if the suspect is at least 10 years old, according to Marcy Mistrett, chief executive at the Campaign for Youth Justice.

Wisconsin is among 28 states that allow juveniles to be automatically tried in adult court for certain crimes, including murder. For most states, the age at which that is triggered is 15 or 16 years old — while some states have decided 10 is even too young for a child to be held responsible in the juvenile justice system, Mistrett said.

Moving a case to juvenile court depends on establishing certain factors, such as whether the child would get needed services in the adult system, said Eric Nelson, a defense attorney who practices in Wisconsin.

For example, prosecutors in an attempted murder case involving a 12-year-old schizophrenic girl who stabbed a classmate said she belonged in adult court, where she could be monitored for years for a disease that isn’t curable. Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued against those claims.


Justice Beth Clement leading Supreme Court race
Court Line | 2018/11/06 06:56

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement is leading a six-candidate field for two seats on the state's highest court. Nearly 95 percent of votes have been counted. The top two finishers get black robes.

Justice Kurtis Wilder and appellate lawyer Megan Cavanagh are battling for the second spot. Cavanagh, a Democrat, is the daughter of former Justice Michael Cavanagh.

With Clement and Wilder, Republicans have a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court, though candidates aren't identified by party on the ballot. University of Michigan law professor Sam Bagenstos was far behind in fourth place and threw in the towel — literally.

After a long campaign, he says it's time for him to do some "deferred laundry." Former CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin has defeated Republican Rep. Mike Bishop, denying him a third House term representing their southeastern Michigan district and flipping the seat to the Democrats.

Slotkin, who worked as a CIA analyst under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and who advocates for public service, said that if she was elected Tuesday, she would push for affordable health care.

Both parties spent heavily on the race, with Democrats sensing that the typically reliable Republican district was vulnerable. Two others also ran: Libertarian Party candidate Brian Ellison and U.S. Taxpayers Party candidate David Lillis.


Bahrain opposition leader sentenced to life by high court
Court Line | 2018/11/05 06:57

A Shiite cleric who was a central figure in Bahrain's 2011 Arab Spring protests was sentenced to life in prison Sunday on spying charges.

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals came after Sheikh Ali Salman was acquitted of the charges by a lower court in June. Human rights groups and activists say the charges against him are politically-motivated and related to his work as a leading opposition figure.

The verdict was issued just weeks before parliamentary elections are set to take place without the Al-Wefaq political group Salman once led. Al-Wefaq, which was the tiny Gulf nation's largest Shiite opposition bloc, was ordered dissolved in 2016 as part of a crackdown on dissent in the kingdom, which has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency reported the appellate court's decision Sunday without naming the defendants, saying three individuals were found guilty of the spying charges.

Human Rights First, an activist group, confirmed the ruling refers to Salman. His co-defendants in the case— Sheikh Hassan Ali Juma Sultan and Ali Mahdi Ali al-Aswad— are also former al-Wefaq officials.

The three faced charges of disclosing sensitive information to Qatar that could harm Bahrain's security in exchange for financial compensation. The state-run news agency said prosecutors presented recorded phone conversations as evidence.

Last year, Bahrain state television aired the recorded calls between Salman and Qatar's then-Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani during the 2011 protests.


Bomb suspect set for Florida court appearance
Court Line | 2018/10/27 12:40

Bomb squads were called to a post office in Atlanta on Monday about a suspicious parcel, just hours before a court hearing for a Florida man accused of sending packages containing explosive material to prominent Democrats.

The FBI did not identify to whom the most recent package was addressed, but CNN President Jeff Zucker announced that a suspicious package addressed to the cable television network was intercepted Monday at an Atlanta post office.

Zucker said there was no imminent danger to the CNN Center. Another package was delivered to the cable network's New York offices last week, causing an evacuation.

The latest suspicious package comes just hours before a federal court hearing was to begin for Cesar Sayoc, 56, who faces five federal charges.

He is accused of sending bubble-wrapped manila envelopes to Democrats such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. The packages were intercepted from Delaware to California. At least some listed a return address of U.S. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee.


Congregants at oldest US synagogue ask high court to step in
Court Line | 2018/10/22 11:12

Congregants at the oldest synagogue in the United States asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to review a decision giving a New York congregation control of Rhode Island's Touro Synagogue and a set of bells valued in the millions.

Lawyers for Newport's Congregation Jeshuat Israel asked for a review of last year's decision by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that it presents important constitutional issues surrounding religious liberty.

"If allowed to stand and be followed, the decision will fundamentally alter how ordinary disputes involving religious parties are tried and decided, and introduce an element of arbitrariness and cherry-picking by courts as to what secular evidence may be considered or ignored in any particular case," lawyer Gary Naftalis wrote in the filing.

He argued that the ruling in favor of Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan unfairly disregarded secular evidence and establishes a two-tiered legal regime: one for religious groups and another for those that are secular.

Lou Solomon, a lawyer for New York congregation and also the head of its board, said the request is "unfortunate," but it's their right. He said the other side was continuing to undermine their "ability to regain the harmonious relations" and had "presented absolutely no reason for the Supreme Court to review much less disturb the decision of the First Circuit."


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