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Malaysia court to resume Kim Jong Nam murder trial on Jan. 7
Legal Focuses | 2018/11/06 20:52

A Malaysian court on Wednesday set Jan. 7 for two Southeast Asian women charged with murdering the North Korean leader’s half brother to begin their defense, as their lawyers complained that some witnesses were unreachable.

A High Court judge in August found there was enough evidence to infer that Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, along with four missing North Korean suspects, had engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim Jong Nam.

The women appeared somber but calm during Wednesday’s hearing. The trial had been due to resume Nov. 1 but was postponed after a defense lawyer fell ill.

Aisyah’s lawyers made a new application to the court to compel prosecutors to provide them with statements that eight witnesses had given to police earlier.

Her lawyer, Kulaselvi Sandrasegaram, said they were informed that one of the witnesses, the man who chauffeured Kim to the airport, had died while two Indonesian women who were Aishah’s roommates were believed to have returned to their homeland. She said they have only managed to interview two of the witnesses offered by prosecutors, while two others didn’t turn up for their appointments and couldn’t be contacted.

The witness statements taken by police are important in “the interest of justice” and to ensure that what they say to defense lawyers is consistent with what they told police, Sandrasegaram told reporters later.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said the police interviews are privileged statements and shouldn’t be made public.

Judge Azmi Ariffin said the court will make a decision on the defense application on Dec. 14. He also set 10 days from Jan. 7 through February for Aishah’s defense and 14 days from March 11 through April for Huong.

The two are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim’s face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. They have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show. They are the only suspects in custody. The four North Korean suspects fled the country the same morning Kim was killed.

Lawyers for Aisyah, 25, and Huong, 29, have told the judge they will testify under oath in their defense.

They have said their clients were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to show the women had any intention to kill. Their intent is key to concluding they are guilty of murder.


Group asks court to reject Arkansas justice's ad lawsuit
Legal Focuses | 2018/10/30 05:37

A Washington-based conservative group is asking a federal court to reject an Arkansas Supreme Court justice's attempt to halt its attack ads and mailers against her.

Attorneys for the Republican State Leadership Committee's Judicial Fairness Initiative on Monday asked the court to reject Justice Courtney Goodson's request for a preliminary injunction against the ads and mailers.

Goodson is running against David Sterling, an attorney for the Department of Human Services, in next month's election. The group's filing Monday said blocking the ads and mailers would be "patently unconstitutional."

RSLC says it's spent $1.1 million so far this fall on the high court race. A state judge in the spring temporarily blocked another group's TV ad attacking Goodson through the May 22 judicial election.



Supreme Court: Ross can't be questioned in census suit
Legal Focuses | 2018/10/23 04:11

The Supreme Court is siding with the Trump administration to block the questioning of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about his decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The unsigned order Monday overrides lower federal courts in New York that would have allowed the questioning of Ross to proceed in lawsuits challenging the addition of a citizenship question on the decennial census for the first time since 1950.

The suits by a dozen states and big cities, among others, say the citizenship question will discourage immigrants from participating, diluting political representation and federal dollars for states that tend to vote Democratic.

But the court is allowing the deposition of acting assistant attorney general John Gore to go forward, over the dissent of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas.

A trial is scheduled to begin in New York on Nov. 5, although Gorsuch suggested in a four-page opinion that U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman could delay the proceedings. Gorsuch said he "sees no reason to distinguish between Secretary Ross' deposition and those of other senior executive officials."

Furman based his ruling requiring Ross' deposition on concerns about Ross' truthfulness in relating how the decision to add the citizenship question came about. The judge noted that Ross claimed in March, when the decision to add the citizenship question was announced, that he considered adding it after a request to do so last December from the Justice Department.



Maldives court overturns prison term for ex-president
Legal Focuses | 2018/10/20 21:04

A high court in the Maldives on Thursday overturned a prison sentence for the country's former strongman, who had been jailed for not cooperating with a police investigation into allegations he was trying to overthrow the government.

The court set aside the jail term of one year, seven months and six days imposed by the Criminal Court on ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Maumoon was jailed in June for not handing over his cellphone to investigators after being accused of being part of a plan to overthrow his half-brother, outgoing President Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Maumoon was among dozens of political opponents and officials jailed by Yameen during his five-year rule after trials criticized for alleged lack of due process.

Yameen lost last month's presidential election to joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The court ruled Thursday that the lower court did not follow correct trial procedures.



Supreme Court hopeful had DWI charge in 2009
Legal Focuses | 2018/10/18 16:47

A candidate for the North Carolina Supreme Court pleaded guilty more than nine years ago to trespassing and driving while impaired.

The Charlotte Observer reports Republican Chris Anglin was stopped by police in Greensboro in January 2009 and charged after he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit. The following September, he pleaded guilty.

That December, Anglin was charged with attempted breaking and entering and pleaded guilty to second-degree trespassing. On Wednesday, he attributed both cases to struggles with alcohol in his 20s.

Both incidents happened while Anglin was a student at Elon University School of Law. He said that in 2010, he sought help for his drinking problem with a lawyer-assistance program. He said he's since gotten sober.

Anglin criticized N.C. Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse for emailing Anglin's arrest records to a listserv the GOP maintains. Anglin has feuded with the GOP since he switched party affiliation and entered the Supreme Court race.

Woodhouse has previously said Anglin "will be treated like the enemy he is," and Anglin said the GOP is acting desperate "by sending something out that occurred almost a decade ago."

Republicans have described Anglin as a Democratic plant in the race and Woodhouse said as much Wednesday, writing that "Democrats had one of their own with a very questionable background pretend to be a Republican, so they could try and fool the voters."

Republican legislators responded earlier this summer to Anglin's campaign by passing a law, which was later overturned as unconstitutional, that would have banned Anglin from listing his Republican Party on the ballot even though his opponents could list their parties.

Anglin is one of three candidates seeking a place on the court. The other candidates are Barbara Jackson, a Republican who's seeking re-election, and Anita Earls, a Democrat and longtime civil rights lawyer.



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