Archive for December, 2007

In a nightmare befitting Homer Simpson, doughnut thief Scott A. Masters, 41, was facing 30 years in jail for stealing a doughnut and shoving a store employee. The case produced a national outcry and the court recently sentenced him to a five-year suspended sentence, five years of probation and 90 days in the county jail, including time he has served since Sept. 19. He was released this month. (more…)

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Americans have always been defined by their robust views of individual autonomy and privacy. However, in the last ten years, privacy has suffered massive reductions in the United States due to both governmental and private surveillance, data mining, and searches. Now an international privacy groups ranks for the United States and England as some of the worst “endemic surveillance societies.” (more…)

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Another member of the Long Island jury that found John White guilty of manslaughter in Long Island has emerged to claim coercion or pressure in reaching the verdict. Previously, a white juror in a racially controversial murder case has gone public with a claim that he felt pressured by the judge and fellow jurors to convict John White, a black man found guily of killing a white teen, Daniel Cicciaro. It is a claim that is likely to produce more of a political and social response than a legal response. Instead, the defense is likely to challenge the judge’s instructions in the case. (more…)

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For years, unnamed government officials have acknowledged that they use “extraordinary renditions” to send suspects to other countries to be tortured. Our ally Egypt is a favorite destination of such flights. Now, videos of Egyptian torture have forced Americans to see what such “special treatment” is like for suspects. In one video, a woman is forced to strip and is abused by a police officer and in another Egyptian mini-bus driver, Emad el-Kabir, 21,l is shown screaming on the floor as officers sodomize him with a wooden pole. The police then sent the video to el-Kabir’s friends to humiliate him. These videos remove the abstract quality of the debate over U.S. torture policies, both in terms of waterboarding and extraordinary renditions. (more…)

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The meaning of standard immorality clauses in teaching contracts has long been a source of controversy. Such clauses tend to be very ambiguous and can sweep protected (but unpopular) activities within their scope. Now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued an opinion upholding an interpretation of the clause for that state, ordering a new hearing for Sherie Leigh Vrable, 49, of Washington Township in Fayette County, who was fired as a teaching assistant in an emotional support class with the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit. The immorality cited was her overdose of a drug at the school. (more…)

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A six-year-old girl won an essay contest for Hanna Montana ticket beginning with the fraudulent claim that “My daddy died this year in Iraq.” What is astonishing is the amoral attitude of the mother, Priscilla Ceballos, who said “We did the essay and that’s what we did to win . . . We did whatever we could do to win.” The question is now whether prosecutors will do whatever they can to criminally charge on what may constitute a fraud. It could be a close question. (more…)

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Former major leaguer Jim Leyritz was arrested Friday on charges of driving under the influence and killing a driver after his car crashed into 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch. (more…)

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In an important ruling, the Seventh Circuit overturned a $156 million award against the Holy Land Foundation charity for their alleged involvement in the terrorist death of 17-year-old David Boim, an American teenager killed in the West Bank. (more…)

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The Chinese government has been accused to rigging pollution figures to secure the upcoming Olympics, but pollution in the city reached the maximum stage five level this week — forcing the city to encourage people to stay indoors. This is likely to increase the unease of various countries to have their top athletics compete in the unhealthy environment. (more…)

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It may have been the booze, the Christmas blues, or cabin fever, but two men manning the U.S. Amundsen-Scott Pole station in Antartica were airlifted out of the remote location after a brawl that left one with a broken jaw. (more…)

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Larry Green’s nightmare in 2005 only began when he was struck by a car while crossing a highway. After he was mistakingly declared dead, he was put into a body bag and sent to the morgue — only to be discovered as alive hours later. His family is now suing the state. Remarkably, this is not a unique case. (more…)

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The legal status of the San Francisco Zoo appears to be worsening. The zoo’s director admitted on Thursday that a wall that separated the public from the zoo’s tigers is nearly 6 feet lower than initially reported — and nearly 4 feet lower than industry standards. In the meantime, the father of the teen killed by the tiger has accused of the zoo of negligence. (more…)

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It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. For Martin Tankleff, 36, justice was 17 years in coming when an appellate court overturned his conviction of the murder of his parents and ordered a retrial. Regardless of whether Tankleff is guilty or innocent, he clearly was deprived of a fair trial by police and prosecutors. (more…)

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As Congress deals with rising complaints over junk mail clogging mailboxes, it might want to start by reducing its own contributions to the scourge. Last year, U.S. House members spent $20.3 million to spend unsolicited mail to constituents on subjects ranging from car care to advice on job interviews. It is one of the reasons why incumbents are so difficult to unseat — members have created a constructive public subsidy for campaigns, but only for incumbents. (more…)

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In the competition for worst Christmas ever, it is a tie this year between Robert Schoff who got stuck in his sepic tank or Roger Goswell who put his dead wife under his Christmas tree or Shawn Johnson who paid for opening his present early by being stabbed by his wife. (more…)

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Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., had the floor to himself this week as he brought the Senate into session for just nine seconds to prevent President Bush from giving a recess appointment to Steven Bradbury, a controversial official involved in the use of torture by the Bush Administration. It was a worthy effort by the Senate Democrats, but it also raises questions over whether they will also block Judge Mark Filip, who is nominated to be Deputy Attorney General. Filip has refused to recognize decades of precedent that says that waterboarding is torture. (more…)

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This week, the South Koreans decided to expand their Supreme Court to 14 members. The news should get Americans to consider whether it is time for our own undersized Court to expand from 9 to 19. (more…)

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The deadly tiger attack in San Francisco has become more sinister as experts reject a claim by a Zoo officials that the Siberian Tiger leap out of his enclosure.  Human involvement would complicate the case against the Zoo, though a human release could cut both for and against greater liability for the Zoo.  (more…)

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Damon Lucky is hardly the poster boy that the N.R.A. is looking for as the critical constitutional case for the Second Amendment goes to the Supreme Court. As gun owners seek to show that the Second Amendment is an individual right, Lucky wants a federal court to declare that the individual right extends to ex-felons — striking down the common rule that ex-felons lose their right to gun ownership or possession. (more…)

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The Florida prosecutors made a difficult but correct decision this week in agreeing not to charge Ernie Daley, Jr., 19, for the deaths of two officers who were killed by a pursuing fellow officer. (more…)

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A Siberian Tiger escapes from its cage in the San Francisco zoo and killed one zoo visiter and mauled two others. It is a case that will likely lead to litigation, but the plaintiffs could face some special rules for zoo liability.  However, this is not the first time for either the zoo or this particular tiger, which attacked someone in 2006. (more…)

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The federal government has long used a controversial “catch and release” system of snitches where it arrests citizens, threatens huge sentences for drugs, and then coerces them into trapping other citizens to reduce the sentence. It is a system designed to inflate arrest figures for local U.S. Attorneys, but it can also lead to get abuses. This was the case recently with one snitch, Tina Rivard, 40, who pleaded guilty to framing an innocent man to avoid jail. (more…)

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In a remarkable development, a white juror in a racially controversial murder case has gone public with a claim that he felt pressured by the judge and fellow jurors to convict John White, a black man found guily of killing a white teen, Daniel Cicciaro.  It is a claim that is likely to produce more of a  political and social response than a legal response.  If the juror, Francois Larche, yielded to such pressure he failed to uphold his oath and will have little recourse in trying to take back his vote.  (more…)

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Much in the Jewish faith was passed down by an oral tradition. However, this rabbinical tradition hit legal technicalities in a defamation suit filed by Rabbi Pinchas Lipner and the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco against San Francisco philanthropist Richard Goldman, the Jewish Community Federation and the University of California Regents. The California Supreme Court says that it is one defamation claim that will have to be heard by the court of public opinion rather than a court of law. Lipner missed a one-year statute of limitation and the Supreme Court refused to extend that period. (more…)

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Lessons of the holiday abound. On the nice list is Chad McMaster who gave part of his liver to his grandmother, Patricia Middleton. On the naughty list, is Misty Johnson who , 34, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and battery after stabbing her husband in the chest for reportedly opening his gift early.   Then there is a spate of Santa gropings and attacks –which would go into the naughty category. (more…)

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The Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People has weighed in on the controversy over the selection of deaf children for adopting deaf couples. The Institute supports the practice. However, there remains a greater debate over the decision of American parents to engineer a deaf child through artificial selection. (more…)

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While other inmates are fighting over the right to have small nativity scenes in their cells, Michael Polk in Utah is demanding more Nordic religious items: a hammer and sword. Prison officers are a bit reluctant since Polk is serving time for aggravated assault and robbery. He is also a practicing member of the Asatru religion, which worships the Nordic gods, such as Odin, Thor, Tyr, and Heimdal.  It turns out that he may have a limited case. (more…)

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Neighbors of Art Conrad are up in arms and demanding action after Conrad hoisted a crucified Santa over his house as a protest of the commercialization of Christmas. He also has a headless Santa singing carols on his front porch. The display in Washington state is likely protected speech despite the trauma to children and anger of neighbors. (more…)

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While the Bush Administration works to prevent anyone from investigating its own possible misconduct in the CIA tape scandal, the 9-11 Commission has already concluded that the Administration lied to its investigators and destroyed evidence specifically demanded by the Commission. (more…)

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In the last two decades, many cities have passed breed specific bans or limitations on dog owners. Pit bulls are the most common cited breed and one owner is now taking his dogs and his case to the Supreme Court. Paul Tellings likes his pit bulls and has challenged a Toledo law as baseless and biased. While the odds are against a grant of cert in the case, it would allow review of a highly controversial trend across the country. (more…)

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With the conviction of John White in New York for the killing of a teen on his lawn and the possible indictment of Joe Horn in Texas for killing two burglars on his lawn, the national debate over the so-called Castle Doctrine or Make My Day laws is intensifying. (more…)

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John White, an African American homeowner, claimed that he was merely protecting his home and his son from a racial attack when he shot Daniel Cicciaro in the face. A jury disagreed and convicted White, 54, of second-degree manslaughter. It is a case often cited in relation to the Castle Doctrine, allowing homeowners to repel invaders with lethal force — one of two current cases (with the Horn case in Texas) of shootings on the lawns of homeowners. (more…)

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Dr. Adam Hansen, chief resident of general surgery, has been fired after he admitted that he took a picture of a patient’s penis during surgery. Strip club owner Sean Dubowik has a tattoo at that stop that reads: “Hot Rod.” (more…)

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In a lawsuit that seems like a scene out of Michael Moore’s SICKO recent film on the U.S. health system, CIGNA is facing a lawsuit after it denied coverage to Nataline Sarkisyan who needed a liver transplant. The California teenager, 17, died at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center despite the fact that a match was found weeks previously. CIGNA HealthCare decided that the procedure was “too experimental” to try — or least pay for. Now, there is a called for manslaughter charges against CIGNA — and a likely tort action. (more…)

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The Top Hatters Motorcycle Club likes motor cycle and garlic, but the two do not always mix in the famous Gilroy Garlic festival. Police refused to allow the club members to wear their club colors at the festival and they sued. A district court and the Ninth Circuit ruled for the city and the bikers are now appealing for an en banc ruling. (more…)

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In a ruling that will surprise many public health officials, the Ninth Circuit has upheld an arbitration decision that found that nurses at Virginia Mason hospital in Washington could not require that nurses receive flu shots as a condition for employment — a victory for the Washington State Nurses Association. It will likely be a concern for public health officials planning for pandemic and other risks, particularly given the court’s recognition of the strong public health reasons for the rule. (more…)

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The Ohio Supreme Court has handed down an important ruling on the right (or lack thereof) of surrogate mothers. Danielle Bimber was accused of breaking her surrogacy contract with James Flynn and his partner Eileen Donich, when she decided to keep the triplets conceived with Flynn’s sperm and Donich’s implanted egg. (more…)

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U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy appears inclined to back off, at least for now, from inquiring into the destruction of tapes of CIA interrogations despite his order to preserve such evidence. This is not, however, the last word for Kennedy or other judges lining up on the issue. (more…)

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Paul Bergrin, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor, has been accused of going a bit too far in fulfilling his duty of zealous advocacy for his client: police believed that Bergrin encouraged the 2004 killing of Deshawn McCray. He is also accused of running a brothel with representatives from the oldest profession. (more…)

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Hollywood appears ready to step into the controversy over the pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spear in a truly signature way: it is ordering a special for television. While a debate rages over why this is being treated as an entertainment rather than criminal issue. Jamie Lynn’s 19-year-old boyfriend, Casey Aldridge, could be charged with statutory rape, carnal knowledge with a minor and even a Mann Act violation. (more…)

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In one of the most bizarre stories of the year, staff members at the Judge Rotenberg Education Center in Boston received a prank call that ordered an excessive level of electric shock treatments for two two emotionally disturbed teenagers — and proceeded to do so based on the telephone call. (more…)

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One of the most controversial laws in Germany is the criminal ban on Nazi symbols. In the United States, such symbols are viewed as both obnoxious and legal. Recently, the Germans prosecuted people who produced teeshirts with an anti-Nazi image: a swastika with a red strip through it. At the same time, a bizarre man in Berlin with pro-Nazi views was prosecuted for, among other things, his dog Adolf’s pet trick of giving the Nazi salute. The dog was taken from his owner, who had promised to kill him on the Fuhrer’s birthday due to the expense of criminal fines. (more…)

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As both Democratic and Republican candidates battle for the religious vote and proclaim the importance of faith, they seem to be ignoring or unaware of a huge number of citizens who are atheists or without religion. A recent study shows that the number is 30 million and that number increases exponentially when one adds secularists.

As noted in this recent column, Democrats like Clinton and Obama have been openly vying to close the “God gap” and claiming the mantle of faith as one of their qualifications. Other candidates have openly dismisses members of certain religions or the non-religious from being qualified for office. Thus, under the definition of some of the candidates, 30 million Americans are qualified to led but not to lead.

For an article on the study, click here

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Of course, a motion to continue could be more efficient and hygenic, but 37-year-old Walter Barrett stripped and covered himself with his own feces to avoid court. He also spit and threw waste at guards.

As a result, Barrett, convicted of a violent home invasion, was forced to wear a bag over his head in court. His attorneys are seeking (not surprisingly) a competency hearing.

Guards are routinely the target of such acts, though some actually file criminal complaints. This is the case with
Desmond Turner is awaiting trial for battery by bodily waste by spitting on a jail guard.

Turner and James Stewart face murder charges for the June 2006 shooting deaths of four adults and three young children in a home on the city’s east side. Their trial is scheduled for February 2009. For that story, click here

For the earlier video and story, click here

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The Fifth Circuit is on the brink of making history, just not the type of history that anyone would want.  Two district court judges — Samuel Kent and Thomas Porteous — are facing calls for impeachment.  Both cases now appear quite serious and worsening by the day.  (more…)

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In yet another alleged case of taser abuse, Florida Yoga instructor Elizabeth Beeland was tasered by Daytona Beach Officer Claudia Wright for being loud and profane. She was later charged with the highly enigmatic crime of resisting a police officer without violence as well as disorderly conduct. (more…)

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There seems to be an increase in officers accused of crossing the thin blue line to free lance in crime. On the same day, New Orleans officer Danny Lohman was accused of stealing a driver’s money in an invalid arrest while Harrisburg, Pa. officer Joseph Kelly resigned after a prostitute that he allegedly hired walked off with his service weapon. In the meantime, Ryan Osbrink in Oregon has admitted to accidently shooting and killing his wife while practicing a fast draw with his service weapon. (more…)

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England is investigating a highly disturbing video directed at child as an apparent recruiting device.  This follows other such children terrorism pitches — which mainstream Muslim groups have denounced. (more…)

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One of the least discusses problems in the medical field is substance abuse by practicing doctors. A recent estimate puts as much as 15 percent of physicians nationwide will have a substance abuse problem during their careers and an estimated 7,500 to 8,000 practicing doctors are probably in confidential treatment. (more…)

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The Bush Administration has blocked an effort by California and other states to require higher emissions limits for cars and trucks to improve the air for their citizens. After waiting and hoping that federal courts would side with industry in litigation over the question, the Administration was forced to come up and oppose the environmental effort when the industry lost in court. (more…)

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