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The Latest: Authorities: Officer arrested for manslaughter
Court Watch | 2018/09/10 05:07

The Texas Department of Public Safety says a white Dallas police officer has been arrested on a manslaughter warrant in the shooting of a black man at his apartment.

The department said in a news release Sunday night that Officer Amber Guyger was booked into the Kaufman County Jail and that the investigation is ongoing. It said no additional information is available at this time. The 30-year-old Guyger killed 26-year-old Botham Jean on Thursday.

Police say Guyger shot and killed Jean after returning in uniform to the South Side Flats, where they both had apartments, following her shift. She reported the shooting to dispatchers and she told officers who responded that she had mistaken Jean's apartment for her own.

The lawyer for the family of a 26-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer who said she mistook his apartment for hers is calling for her to be charged.

S. Lee Merritt, who is representing the family of 26-year-old Botham Jean, said Saturday that the family isn't calling on the authorities to jump to conclusions or to deny Officer Amber Guyger her right to due process.

But he says they want Guyger "to be treated like every other citizen, and where there is evidence that they've committed a crime, that there's a warrant to be issued and an arrest to be made."

Online records show that Guyger hadn't been charged as of Sunday morning.



Indiana high court to consider city rental registration fee
Court Watch | 2018/09/08 09:07

The Indiana Supreme Court is preparing to review the constitutionality of a 2015 state law targeting the city of Hammond's rental registration revenue.

The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports that the state's high court will hear oral arguments Thursday about a law limiting housing rental registration fees to $5 per unit per year. The law exempts Bloomington and West Lafayette due to their unique rental market as college towns, but applies to Hammond, which charges rental registration fees of $80 per unit.

The state Court of Appeals struck down the law in February, concluding that lawmakers violated the constitutional ban on special laws "relating to fees or salaries" by allowing only the two college towns to charge a rental registration fee distinct from what applies across the rest of Indiana.



Court: Schools may be due hog giant's environmental payments
Court Watch | 2018/09/02 13:11

North Carolina judges are setting up a court battle to decide whether the world's largest pork producer will keep paying for environmental projects as it promised 18 years ago or if the millions should go to public schools instead.

A divided state Court of Appeals resurrected a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Smithfield Foods's 2000 agreement to pay up to $2 million a year for 25 years. The state attorney general has largely decided who got the money.

The court determined a trial should decide if the payments are actually penalties for bad behavior. The state constitution requires that schools get penalty payments.

Smithfield agreed in the same 2000 deal to phase out open-air hog waste pits within five years. The cesspools are still used on hundreds of farms raising Smithfield's hogs.


In Veterans Court, former service members fight new battle
Court Watch | 2018/08/26 10:14

Sheriff's deputies steered three handcuffed men into Veterans Court one day this summer. The backs of their red jumpsuits read "Allegheny County Jail." One prisoner had doe eyes and long hair, resembling pictures of Christ.

He wore shackles around his ankles.

When he stood before Judge John Zottola, his eyes cast down, the judge cocked his head with a "What are we going to do with you?" expression on his face.

A probation officer said the young man, an Iraq War combat veteran, had absconded -- a word that in court means fled -- while under house arrest. The judge ordered a transfer to a Bath, N.Y., treatment center for veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress and addiction.

Seeing a veteran shackled in his own country is particularly unsettling when you realize jail may be where he is most safe. But most veterans in this court are not incarcerated. They have an out, as long as they check in with the probation officer, keep their records and urine clean and show up for court. The process of getting through three phases of good behavior takes a year.

Allegheny County Veterans Treatment Court is an acknowledgement that veterans deserve special consideration when they land in the criminal justice system. They are diverted into a side stream of the larger channel. If they have post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury on top of their violations, their treatment team can work to untangle these issues.

Judge Zottola, who meets before court with the parties of each day's hearing, describes it as "a problem solving court, with positive rewards and regular sanctions."

His courtroom hums with collaborative spirit. Before he calls the room to order, people mill about, sharing information. The hearings, too, are more casual than typical court proceedings.

"We are a team and we take a team approach to assist you," Judge Zottola says as he opens his sessions. "Please take advantage of that help.



Nevada Supreme Court taking up execution case
Court Watch | 2018/08/13 10:47

The Nevada Supreme Court has stepped in to decide whether drug companies can try to stop the state from using their medications in a twice-postponed lethal injection of a condemned inmate who wants to die.

A state court judge in Las Vegas cancelled hearings Thursday following an order late Wednesday from six of the high court's seven justices.

Supreme Court intervention had been sought by the state attorney general's office regarding the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier.

The judge had planned to hear drugmaker Sandoz's request to join a bid by Alvogen and Hikma Pharmaceuticals to prevent Nevada from using their products in a three-drug combination never before tried in any state.

A Nevada death-row inmate whose execution has been postponed twice says the legal fight over his fate is taking a tortuous toll on him and his family and he wants his sentence carried out.

Scott Raymond Dozier told The Associated Press that the state should, in his words, "just get it done, just do it effectively and stop fighting about it."

Dozier's comments in a brief prison telephone call on Wednesday came a day before a third drug company is due to ask a state court judge in Las Vegas to let it join with two other firms suing to block the use of their products in executions.

The companies say they publicly declared they didn't want their products used in executions and allege that Nevada improperly obtained their drugs.


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