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Court asked to dismiss cases tied to ex-drug lab chemist
Headline Legal News | 2017/09/20 10:09
A petition is asking the highest court in Massachusetts to dismiss every case connected to a former state chemist who authorities say was high almost every day she went to work at a state drug lab for eight years.

The state's public defender agency is a party to the petition filed Wednesday before the Supreme Judicial Court by two women whose drug possession convictions are tied to evidence handled by chemist Sonja Farak.

Farak pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the state crime lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She worked at the lab between 2005 and 2013.

The women say the state failed to notify them of Farak's misconduct even after her conviction, depriving them of the opportunity to challenge their convictions.



Access to license-plate data may be possible, court rules
Court News | 2017/09/01 08:57
It would violate people's privacy to publicly release raw data collected by automated license plate readers that police use to determine whether vehicles are linked to crime, but there may be ways to make the information anonymous that would require it to be disclosed, the California Supreme Court said Thursday.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation that sought a week's worth of license plate data — millions of records — from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Los Angeles Police Department to "understand and educate the public on the risks to privacy posed" by license plate readers in the area.

A unanimous Supreme Court ordered a lower court to consider methods to make the data anonymous and determine whether any of those efforts would require its release.

Jennifer Lehman, assistant county counsel for Los Angeles County, said in a statement that the county was "concerned that even making the information anonymous could pose unique and unintended problems."

She said it would raise those concerns in detail when the case is heard again by the lower court.

A message to the Los Angeles city attorney was not immediately returned.

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are using license plate readers attached to patrol cars and objects such as traffic signals. The devices indiscriminately capture images of license plates that come into view. The information is passed through databases to instantly check whether the car or driver has been linked to crime.

Officials say the scans are useful in tracking stolen vehicles, missing children and people wanted by police. For instance, authorities chasing a suspect in a fatal shooting at Delta State University in Mississippi in 2015 used an automatic license plate reader to track the man as he traveled across state lines.

Privacy advocates say the systems overwhelmingly capture innocent drivers, recording information about their locations that could be used to track their habits and whereabouts.


Indiana high court hearing appeal in children's fire deaths
Legal Business | 2017/09/01 08:56
The Indiana Supreme Court will hear arguments in the appeal of a man sentenced to death for setting a fire that killed his fiancee's two children.

A Clark County jury convicted 41-year-old Jeffrey Weisheit on murder and arson charges in 2013 for the 2010 deaths of 5-year-old Caleb Lynch and 8-year-old Alyssa Lynch at the family's home near Evansville.

The Supreme Court is to take up his appeal on Sept. 7. Weisheit is arguing he wasn't adequately represented by his defense attorneys during his trial.

Weisheit admitted during the trial that he stuffed a dish towel into Caleb's mouth and used duct tape to pin back the boy's arms before leaving the children alone about 1 a.m. while their mother was at work, but he denied setting the fire.



Court: Cherokee Freedmen have right to tribal citizenship
Court News | 2017/08/31 08:57
Descendants of black slaves, known as freedmen, who were once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation have a right to tribal citizenship under a ruling handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled Wednesday in a long-standing dispute between the Cherokee Freedmen and the second largest tribe in the United States.

Freedmen have long argued that the Treaty of 1866, signed between the U.S. government and the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based Cherokees, gave them and their descendants "all the rights of native Cherokees." There are around 3,000 freedmen descendants today.

But Cherokee leaders have argued the tribe has the fundamental right to determine its citizens, and in 2007 more than three-fourths of Cherokee voters approved an amendment to remove the Freedmen from tribal rolls.


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