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Supreme Court asked to review 'Making a Murderer' confession
Headline Legal News | 2018/02/16 22:55
Lawyers for a Wisconsin inmate featured in the "Making a Murderer" series on Netflix asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to review a federal appeals court decision that held his confession was voluntary.

Brendan Dassey's legal team told the high court in their petition that the case raises crucial issues that extend far beyond Dassey's case alone and that long have divided state and federal courts.

Dassey's lawyers claim investigators took advantage of his youth and intellectual and social disabilities to coerce him into falsely confessing that he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005 in the Avery family's junk yard in Manitowoc County. Dassey was 16 at the time. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2007.

"Too many courts around the country, for many years, have been misapplying or even ignoring the Supreme Court's instructions that confessions from mentally impaired kids like Brendan Dassey must be examined with the greatest care — and that interrogation tactics which may not be coercive when applied to an adult can overwhelm children and the mentally impaired," his attorney, Steven Drizin, said in a statement.

A federal court in Wisconsin overturned Dassey's conviction in 2016, and a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision last June. While the full 7th Circuit voted 4-3 to reverse the panel's decision to grant him a new trial, one dissenting judge called the case "a profound miscarriage of justice."

The legal odds remain high against Dassey. The U.S. Supreme Court grants only a tiny fraction of the petitions for review that it receives.


Court: Idaho nuclear waste documents won't be made public
Headline Legal News | 2018/02/07 19:14
U.S. officials don't have to provide details about proposed shipments of extremely radioactive spent commercial nuclear fuel to the country's top government nuclear research laboratory in Idaho, a federal court has ruled.

The ruling was a major setback to a lawsuit filed by former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, who had a long history of legal battles with the Energy Department over nuclear waste entering the state and a firm belief that residents had a right to know the agency's plans.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Tuesday ruled the federal agency acted properly in withholding information sought by Andrus in a Freedom of Information Act request he filed in January 2015.

That decision means the documents will not be released to the public anytime soon, but they ultimately could be as another part of Andrus' argument has yet to play out and the case remains open.

Andrus, a Democrat who died in August at age 85, filed the lawsuit in September 2015 after receiving heavily blacked-out documents from the federal agency about the spent commercial nuclear fuel shipments. His daughter, Tracy Andrus, has been substituted with the court's approval as the plaintiff in the case.

The former governor's longtime aide, Marc Johnson, said he was disappointed with Tuesday's ruling in favor of the Department of Energy, "particularly after waiting so long to see what DOE really has in mind for further waste in Idaho."

The lawsuit seeks information about several hundred pounds of proposed research shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel the federal agency wants to send to the Idaho National Laboratory, the nation's top federal nuclear research lab.

The shipments required a waiver to a nuclear waste agreement the Energy Department and Idaho signed in 1995 limiting nuclear waste shipments to Idaho. The agreement followed federal court victories by then Gov. Andrus at a time when he feared the state was becoming a repository for the nation's nuclear waste.

Andrus, before his death from complications from cancer, contended that signing such a waiver would open the state up to receiving tons of nuclear waste from around the nation, and is why he sought information about the Energy Department's plans.


Court error unmasks person of interest in Las Vegas massacre
Headline Legal News | 2018/01/31 09:43
A court error publicly revealed the name of a man identified as a person of interest in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish acknowledged that a member of her court staff failed to black out the man’s name on one of 276 pages of documents released to news organizations including The Associated Press and Las Vegas Review-Journal.

After the error was recognized, lawyers for the news organizations were told to return the documents. The attorney representing AP and other media did so, but the other lawyer had already transmitted the documents and the Review-Journal published Douglas Haig’s name online.

Cadish later ordered the document not be published without redactions, but she acknowledged she couldn’t order the newspaper to retract the name.


Analysis: Outside groups may factor in Arkansas court race
Headline Legal News | 2018/01/29 09:49
Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson lost her bid to run the state's highest court two years ago after coming under fire from conservative groups that spent big on mailers and TV ads targeting her. Two years earlier, David Sterling was defeated in the race for the Republican attorney general nomination despite outside groups going after his rival in that race.

Now, the two are about to face off in what could wind up being another costly and heated fight for a state high court seat that could overshadow other races on the ballot this year. It could also turn into a proxy fight over the state's resumption of executions and the court's role in scaling back what had been an unprecedented plan to put eight men to death over an 11-day period.

Goodson quietly launched her campaign last week, with an adviser confirming that she planned to seek another term on the state's high court in the May judicial election. The same day, Sterling said he planned to challenge the incumbent jurist.

Neither candidate has laid out campaign arguments, but the past two election cycles offer some guide of what to expect. Goodson launched her bid for the chief justice seat ago vowing to represent "conservative values" on the court.

"The Supreme Court is supposed to represent your common sense, conservative values, to uphold the rule of law and to look out for your rights," Goodson said in a campaign video she posted in the fall of 2015.

A year earlier, Sterling was touting his conservative credentials in his campaign for attorney general and promised to use the office to protect Arkansans from "an overreaching federal government." Sterling lost in the runoff for the Republican nomination against Leslie Rutledge, who is now seeking re-election as the state's top attorney.



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