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Despite court ruling, China gay rights movement makes gains
Videos for Legal Insight | 2016/04/13 22:58
For years, Chen Tiantian could only read about the gay rights movement in faraway places. She knew that there were activists in Beijing and a vibrant community in Shanghai, and that in San Francisco, a distant mecca, gay pride parades took up entire streets.
 
But on Wednesday, the 20-year-old English major sat on the steps of a courthouse and spoke fervently about how the struggle for equality had arrived in her central Chinese hometown ? and how she planned to take part.

"It's hard to believe, but we're right in the middle of this," said Chen, who is lesbian and came with several friends to support a local couple who had challenged the city's civil affairs bureau after they were denied a marriage certificate. "It's like I'm finally entering the struggle myself."

Though it was dismissed by the court in Changsha, China's first legal challenge to a law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples has galvanized many of the hundreds of young Chinese gay rights supporters who gathered at the courthouse, some of them waving small rainbow flags. The hearing's sizable public turnout and coverage by usually conservative Chinese media appeared to reflect early signs of shifting social attitudes in China on the topic of sexual orientation.

The lawsuit that was dismissed was brought by 26-year-old Sun Wenlin against the civil affairs bureau for refusing to issue him and his partner, Hu Mingliang, a marriage registration certificate. The judge's ruling against the couple came down after a three-hour hearing ? but that didn't dampen the mood of many of the hundreds of young Chinese who gathered outside the courthouse hoping for a chance to "witness history," in the words of one supporter.



Supreme Court will hear Samsung-Apple patent dispute
Videos for Legal Insight | 2016/03/21 00:48
The Supreme Court has agreed to referee a pricy patent dispute between Samsung and Apple.
 
The justices said Monday they will review a $399 million judgment against South Korea-based Samsung for illegally copying patented aspects of the look of Apple's iPhone.
   
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, and Samsung are the top two manufacturers of increasingly ubiquitous smartphones.

The two companies have been embroiled in patent fights for years.

The justices will decide whether a court can order Samsung to pay Apple every penny it made from the phones at issue, even though the disputed features are a tiny part of the product.

The federal appeals court in Washington that hears patent cases ruled for Apple.

None of the earlier-generation Galaxy and other Samsung phones involved in the lawsuit remains on the market, Samsung said.

The case involved common smartphone features for which Apple holds patents: the flat screen, the rectangular shape with rounded corners, a rim and a screen of icons.

The case, Samsung v. Apple, 15-777, will be argued in the court's new term that begins in October.



Teen changes plea to guilty in deaths of mother, stepfather
Videos for Legal Insight | 2016/03/14 00:49
A northern Wisconsin woman changed her plea to guilty Friday in the slaying of her mother and stepfather in a deal that has prosecutors recommending a 40-year prison sentence.

Ashlee Martinson, who was 17 at the time of the March 2015 killings, faces two counts of second-degree homicide, USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported. She had earlier pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the killings at the family's home near Three Lakes.

According to court records filed Friday, Martinson told police she shot her stepfather, 37-year-old Thomas Ayers, in the neck and head. She then went to her mother, 40-year-old Jennifer Ayers, for solace, but her mother first tried to aid her husband, then armed herself with a knife to confront Martinson.

Martinson wrestled the knife from her mother and stabbed her more than 30 times. She then went downstairs and turned the family TV to show cartoons to her three sisters, ages 2 to 9. After showering, Martinson confined the younger girls in a room before fleeing to Indiana with her boyfriend, documents show.

Court documents say the Ayerses were killed the same day they warned Martinson's 22-year-old boyfriend to stay away from her because she was a minor.

Martinson told authorities she had been mentally and verbally abused by her stepfather and had seen him physically abuse her mother and siblings, according to court records.

The assessment also said Martinson had suffered from depression on and off since age 8, gaining in intensity at age 15. Martinson's sentencing is set for June 17.



2 charged in pastor's wife killing say little in court
Videos for Legal Insight | 2015/12/02 23:18
Two young men charged in the shooting death of an Indianapolis pastor's pregnant wife gave brief answers to a judge's questions Tuesday during their first court appearance since their arrest.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Grant Hawkins entered not guilty pleas for 18-year-old Larry Taylor Jr. and 21-year-old Jalen Watson and appointed attorneys for the Indianapolis men during their initial hearing on murder, burglary, theft and several other charges. The judge also set a Jan. 8 pretrial conference for both men.

Taylor, who authorities allege fatally shot 28-year-old Amanda Blackburn earlier this month, appeared distracted, swiveling back and forth in his chair. Hawkins told Taylor more than once that he needed to respond clearly and audibly to each of his questions about whether he understood the charges, rather than only "yeah." Watson, however, said "yes" and "yes sir," throughout.

Prosecutors said Taylor and Watson entered through the unlocked front door of Blackburn's home shortly after her husband, Pastor Davey Blackburn, left for the gym about 6 a.m. Nov. 10. A probable cause affidavit says Taylor shot Amanda Blackburn three times, including once in the back of the head.

Watson faces a murder charge because Blackburn was killed during a home burglary and prosecutors allege that he was involved in it.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said Monday it was not clear whether Blackburn, who was 13 weeks pregnant, had been sexually assaulted; she was found partially nude. Prosecutors have filed a request with the court that seeks to enhance the murder charge Taylor faces, citing that she was pregnant at the time of her killing.

Under the state's request, an additional six to 20 years could be added to Taylor's sentence if he is convicted or pleads guilty to the murder charge, and the jury or judge finds that prosecutors have proven that Taylor caused the termination of her pregnancy.



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