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The murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez is expected to take six to 10 weeks, prosecutors said Monday at what is likely to be the former NFL star's final hearing before trial begins next month.

Dressed in a dark blazer, Hernandez joined his defense team in Bristol County Superior Court for a hearing that focused on issues related to seating the men and women who will hear his case. Jury selection is scheduled to start Jan. 9.

Family members of Odin Lloyd, who Hernandez is charged with killing in June 2013, also were in attendance. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to killing Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.

Prosecutors said they expect jury selection to take about 10 days and call about 45 witnesses at trial.

Hernandez's attorney, Michael Fee, said he was concerned about potential jurors already being familiar with Hernandez's other alleged crimes, including the killings of two men outside a Boston nightclub and unlawful possession of firearms, which the judge has ruled cannot be admitted as evidence in the Lloyd case.

Judge E. Susan Garsh on Monday reviewed proposed questions for the jury questionnaire. Some 70 questions, which have not been made public, have been submitted by prosecutors and defense lawyers.



An Egyptian court official says a judge has barred photographers from taking courtroom pictures of 26 men on trial in connection to their suspected homosexuality, after their families protested.

The case has captured public attention. Scenes of half-naked men covering their faces behind towels escorted by policemen out of a bathhouse were filmed and later aired in a late night TV program, causing an uproar among activists.

The trial opened Sunday to a raucous courtroom as families quarreled with journalists who attempted to photograph their relatives in the dock. The official said the panel of judges ordered the photographers out of the courtroom. The panel also summoned the TV program presenter to testify in the next session, scheduled Jan. 4.

He spoke anonymously because he wasn't authorized to brief reporters.


The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday refused to block gay marriages in Florida, the latest of about three dozen states allowing same-sex weddings.
 
In a one-paragraph order, the court decided not to step into the Florida case. A federal judge previously declared Florida's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional and said same-sex marriage licenses could start being issued in the state after Jan. 5 unless the Supreme Court intervened.

"This is a thrilling day for all Florida families," Daniel Tilley, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties of Florida, said in a statement. "As we explained to the court, every day that the ban remains in place, couples are suffering real harms. We are grateful that the court recognized that, and that as a result, those days are finally coming to an end."

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has fought to uphold the state's ban, said in a statement that her goal was "to have uniformity" throughout the state while various legal challenges were pursued in both state and federal courts.

"Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has now spoken, and the stay will end on Jan. 5," Bondi said.

In August, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared the state's ban unconstitutional, but he put his ruling on hold until after Jan. 5 pending appeals.

Like many other judges and appellate courts, Hinkle ruled the ban approved by voters in 2008 violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.



A Delaware judge is set to hear arguments in a lawsuit challenging the planned $25 billion merger of cigarette makers Reynolds American Inc. and Lorillard Inc.
 
The judge was to hear arguments Friday on a motion by plaintiffs who are seeking a preliminary injunction and a motion to expedite the case.

The two companies last week announced that they would hold special shareholder meetings Jan. 28 in North Carolina, where both companies are headquartered, to vote on the merger.

The combination of the two companies would create a formidable competitor for Virginia-based market leader Altria Group, owner of Philip Morris USA.

Reynolds sells Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit cigarettes. Lorillard's brands include Newport, Maverick and Kent.

Federal regulators are conducting an antitrust review of the deal.



Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev returned to court Thursday for the first time since he was arraigned in July 2013, and he received a shout of encouragement from the mother-in-law of a man who was shot and killed while being questioned by law enforcement after the bombings.

Security was tight at the federal courthouse in Boston for the final pretrial conference before Tsarnaev's trial begins next month. The judge made no rulings, saying he would rule in writing on pending motions, including the defense's latest push to move the trial.

The mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev shouted at Tsarnaev in Russian in the courtroom. Elena Teyer says she told him: "We prayed for you. Be strong, my son. We know you are innocent."

Later, in English, she yelled to the law enforcement officers escorting her out of the room: "Stop killing innocent people. Stop killing innocent boys."

Tsarnaev never flinched or acknowledged the shouts.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the April 2013 marathon. Tsarnaev, who has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted.



Germany's highest court has struck down breaks on inheritance tax that benefit companies and ordered the government to come up with new rules.

The Federal Constitutional Court said Wednesday that rules meant mainly to exempt family-run companies from most, even all, of the inheritance tax due when firms pass on to heirs can unfairly benefit big companies.

It said the government is entitled to allow small and medium-sized companies tax breaks "to secure their existence and preserve jobs" but told it to come up with new rules by June 2016. In the meantime, the current rules will apply.

The court said 4.3 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in inheritance tax was paid in 2012 while exemptions to the tune of nearly 40 billion euros ($50 billion) were granted.



A German court says a 93-year-old man charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving as an SS guard at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp will go on trial early next year.

The Lueneburg state court said Tuesday its review of the prosecution's case against Oskar Groening determined there was enough evidence to proceed with the trial. The starting date has not been announced.

Groening has openly talked in interviews about his time as a guard and says he witnessed atrocities but didn't commit any crimes himself.

Prosecutors say Groening helped the Nazi regime benefit economically and supported systematic killings in his job by dealing with the belongings stolen from camp victims.

Nearly 50 Holocaust survivors or victims' families have joined the case as co-plaintiffs.


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