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A state appeals court Wednesday overturned the conviction of a South Texas woman imprisoned for capital murder in the 2006 salt poisoning death of her 4-year-old foster son.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a new trial for Hannah Overton of Corpus Christi. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the death of Andrew Burd.

Overton has argued she had ineffective counsel during her 2007 trial, and the state's highest appeals court agreed.

The court in its ruling noted Overton's defense attorneys opted not to present the testimony of an expert medical witness. The court said it "was not a reasonable decision" to withhold testimony by the physician that could have benefited Overton.

She also argued that prosecutors had withheld evidence in her trial, but the appeals court did not address that claim.

Overton contended Andrew had emotional and medical problems, including an eating disorder in which he'd consume odd food items. The boy had elevated sodium levels when he died at a Corpus Christi hospital. Tests also showed he had bleeding on the brain and swelling. A doctor who examined the child testified at Overton's trial that he could have survived if taken to the hospital earlier.


Miley Cyrus date barely makes court appearance

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2014/09/17 09:12

A massively famous celebrity meets a young homeless man in Hollywood and introduces him to an audience of millions. Then, just when it looks like the man is going to triumph, his dark past comes back to haunt him.

As in any Hollywood script, there are two possible endings: The young man can overcome his past, or he can never escape it.

For 45 minutes Tuesday, it appeared Jesse Helt was choosing an unhappy ending.

The young homeless man who accompanied Miley Cyrus to the MTV Video Music Awards arrived 45 minutes late for his arraignment Tuesday on a charge that he violated his probation in Oregon.

Polk County Judge Monte Campbell was ready to wrap up his court hearings for the day, and likely issue an arrest warrant for Helt, when Helt's lawyer announced that he received a text message: His client had arrived.

Helt, 22, gained worldwide attention last month when Cyrus let him accept her award for video of the year, to help raise awareness for youth homelessness. Reporters eager to learn the story behind the sudden celebrity discovered that Helt was wanted in his home state for a probation violation stemming from a 2010 arrest.


A Florida woman charged in the 1991 death of her 5-year-old son is scheduled to make her first appearance in a New Jersey courtroom.

Middlesex County prosecutors say Michelle Lodzinski is due to appear Tuesday afternoon in New Brunswick. She is charged with killing Timothy Wiltsey, but her attorney has said she "adamantly denies" the charges.

Lodzinski, 46, has been in custody since her arrest August 7. She's was extradited to New Jersey on Friday and is being held in the county jail on $2 million bail.

She had said her son disappeared at a carnival, but investigators said her story kept changing. His skeletal remains were found in a marshy area of Edison 11 months later.

Lodzinski went into seclusion after her son's remains were discovered, and neighbors said at the time that she didn't appear distraught. In late July, a county grand jury handed up a one-count indictment stating she "did purposely or knowingly kill" Timothy or did "purposely or knowingly inflict serious bodily injury" resulting in his death.


German court lifts injunction banning Uber

  International  -   POSTED: 2014/09/16 08:36

A court in Germany has lifted an emergency injunction that banned the ridesharing service Uber from operating anywhere in the country.

The Frankfurt state court ruled Tuesday that the urgent measures taxi drivers won against their upstart rival last month weren't warranted.

The move means Uber can continue operating, though taxi associations have indicated they plan to appeal the decision and seek a full hearing of the suit.

Taxi associations accuse Uber of allowing its drivers to skirt safety and insurance regulations that conventional cabs have to abide by.

The San Francisco-based company has battled stiff opposition to its business model in several European countries and recently hired David Plouffe, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, as its senior vice president of policy and strategy.



An Ohio-based judge has been tapped as the new chief jurist for the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court in August named Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr. to oversee the administrative responsibilities of the Cincinnati-based court.

Prior to his nomination to the 6th Circuit, Cole worked in public service and private practice: a litigator at the United States Department of Justice, a law firm partner, and a bankruptcy judge. For years, Cole, whose chambers are in Columbus, Ohio, has also taught courses on habeas and the fourteenth amendment at the Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law.

The court hears appeals from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan.

The role of chief judge typically means increased administrative responsibilities in exchange for a reduced case load.



An attorney for two associations and two licensed therapists suing to overturn New Jersey's ban on so-called gay conversion therapy said Friday he will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

On Thursday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their challenge, but it took exception to a lower court's characterization of verbal communications during the therapy sessions as "conduct," not "speech" protected by the First Amendment.

That put the 3rd Circuit judges at odds with judges in the 9th Circuit who upheld California's ban on gay conversion therapy last year.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the California case, but Demetrios Stratis, a plaintiffs' attorney in the New Jersey case, said the rulings' contrasts could prove significant.


Appeals court overturns child porn conviction

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2014/09/13 09:06

A federal appeals court overturned on Friday a Washington state man's conviction for possessing and distributing child pornography because he was found out by a military investigator.

A Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent used a high-powered software program in 2010 to search computers throughout the state of Washington for evidence of child pornography and discovered the material in Michael Dreyer's computer.

The agent passed the information on to police in Algona, Washington, which obtained a search warrant and searched Dreyer's house. The Department of Homeland Security later got a federal search warrant, and Dreyer was charged in federal court.

When the search was challenged, the government argued that the search was justified because there are military bases in the greater Seattle area, and it's a crime for military members to distribute child pornography.

A panel of the Ninth District Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the computer surveillance didn't target military bases or personnel, but extended across an entire state.


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