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Women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia appeared in a closed-door court hearing Wednesday on unknown charges after being detained in a crackdown last year, making their first appearance before a judge in a case that has sparked international outrage.

The arrests came just before Saudi Arabia began allowing women to drive, something women's rights activists had been demanding for years. The arrests showed that King Salman and his 33-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are willing to crack down on any opposition even while courting the West.

It also was sandwiched between the mass arrest of businessmen in what authorities said was a campaign against corruption, and the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, and Saudi state media did not immediately report on the hearing.


The Connecticut Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on whether gun maker Remington can be sued for making the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Justices are split on the question as the court is scheduled to release majority and dissenting opinions Thursday.

The plaintiffs include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre. They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza was designed as a military killing machine and is too dangerous for the public, but Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.

A lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2016, agreeing with Remington that federal law shields gun makers from liability when their products are used in crimes.



Massachusetts' highest court on Wednesday reinstated the late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction, which was erased after the former NFL star killed himself in prison.

The Supreme Judicial Court also scrapped the legal principle that wiped out Hernandez's conviction for future cases, calling it "outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life."

"We are pleased justice is served in this case, the antiquated practice of vacating a valid conviction is being eliminated and the victim's family can get the closure they deserve," Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said in a tweet.

Hernandez was convicted in 2015 of killing semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Two years later, the 27-year-old killed himself in his prison cell days after being acquitted of most charges in a separate double-murder case.

A judge threw out Hernandez's conviction that year, citing the legal principle that holds that a defendant convicted at trial who dies before an appeal is heard should no longer be considered guilty in the eyes of the law, thereby returning the case to its pretrial status.

Under the doctrine, rooted in centuries of English law, a conviction should not be considered final until an appeal can determine whether mistakes were made that deprived the defendant of a fair trial, legal experts say.

Prosecutors argued the legal doctrine is outdated and unfair to victims. Quinn told the court that the defendant's estate should be allowed to appeal the case, if they wish. Otherwise, the conviction should stand, he argued.

Under the new rule laid out by the court, the conviction will stand but the court record will note the conviction was neither affirmed nor reversed because the defendant died while the appeal was pending.



A lawyer for Jussie Smollett said Tuesday that she would welcome cameras in the courtroom during the “Empire” actor’s trial on charges accusing him of lying to the police, saying there has been a lot of leaked misinformation and cameras would allow the public to “see the evidence and the lack thereof.”

Attorney Tina Glandian made the comments during a brief hearing Tuesday in Cook County criminal court during which both sides agreed that cameras would be allowed at the next hearing in the case, which is scheduled for Thursday. During that hearing, the case will be assigned to a trial judge who will then likely ask Smollett to enter a plea.

During the hearing, which was held after local news organizations requested that cameras be allowed in the courtroom, Judge LeRoy Martin, Jr. said that the new judge will decide whether or not to allow cameras in the courtroom during subsequent hearings and the trial.

After the hearing, Glandian told reporters that evidence has been presented against Smollett that is “demonstrably false.”

“We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett and we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out,” she said.

Smollett was charged last month with one count of misconduct —the felony in Illinois that people are charged with when accused of lying to police — because he allegedly lied to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two masked men in downtown Chicago on Jan. 29. Last week, a grand jury indicted him on 16 counts of the same crime.

Prosecutors allege that Smollett, who is black and gay, enlisted the help of two other black men and staged the Jan. 29 attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career. Those men have admitted to police that they took part in the staged attack for Smollett, who paid them $3,500.

Smollett’s attorneys have called 16 counts “prosecutorial overkill.” The actor, who is free on bond, maintains his innocence.


North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper added a sixth Democrat to the seven-member state Supreme Court on Monday, elevating a current Court of Appeals judge to a vacancy created when Cooper recently named Cheri Beasley the chief justice.

Cooper, also a Democrat, announced he's appointing Judge Mark Davis as an associate justice. Davis will begin serving next month at least through 2020, and says he will campaign for a full term. Davis fills Beasley's old seat, which she held for over six years until she succeeded Chief Justice Mark Martin on March 1.

Davis will "continue to serve the people of North Carolina with great distinction, and I appreciate his willingness to take on this crucial role," Cooper said while presenting Davis at an Executive Mansion news conference.

Martin's surprise resignation to become dean of the Regent University law school in Virginia set in motion some chair shuffling within North Carolina's two appeals courts, which Cooper is empowered by state law to orchestrate. Cooper now also gets to pick Davis' successor on the 15-member Court of Appeals, which usually meets in three-judge panels to hear cases.

Davis' appointment emphasizes the recent dramatic change in the partisan composition of the Supreme Court, which has ruled this decade in politically charged decisions involving redistricting and Republican laws that eroded Cooper's powers. In some states, judicial races are nonpartisan. North Carolina candidates for nearly all judicial offices now run in partisan races, identified by political party.

Registered Republicans held a majority on North Carolina's high court for nearly 20 years before Democrats took a 4-3 seat advantage with the November 2016 election. Democrats picked up another seat last November, leaving Martin and Associate Justice Paul Newby as the only Republicans. Now Davis' appointment gives Democrats a 6-1 seat advantage.

While Cooper had no obligation to keep two Republicans on the court, GOP Senate leader Phil Berger still criticized the governor for picking another Democrat. Berger said in a release Cooper's that previous calls for a nonpartisan judiciary and balanced state government were just "empty rhetoric. Gov. Cooper is the hyper-partisan he has long condemned." Cooper's office didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.


A federal court judge will hear motions in a lawsuit over a North Carolina law that mandates the revocation of drivers' licenses for unpaid traffic tickets even if the driver can't afford to pay.

Advocacy groups sued in May, seeking to declare the law unconstitutional. A hearing will be held Wednesday in Winston-Salem on motions for a preliminary injunction and class certification.

The judge also will consider a motion by the defendant, the commissioner of the Division of Motor Vehicles, for a judgment in his favor.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued on behalf of indigent residents facing license revocation or whose licenses have been revoked.

They're asking that a judge declare the law unconstitutional, saying it violates due process rights under the 14th Amendment.



Attorneys for Ohio Republican officials will call witnesses this week to defend the state's congressional map.

A federal trial enters its second week Monday in a lawsuit by voter rights groups that say the current seats resulted from "an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander." Their witnesses have included Democratic activists and voters who have expressed frustration and confusion with districts that have stayed at 12 Republicans, four Democrats, since they were drawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

Attorneys for the Republican officials being sued say the map resulted from bipartisan compromise, with each party losing one seat after population shifts in the 2010 U.S. Census caused Ohio to lose two congressional seats.

Among potential GOP witnesses is former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur) of West Chester, Ohio.

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