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A Polish court on Monday ordered a record high compensation of nearly 13 million zlotys ($3.4 million) to a man who had spent 18 years in prison for a rape and murder of a teenager he didn't commit.

Tomasz Komenda's case has shocked Poland, and the right-wing government highlighted it as an example of why it says the justice system needs the deep changes it has been implementing.

Komenda, now in his mid-40s was arrested in 2000 over a 1997 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl at a New Year's village disco party. He was initially handed a 15-year prison term, which was later increased to 25 years, despite him protesting his innocence.

As a result of family efforts, the prosecutors reviewed the case and came to the conclusion that he couldn't have committed the crime. Komenda was cleared after DNA tests, among other factors, showed that he wasn't involved.

Komenda was acquitted of all charges and released in 2018, having wrongfully served 18 years of his term. He had been seeking 19 million zlotys ($5 million) in damages and in compensation.

A court in Opole ruled Monday that he should receive most of that amount — the highest ever compensation awarded in Poland. The verdict is subject to appeal.

Two other men have been convicted and handed 25-year prison terms in the 1997 case. Komenda's story was told in 2020 Polish movie “25 Years of Innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda.”


Three families demanding that the state pay tuition for religious schools are taking their appeal to a U.S. Supreme Court that looks much different than when the lawsuit was filed more than two years ago.

The conservative shift of the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling in a Montana case make attorneys for the Maine families more optimistic that they'll prevail in changing the state's stance, which dates to 1980. The Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the appeal, filed Thursday.

“The court should grant this case and resolve this issue once and for all,” said the families' attorney, Michael Bindas, from the Institute for Justice.

The Maine Department of Education currently allows families who reside in towns without their own public schools to receive tuition to attend a public or private school of their choice. But religious schools are excluded.

There have been several lawsuits over the years, but the courts always have sided with the state, which contends using taxpayer dollars to fund religious education violates the separation of church and state.

The latest lawsuit targeting Maine's tuition program was filed in August 2018 after the Supreme Court held that a Missouri program was wrong in denying a grant to a religious school for playground resurfacing.



A Texas appeals court has delayed a second execution this year to review claims that an inmate is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday granted a request by attorneys for Edward Lee Busby to stay his execution, which had been scheduled for Feb. 10.

Busby’s attorneys have argued he has shown “significant limitations in intellectual functioning.”

The U.S, Supreme Court in 2002 barred the execution of intellectually disabled people, but it has given states some discretion to decide how to determine such disabilities.

Busby’s execution would have been the first in the state this year after the appeals court last month delayed the Jan. 21 lethal injection of Blaine Milam to review his intellectual disability claims.

Busby, 48, was condemned for the 2004 suffocation of a retired 77-year-old college professor abducted in Fort Worth and whose body was later recovered in Oklahoma.

Texas’ first execution of 2021 is now set for March 4, with Ramiro Ibarra set to receive a lethal injection for the 1987 sexual assault and strangulation of a 16-year-old girl in Waco.



The Supreme Court is making it harder for a multimillion-dollar lawsuit involving centuries-old religious artworks obtained by the Nazis from Jewish art dealers to continue in U.S. courts.

The court ruled unanimously Wednesday in a case involving the 1935 sale of a collection of medieval Christian artwork called the Guelph Treasure. The heirs of the art dealers contended the sale of the works, now said to be worth at least $250 million, was done under pressure. Germany disagreed and argued that the case did not belong in the American legal system.

The justices said the heirs had not at this point shown that federal law allowed them to bring their case in U.S. courts. The court sent the case back for additional arguments.

Because of that ruling, the Supreme Court also sent a similar case involving a group of Hungarian Holocaust survivors back to a lower court. They were seeking to be compensated for property taken from them and their families when they were forced to board trains to concentration camps.




A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to more than 2 1/2 years in prison on charges that he violated the terms of his probation while he was recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning.

Navalny, who is the most prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, had earlier denounced the proceedings as a vain attempt by the Kremlin to scare millions of Russians into submission.

The prison sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he has rejected as fabricated.

The 44-year-old Navalny was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning from his five-month convalescence in Germany from the attack, which he has blamed on the Kremlin. Russian authorities deny any involvement. Despite tests by several European labs, Russian authorities said they have no proof he was poisoned.

As the order was read, Navalny pointed to his wife Yulia in the courtroom and traced the outline of a heart on the glass cage where he was being held.

Earlier, Navalny attributed his arrest to Putin’s “fear and hatred," saying the Russian leader will go down in history as a “poisoner.” “I have deeply offended him simply by surviving the assassination attempt that he ordered,” he said. “The aim of that hearing is to scare a great number of people,” Navalny said. “You can't jail the entire country."

Russia’s penitentiary service alleges that Navalny violated the probation conditions of his suspended sentence from a 2014 money laundering conviction that he has rejected as politically motivated. It asked the Simonovsky District Court to turn his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into one that he must serve in prison, although he has spent some of that sentence under house arrest.

Navalny emphasized that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that his 2014 conviction was unlawful and Russia paid him compensation in line with the ruling.

Navalny and his lawyers have argued that while he was recovering in Germany from the poisoning, he couldn't register with Russian authorities in person as required by his probation. Navalny also insisted that his due process rights were crudely violated during his arrest and described his jailing as a travesty of justice.



Moscow braced for more protests seeking the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who faces a court hearing Tuesday after two weekends of nationwide rallies and thousands of arrests in the largest outpouring of discontent in Russia in years.

Tens of thousands filled the streets across the vast country Sunday, chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin and demanding freedom for Navalny, who was jailed last month and faces years in prison. Over 5,400 protesters were detained by authorities, according to a human rights group.

One of those taken into custody for several hours was Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who was ordered Monday to pay a fine of about $265 for participating in an unauthorized rally.

While state-run media dismissed the demonstrations as small and claimed that they showed the failure of the opposition, Navalny’s team said the turnout demonstrated “overwhelming nationwide support” for the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. His allies called for protesters to come to the Moscow courthouse on Tuesday.

“Without your help, we won’t be able to resist the lawlessness of the authorities,” his politician’s team said in a social media post.

Mass protests engulfed dozens of Russian cities for the second weekend in a row despite efforts by authorities to stifle the unrest triggered by the jailing of 44-year-old Navalny.

He was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities reject the accusation. He faces a prison term for alleged probation violations from a 2014 money-laundering conviction that is widely seen as politically motivated.

Last month, Russia’s prison service filed a motion to replace his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the conviction with one he must serve. The Prosecutor General’s office backed the motion Monday, alleging Navalny engaged in “unlawful conduct” during the probation period.



The pending Supreme Court case on the fate of the Affordable Care Act could give the Biden administration its first opportunity to chart a new course in front of the justices.

The health care case, argued a week after the election in November, is one of several matters, along with immigration and a separate case on Medicaid work requirements, where the new administration could take a different position from the Trump administration at the high court.

While a shift would be in line with President Joe Biden’s political preferences, it could prompt consternation at the court. Justices and former officials in Democratic and Republican administrations routinely caution that new administrations should generally be reluctant to change positions before the court.

Justice Elena Kagan, who as solicitor general was the top Supreme Court lawyer for President Barack Obama before he appointed her to the court, said in a 2018 forum that the bar should be high.

“I think changing positions is a really big deal that people should hesitate a long time over, which is not to say that it never happens,” Kagan said at the time. Indeed, Trump’s Justice Department made a switch four times in the first full high court term of the administration.

Still, the health care case is a good candidate for when a rare change of position may be warranted, said Paul Clement, who was solicitor general under President George W. Bush.

The Justice Department defends federal laws at the Supreme Court “whenever reasonable arguments can be made,” Clement said at an online Georgetown University forum.

The Trump administration called on the justices to strike down the entire Obama-era law under which some 23 million people get health insurance and millions more with preexisting health conditions are protected from discrimination.

Biden was vice president when the law was enacted, famously calling it a “big (expletive) deal” the day Obama signed it into law in 2010.

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