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The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a motion from attorneys seeking to halt the execution of a man scheduled to die next week but did not explain its decision.

Attorneys for Marcellus Williams had asked the state Supreme Court and Gov. Eric Greitens to stop the punishment, citing DNA evidence that they say exonerates him. Williams, 48, is scheduled to die by injection Aug. 22 for fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle in 1998 during a robbery at her University City home.

In a filing to the Missouri Supreme Court and a clemency request to the Republican governor, Williams' attorneys said testing conducted in December using techniques that were not available at the time of the killing shows DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man, but not Williams.

"That means in our mind the actual killer is not him," one of Williams' lawyers, Kent Gipson, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday ahead of the court's decision. "It certainly would give most reasonable people pause to say, 'Should you be executing somebody when you've got reasonable evidence suggesting another man did it?'"

After the ruling, Gipson told St. Louis Public Radio that he was surprised by the quick decision and planned to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Certainly something involving a claim of innocence that is this substantial, you would think they would at least write an opinion or at least a short opinion giving the reasons why they denied it," Gipson said, "because that makes it more difficult to take it up to a higher court because they don't know exactly on what basis the ruling was made."

Loree Anne Paradise, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley, said the office remains confident that Williams is guilty based on other evidence in the case. Greitens' spokesman, Parker Briden, declined comment, saying only that the claim will need further review.


A specialized court has been established in Pinal County to give defendants with mental problems an alternative path and keep them out of the criminal justice system.

Presiding Judge Stephen McCarville signed an administrative order last month calling for the establishment of Mental Health Treatment Court. It’s a therapeutic, post-sentence court for defendants placed on supervised probation.

People screened with a mental illness are referred to the court by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office or the county’s probation department. Then the court’s staff reviews the defendant’s case to determine whether the person’s situation is appropriate for the program, the Casa Grande Dispatch reported.

The offender undergoes outpatient treatment at a mental health facility while checking in with the court on a weekly basis. If defendants don’t follow the terms of the treatment, then they’re subject to having their probation revoked.

The goal is to keep people with mental disabilities out of the criminal justice system, Pinal County Superior Court Administrator Todd Zweig said. The number of probationers with mental health conditions has been increasing in the county, he added, prompting the need for this type of service.



A legal battle over secret letters revealing what Queen Elizabeth II knew of her Australian representative's stunning plan to dismiss Australia's government in 1975 opened in federal court Monday, in a case that could finally solve a mystery behind the country's most dramatic political crisis.

Historian Jenny Hocking is asking the Federal Court to force the National Archives of Australia to release the letters between the British monarch, who is also Australia's constitutional head of state, and her former Australian representative, Governor-General Sir John Kerr. The Archives have classified the letters as "personal," meaning they might never be made public.

The letters would reveal what, if anything, the queen knew about Kerr's plan to dismiss Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's government in 1975 to resolve a deadlock in Parliament. It is the only time in Australian history that a democratically elected federal government was dismissed on the British monarch's authority. The dismissal stunned Australians and bolstered calls for the country to sever its colonial ties to Britain and become a republic.

Whitlam's own son, lawyer Antony Whitlam, is arguing the case on behalf of Hocking, and took on the case free of charge.

Hocking, a Whitlam biographer, argues that Australians have a right to know the details of their history, and that the letters written in the months leading up to the unprecedented dismissal are key to unraveling the truth.


A condemned child killer was scheduled to die on Wednesday in the state's first execution in more than three years after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his requests for more time to pursue legal challenges.

Ronald Phillips was transported to the death house at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville on Tuesday morning, about 24 hours before his execution was planned. He was convicted of the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron.

Justices denied the 43-year-old Phillips a stay on three requests, with a pair of justices dissenting on a request by Phillips that was joined by two other death row inmates with upcoming execution dates. The inmates had asked the court for a delay while they continue challenging Ohio's new lethal-injection method.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented, arguing the inmates had demonstrated a likelihood of success at trial. Sotomayor objected to the court's "failure to step in when significant issues of life and death are present."

The death penalty has been on hold in Ohio since January 2014, when a condemned inmate repeatedly gasped and snorted during a 26-minute procedure with a never-before-tried drug combination. Republican Gov. John Kasich halted upcoming executions after that, and delays have continued because the state had trouble finding new supplies of drugs and death row inmates sued on the grounds the state's proposed new three-drug execution method represented "cruel and unusual punishment."

Phillips' arguments were backed up by 15 pharmacology professors, who stepped in Monday to argue that a sedative used in the process, midazolam, is incapable of inducing unconsciousness or preventing serious pain.

A federal court last month upheld the use of midazolam, which has been problematic in several executions, including Ohio's in 2014 and others in Arkansas and Arizona.


An Ohio sheriff's deputy has pleaded not guilty to charges for allegedly raping a 26-year-old woman inside his county-issued cruiser.

Summit County deputy Antonio Williamson entered pleas Friday during an arraignment in the county court in Akron. He was indicted Thursday on rape, kidnapping, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition charges.

His attorney declined to comment after the hearing. A judge set a $100,000 bond.

The 46-year-old Williamson supervised the sheriff's office crime scene unit. He surrendered to authorities Thursday.

Prosecutors say the sexual assault occurred outside an Akron gentlemen's club in March. A county prosecutor's spokesman has said Williamson was in uniform and was leaving an off-duty security job prior to the assault. The spokesman says Williamson didn't know the woman previously.


Elected officials in North Carolina violated the Constitution by opening meetings with Christian prayers and inviting audience members to join, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a closely watched case that could end up in the Supreme Court.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that found the Rowan County Board of Commissioners' prayer practice to be "unconstitutionally coercive."

The Supreme Court already has ruled that it's appropriate for local clergy to deliver predominantly Christian prayers and town meetings in New York. The question in the Rowan County case was whether it makes a difference that the prayers were given by the commissioners themselves and whether their invitation for the audience to join them in prayer was coercive.

The 4th Circuit, located in Richmond, Virginia, stressed that it's not inherently unconstitutional for lawmakers to lead prayers. But the fact that the Rowan County commissioners were the exclusive prayer givers combined with them consistently invoking one faith and inviting the audience members to participate sent the message that they preferred Christianity above other religions, the court said.

"The principle at stake here may be a profound one, but it is also simple. The Establishment Clause does not permit a seat of government to wrap itself in a single faith," Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the majority opinion that was joined by nine other judges.


A conflict between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and his increasingly defiant chief prosecutor was coming to a head Tuesday as Luisa Ortega Diaz announced she was boycotting a Supreme Court hearing on whether to lift her immunity from being tried for unspecified irregularities.

Ortega Diaz argued the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing was a foregone conclusion decided by the government that violates her legal right to defense and due process.

“I am not going to validate a circus that will stain our history with shame and pain,” she said at a news conference as the hearing was getting underway.

The case against her for alleged “serious errors” while in office was brought by a ruling-party lawmaker and could lead to her ouster.

National Guard troops and riot police took up positions outside the court building in Caracas, where protests against Maduro’s government have been raging almost daily for several months.

On Monday the government-stacked Supreme Court acted to strip a key power from Ortega by acting itself to impose her deputy: a loyalist who was sanctioned by the United States in 2015 for her role prosecuting some of Maduro’s most vocal opponents.

The decision to name Katherine Haringhton to the post effectively made her the nation’s No. 2 law enforcement official even though the constitution says the semi-autonomous chief prosecutor has the power to name her own deputy, with confirmation by congress.

Lawmakers on Monday had re-confirmed Ortega’s own choice as deputy after he was removed by the high court last week.

As Venezuela’s political crisis has deepened, Ortega has emerged as Maduro’s most-feared critic. In April the once-loyal leftist broke with the government over its decision to strip congress of its last powers, and she has made common cause with right-wing opponents in blasting Maduro’s plans to rewrite Venezuela’s 1999 constitution.

The Supreme Court has also attacked Ortega’s authority by throwing out her order for the former head of the National Guard to testify about alleged human rights abuses during the crackdown on the protests, which have left at least 80 dead. It has also limited her powers to investigate abuses, which are shared with the nation’s ombudsman.


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