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  Court Watch - Legal News


Lawyers are scheduled to make arguments Thursday before the Arizona Court of Appeals as Jodi Arias seeks to overturn her murder conviction in the 2008 death of her former boyfriend.

Arias argues a prosecutor's misconduct and a judge's failure to control news coverage during the case deprived her of the right to a fair trial.

A lawyer defending the conviction on behalf of the state said overwhelming evidence of Arias' guilt should outweigh mistakes that were made by the prosecutor who won the case.

Arias, who will not be in the courtroom during her appellate hearing, is serving a life sentence for her first-degree murder conviction in the death of Travis Alexander at his home in Mesa.

Prosecutors said Arias violently attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.

The guilt phase of Arias' trial ended in 2013 with jurors convicting her but deadlocking on punishment. A second sentencing trial ended in early 2015 with another jury deadlock, leading a judge to sentence Arias to prison for life.

The case turned into a media circus as salacious and violent details about Arias and Alexander were broadcast live around the world.



An Arkansas judge says his court will decide individual outcomes in 19 adoption cases involving an Arizona official accused of human smuggling.

Paul Petersen, a Republican assessor of an Arizona county, was arrested Tuesday and charged with human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas.

Prosecutors say 44-year-old Petersen paid thousands of dollars to pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to travel to the U.S. and give birth for adoption.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Washington County Circuit Court Judge Doug Martin ordered Friday that statewide adoption cases against Petersen will be decided in his court. Petersen's attorney said Tuesday that his client's actions are "proper business practices."


A federal appeals court has denied an effort led by Ohio's attorney general to stop a bellwether trial over the opioid crisis from starting this month in Cleveland.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Ohio didn't object when lawsuits filed by Summit and Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) counties were included in what has become a sprawling case involving around 2,600 local governments and other entities.

The attempt by state attorneys general was led by Ohio's Dave Yost. They argued in August that states have the sole authority to pursue claims against drug companies on behalf of their citizens.

But a three-judge panel based in Cincinnati noted that preparations are far along for the first federal opioid crisis trial, scheduled to start Oct. 21.


The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to consider how far states can go toward eliminating the insanity defense in criminal trials as it reviews the case of a Kansas man sentenced to die for killing four relatives.

The high court planned to hear arguments Monday in James Kraig Kahler’s case. He went to the home of his estranged wife’s grandmother about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Topeka the weekend after Thanksgiving 2009 and fatally shot the two women and his two teenage daughters.

Not even Kahler’s attorneys have disputed that he killed them. They’ve argued that he was in the grips of a depression so severe that he experienced an extreme emotional disturbance that disassociated him from reality.

In seeking a not guilty verdict due to his mental state, his defense at his 2011 trial faced what critics see as an impossible legal standard. His attorneys now argue that Kansas violated the U.S. Constitution by denying him the right to pursue an insanity defense.

The nation’s highest court previously has given states broad latitude in how they treat mental illness in criminal trials, allowing five states, including Kansas, to abolish the traditional insanity defense. Kahler’s appeal raises the question of whether doing so denies defendants their guaranteed right to due legal process.

“Maybe they will establish some ground rules,” said Jeffrey Jackson, a law professor at Washburn University in Topeka. “They’ve been vague about what the standard is, and maybe now they’re going to tell us.”

Until 1996, Kansas followed a rule first outlined in 1840s England, requiring defendants pursuing an insanity defense to show that they were so impaired by a mental illness or defect that they couldn’t understand that their conduct was criminal. Now Kansas permits defendants to only cite “mental disease or defect” as a partial defense, and they must prove they didn’t intend to commit the specific crime. Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Utah have similar laws.


An Ohio appellate court has rejected an effort by news media organizations to obtain the school records of a gunman who killed nine people in Dayton.

The three 2nd Court of Appeals judges Wednesday upheld Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools’ denial of access to the high school files of Connor Betts.

An Ohio appellate court has rejected an effort by news media organizations to obtain the school records of a gunman who killed nine people in Dayton.

The three 2nd Court of Appeals judges Wednesday upheld Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools’ denial of access to the high school files of Connor Betts.



LaWanda Clark told jurors Wednesday during Guyger's murder trial that she struggled with a crack cocaine addiction and that Guyger wrote her a ticket on the day of the drug bust. She says Guyger told her that the ticket could be the impetus to turn her life around.

While Clark was speaking, attorneys showed jurors a photo of Guyger attending Clark's graduation from a community drug treatment program.

Clark said Guyger treated her as a person, not as "an addict," and said she is now sober.

Guyger faces up to life in prison for the September 2018 shooting death of Botham Jean. She says she mistook Jean's apartment for her own, which was one floor below.

A high school friend who played in an all-female mariachi band with Amber Guyger says the former Dallas police officer feels "immense remorse" for fatally shooting a neighbor in his own apartment.

Maribel Chavez testified Wednesday that she met Guyger in ninth grade during orchestra practice. They later went on to play in a mariachi band, with Guyger playing violin and trumpet.

Chavez said Guyger is typically bubbly and extroverted, but that since she killed her neighbor, Botham Jean, in September 2018, "It's like you shut her light off."

She described her friend as selfless, caring and a protector of those around her.



An Egyptian court has referred the case of seven defendants facing terrorism charges to the country's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion on whether they can be executed as the prosecution seeks.

The Cairo Criminal Court says Saturday the defendants are members of a local affiliate of the Islamic State group spearheading an insurgency in northern Sinai.

The men are part of 32 defendants accused of killing eight police, including an officer, when they ambushed a microbus in Cairo's southern suburb of Helwan in May 2016.

The verdict is set for Nov. 12, and the presiding judge may rule independently of the Mufti.

Egypt has battled an insurgency for years in the Sinai Peninsula that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland.


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