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A federal lawsuit filed by death row inmates has renewed a court fight over whether the sedative Arkansas uses for lethal injections causes torturous executions, two years after the state raced to put eight convicted killers to death in 11 days before a previous batch of the drug expired.

Arkansas recently expanded the secrecy surrounding its lethal injection drug sources, and the case heading to trial Tuesday could impact its efforts to restart executions that have been on hold due to a lack of the drugs. It’ll also be the latest in a series of legal battles over midazolam, a sedative that other states have moved away from using amid claims it doesn’t render inmates fully unconscious during lethal injections.

States that want to avoid unnecessarily inhumane executions will be watching closely, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which has criticized the way states carry out the death penalty.

But, Dunham added, “states that are watching because they want to figure out how to just execute people will be looking to see what Arkansas is able to get away with.”

Only four of the eight executions scheduled in Arkansas over 11 days in 2017 actually happened, with courts halting the others. The state currently doesn’t have any executions scheduled, and Arkansas’ supply of the three drugs used in its lethal injection process has expired. Another round of multiple executions is unlikely if Arkansas finds more drugs, since only one death row inmate has exhausted all his appeals.

This time, Arkansas isn’t racing against the clock to execute inmates before a drug expires. The state currently doesn’t have any execution drugs available, but officials believe they’ll be able to get more once the secrecy law takes effect this summer.

State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says the inmates in the case have a very high burden to meet and cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month against a Missouri death row inmate. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority in that case, wrote that the U.S. Constitution “does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.” Rutledge called the federal case in Arkansas the latest attempt by death row inmates to delay their sentences from being carried out


Justice Elena Kagan’s father was 3 years old when the census taker came to the family’s apartment on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, on April 10, 1930.

Robert Kagan was initially wrongly listed as an “alien,” though he was a native-born New Yorker. The entry about his citizenship status appears to have been crossed out on the census form.

Vast changes in America and technology have dramatically altered the way the census is conducted. But the accuracy of the once-a-decade population count is at the heart of the Supreme Court case over the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The justices are hearing arguments in the case on Tuesday, with a decision due by late June that will allow for printing forms in time for the count in April 2020.

The fight over the census question is the latest over immigration-related issues between Democratic-led states and advocates for immigrants, on one side, and the administration, on the other. The Supreme Court last year upheld President Donald Trump’s ban on visitors to the U.S. from several mostly Muslim countries. The court also has temporarily blocked administration plans to make it harder for people to claim asylum and is considering an administration appeal that would allow Trump to end protections for immigrants who were brought to this country as children.

The citizenship question has not been asked on the census form sent to every American household since 1950, and the administration’s desire to add it is now rife with political implications and partisan division.



In the summer of 2010, reporters at South Dakota’s Argus Leader newspaper decided to request data about the government’s food assistance program, previously known as food stamps. They thought the information could lead to a series of stories and potentially help them identify fraud in the now $65 billion-a-year program.

They sent a stream of what they thought were routine requests for information to Washington.

Government officials eventually sent back some information about the hundreds of thousands of stores nationwide where the food program’s participants could use their benefits. But the government withheld information reporters saw as crucial: how much each store received annually from the program.

Trying to get that data has taken the paper more than eight years and landed it at the Supreme Court, which will hear the case Monday.

Argus Leader news director Cory Myers, who directs a staff of 18 at the Sioux Falls paper, says getting the information is about “knowing how our government is operating” and “knowing what government is doing with our tax money.”

A supermarket trade association opposing the information’s release argues that the information being sought is confidential. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case could be narrow or could significantly affect the interpretation of a law that grants the public access to government records.

The Argus Leader is owned by USA Today publisher Gannett and is the largest newspaper in South Dakota. It wrote about the government’s initial release of information. But Jonathan Ellis, one of the reporters behind the requests, said there’s more to learn if the paper gets what it’s seeking.

Ellis said he would like to write about the companies who profit the most from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program , called SNAP. He would like to analyze how successful efforts to involve farmers’ markets in the program have been. And he is still hoping to use the data to identify stores that seem like outliers, an indication of potential fraud.


Japan's top court said Thursday it has rejected an appeal by former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn's lawyers against his extended detention after his fourth arrest on allegations of financial misconduct.

The decision upholds the extension of his detention through April 22 that was approved Monday by the Tokyo District Court.

The Supreme Court ruling was made Wednesday and conveyed to foreign media on Thursday.

Ghosn was first arrested in November and charged with under-reporting his retirement compensation and with breach of trust. He was released March 6 on bail, but was arrested again on April 4 on fresh allegations and sent back to detention.

Rearresting a suspect released on bail, which is allowed only after indictment, is rare and has triggered criticism of Japan's criminal justice system, in which long detentions during investigations are routine.

Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades and is credited with turning around the company from near-bankruptcy, has denied any wrongdoing.

In a separate legal maneuver, the Tokyo District Court has rejected an appeal by Ghosn's lawyers questioning prosecutors' confiscation of video of security camera installed at Ghosn's apartment, Kyodo News reported Thursday. The court did not respond to calls after office hours.

Last week, Nissan's shareholders voted to remove Ghosn from the company's board.

In his video statement filmed before his arrest and released by his lawyers April 9, Ghosn accused some Nissan executives of plotting against him over unfounded fears about losing their autonomy to their French alliance partner Renault SA.



A federal appeals court on Wednesday scheduled a hearing over whether to stop the Trump administration from forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration court hearings.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set a hearing for April 24 in San Francisco over whether a lower court ruling to block the policy should go into effect while the case proceeds.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg ruled April 8 that the unprecedented policy violated U.S. law and should be halted because it failed to evaluate dangers migrants face in Mexico.

He issued an order to stop the policy, but gave the government time to appeal, which it did claiming the ruling was erroneous and would endanger the public.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit issued a temporary stay last week — leaving the policy in place — and requested written arguments from the government and immigrant advocates before setting the hearing date, now set for next week.



Lawyers for Kansas told the state Supreme Court on Monday that it should sign off on a new law boosting spending on public schools and end a protracted education funding lawsuit partly because the law has broad, bipartisan support.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, filed written legal arguments defending the new law. It contains Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's proposal for an education funding increase of roughly $90 million a year and is aimed at satisfying a state Supreme Court ruling last year that education funding remained inadequate.

Four school districts sued the state in 2010, and their attorneys have said that the new law does not provide enough additional funding after the 2019-20 school year. Schmidt said the districts are seeking a "heckler's veto" after Kelly, many Republican lawmakers and the GOP-led State Board of Education agreed that the increase she sought would satisfy the court.

"This court should give great weight to the considered decisions of both the education officials and the people's representatives," Schmidt's written argument said. "That is particularly true here given the widespread, bipartisan consensus."

Attorneys for the four school districts asked in their own filing for the Supreme Court to order higher spending after the 2019-20 school year, give legislators another year to comply and keep the case open so that the state's actions can be monitored.


The Supreme Court is declining to take the case of a Pennsylvania rapper who was convicted of threatening police officers in one of his songs.

The high court declined on Monday to take the case of Jamal Knox, known as Mayhem Mal. In 2012, he and rapper Rashee Beasley were arrested by Pittsburgh police on gun and drug charges. A song they later wrote about the arrest contains phrases including “Let’s kill these cops cuz they don’t do us no good.”

Both were charged with terroristic threats and other crimes.

Knox argued that the song was protected by the First Amendment, but he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to one to three years in prison. Pennsylvania’s highest court upheld his convictions.


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