National Round Up

Maryland: Court reverses three murder convictions
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — A Maryland appeals court has overturned three first-degree murder convictions.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled Thursday that Baltimore County police violated Lee Coleman-Fuller’s right to counsel while investigating the 2006 slaying of Travis Taylor in Woodlawn.

The court also overturned Jeffrey Allen’s Charles County conviction in the 2001 stabbing of John Butler in La Plata. The court said jurors were improperly told of Allen’s prior armed-robbery conviction.

On Wednesday, the court ruled that a Washington County judge improperly allowed testimony about statements Marshall Adams made to police without his attorney present.

The court also said jurors should have been told they could consider whether Adams stabbed Leo Morris in a hot-blooded reaction to a robbery attempt in the 2006 incident.

Arizona: Navajo Supreme Court reverses chairman’s leave

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Supreme Court justices have ruled that an action by the Tribal Council to place President Joe Shirley on paid leave is invalid.

Tribal lawmakers voted in late October to place Shirley on leave over so-far unsubstantiated allegations of unethical and illegal conduct.

Shirley challenged the measure and a tribal judge ruled that the council acted outside its authority in placing Shirley on leave.

An appeal to the tribe’s high court followed. The justices said Friday that the council misused emergency legislation in taking the action and failed to involve the public through hearings.

They say Shirley is an employee of the Navajo people and not the council.

Oklahoma: Judge delays pharmacist’s murder trial
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The murder trial for an Oklahoma City pharmacist has been delayed until Aug. 30.

On Friday, an Oklahoma County judge delayed the trial for Jerome Ersland, which was supposed to start June 21.

Ersland was charged with first-degree murder after he shot a masked robber six times on May 19, 2009, inside the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in south Oklahoma City.

Prosecutors allege the pharmacist went too far, intentionally shooting 16-year-old Antwun “Speedy” Parker five more times in the abdomen after knocking Parker down and unconscious with a shot to the head. Prosecutors said Parker was unarmed.

Ersland contends he acted in self-defense, fighting back against two masked robbers.

Delaware: Bankruptcy judge considers Tribune plan documents

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A bankruptcy judge in Delaware is considering whether to approve documents describing and soliciting support for the Tribune Co.’s reorganization plan.

The judge heard arguments Friday on the disclosure statement outlining Tribune’s proposed Chapter 11 plan.

Attorneys for Wells Fargo, an agent for unsecured bridge lenders who provided $1.6 billion in financing to Tribune in 2007, say the description of how the plan treats those lenders is inconsistent and vague.

Another group of lenders objects to the inclusion in plan documents of a letter from Tribune’s official committee of unsecured creditors urging creditors to support it.

The media company based in Chicago filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008.

Alabama: Jury finds woman guilty in murder after 30 years

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A 49-year-old woman has been convicted of murder in the shooting death of a fellow student at the University of South Alabama in 1980, a case reopened after the suspect confessed in a letter as part of her alcoholism therapy in Mississippi.

The jury convicted Jamie Kellam Letson on Thursday for luring 18-year-old Katherine Foster into the woods in 1980 and shooting her in the head.

Prosecutors said Letson was obsessed with Foster’s boyfriend, whom Letson had met in high school and that jealousy drove her to kill Foster with a pistol she stole from her grandmother.

Foster’s body was found in woods near her campus dormitory.

The jury deliberated for about six hours before handing down a verdict. Defense attorneys said the letter that Letson wrote was fiction and the conviction will be appealed.

Sentencing is set for June 18 before Circuit Judge Michael Youngpeter.

During the trial, prosecutors read from a letter Letson wrote in 2002 as part of Alcoholic Anonymous therapy in Pascagoula.

The letter said in part: “Dear Katherine, after all these years, I have come to you. It is me, Jamie, the girl who took your life. I don’t know where to begin. I was your friend, but I was obsessed with Tom, and you were in my way.”

Oklahoma: Man sentenced to life term for prostitute’s death
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A 28-year-old man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of a prostitute who was stabbed and set on fire in Choctaw in June 2008.

Lynn Shimon “Swoll” Hurley of Oklahoma City entered the plea as part of an agreement with Oklahoma County prosecutors, who had planned to seek the death penalty if the case had gone to trial.

A judge sentenced Hurley, a convicted drug offender, to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors say Hurley was a pimp and killed 37-year-old Jessica “Baby Girl” Brackett, possibly because she stole money from him. Police say Brackett identified her attacker before she died.

A man whom prosecutors say was Hurley’s accomplice, 27-year-old Quintez Deshawn Thomas, received a 45-year prison sentence in April.

New York: Hearing for NY man, 90, in wife’s death postponed

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A court appearance for a 90-year-old New York man charged with battering his wife to death with a hammer has been postponed.

When John Bunz pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder earlier this month, the Erie County Court judge indicated a plea deal may be in the works.

Lawyers were expected to update the judge on the talks Friday, but the hearing was adjourned. No new date was set.

Bunz’s wife of nearly 68 years, 89-year-old Virginia Bunz, was found dead at a suburban Buffalo retirement community on March 21. Authorities say she’d been hit on the head 29 times with a hammer.