Court Round Up

Florida: State Supreme Court publicly reprimands judge
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — A central Florida judge has been publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court for his treatment of the defendants, plaintiffs and lawyers who went before his bench.

Seminole County Judge Ralph Eriksson was rebuked Tuesday for being mean and dismissive to several people who appeared before him in 2007, including individuals seeking domestic violence injunctions.

He also was criticized for punishing an attorney who had asked for a new judge by throwing the lawyer’s client in jail.

Eriksson has insisted he never did anything intentionally wrong. He is set to retire at the end of the year when his term expires.

California: SoCal porn thief gets 25 years to life for murder
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — An Orange County man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for murdering a Newport Beach liquor store owner who confronted him about stealing a pornographic magazine.

Weston Scott Kruger was sentenced in a Santa Ana court Tuesday, four months after a jury found him guilty of one felony count of murder.

Prosecutors said the 32-year-old Kruger was out on bail in two unrelated cases when he stuffed the porn magazine under his shirt at Sportsman Liquor Store in 2007.

Owner Hao Huynh confronted the 275-pound Kruger, who shoved him with so much force that he flew through the air and cracked his head on the ground. Huynh died the next day.

Defense attorneys argued that Kruger didn’t intend to kill the man and was guilty only of manslaughter.

Illinois: State high court refuses to hear abortion case
CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a Cook County judge’s stay of enforcement of a law requiring a girl’s guardians be notified before she has an abortion.

A motion filed by the anti-abortion Thomas More Society and others asked that the legal case pending against the Parental Notice of Abortion Act be transferred from the appellate court to the high court.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the request.

Earlier this year, Judge Daniel Riley lifted a temporary restraining order on the never-enforced law, which he said was constitutional. He granted a stay on enforcement pending the conclusion of appeals.

The law was not enforced after it was passed in 1995 because there were no rules specifying how judges would handle the notification requirement. The high court issued those rules in 2006.

California: Man convicted of stabbing teenager with screwdriver
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A man has been found guilty of murder in the 1996 killing of a 13-year-old Murrieta girl who was stabbed more than 60 times with a screwdriver.

A Riverside jury on Tuesday found Crispin Solorio Garcia guilty of first-degree murder and found true that he personally used a screwdriver to commit the murder of Sophia Breseno.

The girl’s body was found in February 1996 in a field near a Murrieta cemetery.

Solorio Garcia was quickly identified as a suspect in the killing, but eluded capture until 2007 when authorities found him in a Mexican jail using a different name. He was later extradited to the U.S. to face charges in the girl’s death.

Soloria Garcia faces life in prison.

Wisconsin: Convicted man set free 5 years into 80-year sentence
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A Green Bay man convicted of attempted murder is out of prison after 15 years behind bars after an appeals court ordered a new trial.

Cody Vandenberg, now 45, had been convicted of stabbing Blake Renard repeatedly and stealing his credit cards in 1995. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Brown County Judge Don Zuidmulder on Tuesday issued a $35,000 signature bond for Vandenberg, who must remain under house arrest in the custody of his 26-year-old son in Oneida.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals decided last week that new evidence should be heard. Vandenberg is due back in court Sept. 28 as prosecutors decide whether retry him or ask the state Supreme Court to consider reversing the appellate ruling.

The Wisconsin Innocence Project took up Vandenberg’s case after a co-defendant confessed.

Alabama: Judge, known for gun, to swap political parties
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) —The Birmingham judge who gained national attention for toting a gun amid courthouse security cutbacks says she’s going Republican.

Suzanne Childers won a Jefferson County Circuit Court seat in 2006 as a Democrat. But Tuesday she announced plans to party swap, seeking re-election to the Domestic Court seat in 2012 as a Republican.

Childer’s says she’s been considering the move for two years and started taking steps six weeks ago.

Childers gained national attention last year for keeping a silver, .38-caliber Smith & Wesson under her bench after county officials let her two courtroom deputies go because of a budget shortfall.

Connecticut: Woman paralyzed while sledding gets $8 million
WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut woman paralyzed in a sledding accident in Waterbury in 2007 has received an $8 million settlement from the city.

Rose Marie Deschesnes, now 24, crashed into a metal bench at the bottom of a hill near a ball field while snow tubing at Fulton Park. She suffered a spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic.

She filed a lawsuit last year alleging the city should never have put a bench at the base of such a popular sledding spot and failed to take safety precautions.

Deschesnes’ lawyer says the settlement money will be put into a trust to pay for her medical and living expenses for the rest of her life.

An aide to the mayor says he believes the bench has been removed.

Missouri: KC police sued over 2006 arrest at toddler’s grave
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City woman has sued police over an arrest that was made in 2006 during the funeral of her 14-month-old daughter.

The lawsuit says Kansas City police arrested the wrong man at the grave site of Kaylee Zahnd, who died Dec. 16, 2006. The child’s mother, Shauna Renno, says the officers arrested the girl’s father, although they were seeking her uncle.

Renno sued two Kansas City police officers, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, two Independence police officers and the city of Independence. The arrest occurred at an Independence cemetery.

The Kansas City Star reports that the lawsuit was first filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, but was transferred to federal court this summer.

A Kansas City police spokesman said the department would not comment on pending litigation.