National Roundup

Washington: Graphic testimony in pregnant mother murder trial
KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) — A jury in Kennewick heard graphic testimony Wednesday in the murder trial of a woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her womb.

The Tri-City Herald reports a forensic pathologist testified the victim, Araceli Camacho Gomez, suffered dozens of knife wounds and likely was unconscious from loss of blood when her baby was removed.

The Benton County Superior Court jury also heard a recorded statement from the 25-year-old defendant, Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong (PEE’-en-chay SIS’-oo-vahn SIN’-ha-vahng). She told police she “just snapped.” She is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

The baby survived the June 2008 attack at a Kennewick park and lives with its father.

Pennsylvania: Testimony expected to start in hate crime case
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — Testimony is set to begin in the hate crime trial of two Pennsylvania men charged in the fatal beating of a Mexican immigrant.

Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak are on trial in federal court in Scranton. They’re charged in the 2008 death of 25-year-old Luis Ramirez in the mining town of Shenandoah.

Ramirez, who was in the country illegally, died after brawling with a group of high school athletes. Prosecutors say Piekarsky and Donchak took part because of racial animosity toward Hispanics.

The defendants say Ramirez’s ethnicity had nothing to do with the melee. During Monday’s opening statements, defense attorney James Swetz told an all-white jury the fight stemmed from “alcohol, youth and testosterone.”

Piekarsky and Donchak were acquitted of the most serious state charges against them last year.

Connecticut: U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear Conn. tribe’s case
KENT, Conn. (AP) — The leader of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in Connecticut says the tribe isn’t giving up its efforts to win federal recognition, even after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by the tribe this week.

Chief Richard Velky says the Kent-based Schaghticokes have 25 days to request a rehearing before the nation’s highest court. He also says going to Congress could be a last resort.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs granted the tribe recognition in 2004. But that decision was later reversed after state officials argued the tribe had gaps in evidence related to its social continuity and political governance.

A federal appeals court rejected the tribe’s appeal of the recognition reversal last year.

California: 3 of 4 suspects in shackled teen case due in court
STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Three Tracy residents accused of holding captive and torturing a teenage boy for more than a year are expected to appear in court Friday in advance of a trial scheduled for next week.

Four suspects made a brief court appearance Wednesday in Stockton. Attorneys can’t discuss the case due to of a gag order, but the attorney for 45-year-old Caren Ramirez hinted that a trial may not be necessary in her case.

Thirty-six-year-old Michael Schumacher, his 32-year-old wife, Kelly Lau, and 31-year-old Anthony Waiters are also charged in the case, although Waiters is not expected to attend Friday’s hearing.

A 16-year-old boy escaped from the Schumacher/Lau home in 2008 by allegedly unlocking an ankle chain and stumbling emaciated and bruised into a health club.

The Schaghticokes have had a state-recognized reservation since the mid-1700s.

Massachusetts: State Supreme Court censures judge
BOSTON (AP) — The state’s highest court has publicly censured a judge for mishandling several criminal cases between 2005 and 2007.

The Supreme Judicial Court said in a statement Wednesday that District Court Judge Diane Moriarty will be monitored for at least one year by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which recommended the censure. Moriarty was not fined or suspended.

According to commission documents, the 57-year-old Moriarty committed several infractions including failing to warn defendants that they could face deportation if they were not American citizens, mishandling plea agreements, and inappropriately vacating a conviction.

The Boston Globe reports that Moriarty’s lawyer refused comment. Moriarty has been a judge since 1998.

South Dakota: State high court holds hearing on cameras in court
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Supreme Court is holding a hearing to consider two competing proposals for allowing cameras and other recording devices in the state’s trial courts.

The justices will hear public testimony at 9 a.m. Thursday in the state Capitol building.

A committee appointed by the high court recommended a plan supported by presiding circuit judges. It would open a circuit court trial or hearing to television cameras, still cameras or audio recording devices only if a judge and all parties in a case agreed at least a week in advance.

Another proposal suggested by news organizations would presume circuit court proceedings are open to recording devices unless a judge decides cameras would interfere with the fairness of the proceeding.

North Dakota: Group appealing Fargo monument ruling
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A group opposed to a Ten Commandments monument in downtown Fargo is appealing the case to a circuit court.

A federal judge last month threw out a lawsuit by the Red River Freethinkers, who believe the city gave the monument a religious purpose by voting three years ago to keep it. The case was dismissed for lack of merit.

Court documents show that the Freethinkers earlier this week filed a notice of appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The monument was donated to the city by the Fraternal Order of Eagles on March 8, 1958, to commemorate an urban renewal project. It was installed on its current site near the Fargo Civic Auditorium in 1961.

Florida" Jury: tobacco companies not to blame for cancer
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — A jury decided that several tobacco companies are not responsible for causing a man’s laryngeal cancer after he smoked cigarettes for about 37 years.

The jury deliberated and came to a decision Tuesday. This was the second trial for 70-year-old Jimmie Willis, who has a quarter-sized hole in his throat; an earlier hearing ended in a mistrial.

Jurors were asked whether to award compensatory damages to Willis, who has spent about $412,000 for surgeries and treatment for laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.