National Roundup

Iowa: Teenage killer loses appeal of two life sentences
CHARLES CITY, Iowa (AP) — A Charles City teenager has lost an appeal of his two life sentences for the death of his 3-year-old cousin in 2009.

Sixteen-year-old Edgar Concepcion Jr. was sentenced on Nov. 22 after being convicted in June of murder, sexual abuse and child endangerment in the death of Krystel Banes, also of Charles City.

According to the Mason City Globe Gazette, Judge Bryan McKinley said the U.S. and Iowa supreme courts say that juvenile killers can be given tough penalties, including life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Concepcion was tried as an adult. He was 14 when he killed the little girl.

Concepcion’s attorney, Judy O’Donohoe, had argued that sentencing Concepcion, a juvenile, to life without parole was cruel and unusual punishment.

Kentucky: Jury acquits former jail official of theft charges
PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A jury in eastern Kentucky has acquitted a former jail official of felony theft charges.

John Harmon was formerly the chairman of the Big Sandy Jail board. He was accused of turning in vouchers for more auto mileage reimbursement than he was entitled to.

His round trip was about 100 miles. Prosecutors said Harmon took $6,000 for mileage to and from the jail in 2007, but was entitled for reimbursement for only monthly jail board meetings.

WYMT-TV in Hazard reports the jury in Paintsville deliberated for about 90 minutes in finding Harmon not guilty.

The station reported former jail administrator Henry “Butch” Williams has pleaded guilty to official misconduct charges and abuse of public trust. He is scheduled for sentencing next month.

Colorado: Sweeping water case argued before top court
DENVER (AP) — They’re calling it the “water case of the decade,” and Colorado’s highest court is taking the case more public Thursday with arguments scheduled at the University of Denver.

The seven justices planned to hear oral arguments on what’s called the “Farmers Reservoir & Irrigation Company case.” It’s a thorny lawsuit involving water lawyers from across the state. The cities of Aurora, Broomfield, Denver and Thornton are all listed on the case. Justices could tackle five or six long-standing state water law doctrines.

The Supreme Court usually hears arguments downtown but has moved oral arguments for this case to the University of Denver campus. Law students are invited to watch the arguments.

California: Judge rules for gay-rights backers in health suit
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge has issued a favorable ruling for gay-rights advocates involving state employees and long-term health care.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland ruled that state employees in California can sue for discrimination over the federal government’s exclusion of their same-sex spouses from a long-term health care program.

The San Francisco Chronicle says in issuing the ruling Tuesday, the judge turned down an Obama administration request to dismiss the suit.

The Chronicle reports the suit was filed over the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s refusal to enroll the spouses in a federally approved long-term care plan.

The agency says it does not sign up same-sex spouses because the Defense of Marriage Act denies federal tax benefits to any state that covers them.

Oregon: Murder trial jurors hear blood, bone experts
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Murder trial jurors in the case of a Corbett, Ore., woman accused of shooting her husband and burning his body have heard from experts who linked Jerry Stomps’ DNA to blood found on a revolver and bones found in a trash can.

Oregon State Police forensic scientist Dr. Veronica Vance testified Wednesday in Circuit Court that DNA tests and Stomps’ dental records helped investigators identify the charred remains as his.

Other experts say DNA from the blood spatter on the gun matched that from Stomps’ toothbrush.

Jerry Stomps was last seen Feb. 6, 2009 — the day his wife Hazelynn Stomps told police her husband was beaten by two men who chased her until she fell off a bridge.

Montana : Billings lawyer accused of having sex with client
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings lawyer who was disciplined in 2007 for having sex with a client has been accused of committing the same ethical violation.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed the complaint Jan. 12, saying Solomon Neuhardt had a sexual relationship with a client in 2008 and 2009. The ethical guidelines for lawyers enforced by the state Supreme Court prohibit them from such relationships unless one already existed when the client-lawyer relationship began.

The complaint says Neuhardt had a sexual relationship with a woman after she hired him in November 2008 to represent her in a potential criminal case.

It says he agreed to handle the woman’s divorce case two months later but eventually withdrew his services.

Neuhardt denied the allegation and told the Billings Gazette he has a “legion of satisfied current and former customers.” His state law license was suspended for four months in October 2007 because had a sex with a client in 2005.

Texas: Probation for killing beer thief? Judge says no
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An Austin man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter after a judge has revoked the probation a Travis County jury awarded him after convicting him of murdering a beer thief.

The Austin American-Statesman reports state District Judge Julie Kocurek threw out the sentence after learning the minimum sentence allowed by law for murder was five years in prison. In 2007, the Texas Legislature stripped juries of the probation option in murder trials.

Juan Romero pleaded guilty under a deal with prosecutors in exchange for eight years of probation.

The jury had convicted the 24-year-old defendant in the fatal 2009 shooting of 22-year-old Jorge Vielma at a south Austin service station where Romero was a clerk. State law allows the use of deadly force to stop a nighttime theft.