National Roundup


Malpractice suit in killing can proceed

ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia's top court is allowing the family of a man charged with stabbing his mother to death during a psychotic rage to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against his psychiatrist.

The lawsuit claims Dr. Derek Johnson O'Brien committed medical malpractice when he ordered two of Victor Bruscato's medications be discontinued.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that a jury should decide the lawsuit brought by Bruscato's family in Gwinnett County. The ruling settled a debate about whether the lawsuit should go forward that had divided Georgia courts.

Authorities say Bruscato smashed his mother in the head with a battery charger and then stabbed her 72 times.

O'Brien's attorneys say Bruscato shouldn't shift the blame for the killing to his psychiatrist.


Convictions affirmed against vegans in child death

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the murder convictions and life prison sentences given to an Atlanta vegan couple who were charged with allowing their baby to starve to death.

Prosecutors said Jade Sanders and Lamont Thomas, who lived a vegan lifestyle and ate no animal products, were living in the city's Buckhead neighborhood when Jade gave birth to their son, Crown Shakur.

In April 2004, authorities said Crown died at 6 weeks old, emaciated and weighing less than four pounds.

Authorities said the child died of bronchopneumonia due to extreme malnourishment or starvation. Police said his diet consisted only of soy milk and apple juice.

The high court's unanimous opinion was announced Monday morning.

New Mexico

Astorga death penalty case jury selection slated

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Jury selection was slated to begin in the sentencing phase for an Albuquerque man convicted of murdering a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy.

Michael Astorga was scheduled Monday to appear in court as lawyers argue over whether Astorga should receive the death penalty.

Jurors will have to decide whether to impose the death penalty or life in prison for Astorga, who was convicted in the 2006 killing of Deputy James McGrane Jr.

The state's highest court ruled last week that Astorga could still face the death penalty even though state lawmakers voted to repeal the law. The state's death penalty repeal took effect on July 1, 2009, and applied to crimes committed after that date.

Astorga was convicted in the slaying nearly a year after the repeal took effect.


Drifter to die Tuesday for killing 2 near Dallas

LIVINGSTON, Texas (AP) -- Former drifter and self-described junkie Steven Michael Woods says he and a friend were both high on LSD when they drove to a remote road by a Dallas-area golf course where they met a man and woman who were gunned down.

The 31-year-old Woods says his friend, Marcus Rhodes, was the gunman and he had nothing to do with the murders of 21-year-old Ronald Whitehead and 19-year-old Bethena Brosz a decade ago in Denton County.

Rhodes avoided a possible death sentence by pleading guilty and accepting a life sentence. Woods went to trial where a jury convicted him of capital murder and decided he should die.

His execution is set for Tuesday in Huntsville.

Woods' lawyers are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court stops the punishment.

West Virginia

Woman sentenced to 15 years in husband's fatal shooting

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) -- A Martinsburg woman will spend 15 years in prison on charges stemming for the fatal shooting of her estranged husband.

Media outlets report that 38-year-old Maria L. Decicio-Smith received the maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter on Friday in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Decicio-Smith had pleaded no contest to the charge in June. She was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in 2008.

Prosecutors say Decicio-Smith shot 45-year-old Richard E. Amundson five times, including twice at the back of the head at close range.

Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes concluded the couple had a history of domestic violence. But he said the shots fired to the back of Amundson's head appear to demonstrate "a form of vengeance."


Court upholds strict Athens noise ordinance

ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia's top court has for the second time upheld a strict noise ordinance in the music haven of Athens.

The Georgia Supreme Court's ruling Monday upheld the conviction of Ian Grady for violating the local ordinance, which outlaws loud sounds including music that can be heard from at least 300 feet away during much of the day and 100 feet away overnight.

Grady was charged with violating the ordinance in 2009 after an officer heard loud music from his downtown Athens apartment at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday.

He said the ordinance was unconstitutional because it encroached on his free speech rights, but the court found it was a "reasonable" regulation.

The court issued a similar ruling in June 2009.


Inmate accused of killing guard seeks more food

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A judge is set to decide whether a Utah inmate accused of killing a prison guard can eat more while incarcerated ahead of his trial.

Attorneys for Curtis Allgier say he's lost weight, but wants to gain it back so he'll look like he did when the alleged attack occurred.

A hearing is set for Monday in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court.

Allgier has pleaded not guilty to capital murder in the June 2007 shooting death of a guard. He escaped and was captured after being disarmed by a patron at a fast food restaurant.

Allgier had complained about how much he was fed while in Salt Lake County's jail.

In court papers, prosecutors say the issue is moot because Alliger has since been moved to the state prison.

Published: Tue, Sep 13, 2011