National Roundup

Kentucky

Man to face retrial in murder case

BENTON, Ky. (AP) -- A western Kentucky man will face a retrial on a charge of murder starting Wednesday and a judge says he may move the proceedings to a new county if a jury can't be seated.

Marshall County Circuit Judge Dennis Foust on Thursday ordered jury selection for George Luna to start in Marshall County, but opened the possibility that it could be moved to Calloway County if finding an impartial panel proved impossible.

The state Supreme Court ordered in 2010 that Luna was entitled to a new trial.

The Paducah Sun reported that Foust will allow prosecutors to seek an enhanced penalty of life without parole for Luna if he's convicted. Prosecutors plan to argue that Debra Hendrickson's 2007 death coincided with robbery and arson.

Georgia

Bank fined by judge over home where children died

LAWRENCVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- A judge has fined a bank for its handling of a suburban Atlanta home where three children died in what authorities said was a meth lab fire.

The Gwinnett Daily Post reports that Gwinnett Recorder's Court Chief Judge Michael Greene on Thursday ordered JPMorgan Chase Bank to pay $9,000. Officials said the fines are related to nine separate ordinance violations involving the Lilburn home.

Court officials said most of the fines can be lifted if the bank complies with cleanup requirements in 30 days.

JP Morgan Chase Bank spokesman Greg Hassell said the bank has hired a company which has made repairs, cleaned up the yard and sealed doors and windows.

The February 2011 fire killed three children who were ages 4, 3 and 18 months.

Illinois

Former warden loses appeal in wrongful death case

MOUNT VERNON, Ill. (AP) -- A court in southern Illinois has upheld a $1 million jury verdict against a former prison warden blamed in a 2000 wreck that killed another prison worker.

The Mount Vernon-based 5th District Appellate Court let stand the Saline County jury's verdict from May 2011 in a wrongful-death lawsuit against former Shawnee Correctional Center warden William Barham.

Barham was convicted in 2001 of reckless homicide and aggravated DUI after prosecutors argued he drunkenly crashed a state-owned vehicle in Johnson County, killing Jerry Isom.

Barham served 15 months of a four-year sentence before an appellate court threw out the conviction in 2003. That court concluded there wasn't enough evidence to prove Barham was impaired by alcohol and had been driving recklessly.

Barham has insisted Isom was the driver.

Illinois

Parents settle suit over daughter's crash death

MOUNT STERLING, Ill. (AP) -- The parents of a college freshman killed after a western Illinois high-speed chase with law enforcement have reached a $225,000 settlement with the driver of the pickup truck occupied by the girl.

The Quincy Herald-Whig reports Gina Heinecke and Bob Baker sued 19-year-old Jacob Hendricks of Mount Sterling after the January crash near Beardstown. The crash killed 19-year-old Brianna Baker of LaPrairie.

Authorities say Hendricks was chased for 25 miles at a high speed. Baker was a freshman at the University of Missouri in Columbia and was among five passengers in the truck.

A judge approved the settlement March 29.

The Herald-Whig reports that Progressive Insurance Co. is paying the $225,000 as Hendricks' liability insurance policy limit.

Hendricks still faces criminal counts related to the wreck.

Wyoming

State agrees to settle abortion protest lawsuit

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- The State of Wyoming has admitted that state officials violated the constitutional rights of members of an anti-abortion group by removing a display of materials they posted last year in a tunnel leading to the state Capitol.

Under a settlement approved Thursday by U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal, the state agreed to pay WyWatch Family Action $1 in nominal damages and $30,000 in attorney fees.

Rich Cathcart, head of the Wyoming State Building Commission, has said he ordered two WyWatch poster boards in the tunnel removed last year after receiving complaints. One poster featured a picture of an unborn fetus and the other a group of women saying that they regretted getting abortions.

Cathcart has said he decided the posters were unacceptable because they were graphic and shouldn't be viewed by children who pass through the area during the legislative session.

After WyWatch filed its lawsuit early this year, the State Building Commission, which includes Gov. Matt Mead and the other four statewide elected officials, enacted a new policy banning all public displays of materials in the tunnel area.

Becky Vandeberghe, chairman of WyWatch, said Thursday that her board of directors is pleased that the state recognizes that it infringed on members' constitutionally protected speech.

"It's sad that it took such drastic measures to bring that about, but it's even sadder that state officials decided to address the problem by stifling more free speech, not less," Vandeberghe said in a prepared statement.

Attempts to reach lawyers with the Wyoming Attorney General's Office for comment on the settlement were unsuccessful.

Freudenthal had allowed the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming to intervene on behalf of WyWatch.

Linda Burt, head of the ACLU in Wyoming, said Thursday the case was important in terms of protecting free speech rights. "It was the right decision. We are also pleased to see this outcome," she said.

Jonathan Scruggs, a lawyer who represents WyWatch Family Action, said Thursday that the settlement should send a clear message to Wyoming officials.

"It says that the government can't discriminate against pro-life messages just because of the content of those messages," Scruggs said of the settlement. "And also, the government can't operate under vague practices and procedures. It has to have clear rules and clear principles how it regulates speech."

Published: Mon, Apr 9, 2012

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