National Roundup

Mistrial declared in child neglect and abuse case

POTEAU, Okla. (AP) — A judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a 62-year-old man who was charged with child neglect and sexual abuse after his nine children were found living in squalid, bug-infested conditions in eastern Oklahoma.
The children — whom investigators say were unable to count to 20 or recite the alphabet — were aged 3 to 17 years when the state Department of Human Services raided their property and took them into emergency custody in October 2011.
A petition to terminate the man’s parental rights says one of his daughters told authorities he impregnated her and buried the baby’s body near a goat pen. Investigators have searched the rural property but have been unable to find the remains. One daughter said he had sexually abused her and a younger sibling.
The Southwest Times Record reported ( ) that LeFlore County District Judge Jon Sullivan granted defense attorney Gary Buckles’ motion for mistrial, saying too many potential jurors had already formed opinions on the case.
A petition to terminate the parental rights of the man and the children’s 40-year-old mother filed in November last year alleged “shocking and heinous abuse and neglect.”
The children and their nine parents were found living in a small camper “because their home was too filthy and filled with bugs,” according a court decision terminating the man’s parental rights.
The Associated Press is not identifying the man in an effort to protect the identities of the children.
Assistant District Attorney Meg Nicholson said the father’s trial may be reset on the December docket, or it is possible the defense may renew a request for a change of venue.

Judge denies gag order in Trayvon Martin hearing

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge on Monday denied prosecutors’ request for a gag order in the trial of a neighborhood watch leader charged with fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said in an order that there was no need for a gag order at this time to ensure a fair trial for George Zimmerman.
The 29-year-old Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting last February.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and claims the shooting was self-defense under the state’s “stand your ground” law. Zimmerman and Martin got into an altercation inside a gated community in Sanford, Fla.
Prosecutors had asked for the gag order, claiming a website and social media used by Zimmerman’s attorney could influence potential jurors in the racially charged case.
The judge also set scheduling dates ahead of next June’s trial in a separate order. Any “stand your ground” hearing must be held before April 26 and all pretrial motions must be filed by early May, she said.
A defendant who invokes Florida’s “stand your ground” law can have a nonjury hearing in front of a judge before going to trial. If the judge finds the self-defense argument valid, the judge can dismiss the charges against the defendant.
Nelson warned the attorneys that an inability to meet pretrial deadlines wouldn’t be a reason to postpone trial.

DA announces indictments in hazing incident

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A Calhoun County grand jury has returned criminal indictments in connection with an alleged hazing case involving a fraternity at Jacksonville State University.
The incident took place off-campus in November 2011 in Jacksonville, The Anniston Star reports.
The grand jury is still hearing testimony in its investigation, Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh said. He said he couldn’t release more information on the indictments until they had been served, a process which he said could take one to two weeks.
The district attorney also said he could not yet name the fraternity or the individuals involved. He said the indictments stem from a Nov. 26, 2011, incident in which seven pledges were allegedly hazed, two of whom ended up in the hospital.
Jacksonville State has dismissed the fraternity from campus, university Provost Rebecca Turner said. She declined to name the fraternity.
In a civil lawsuit filed in July Calhoun County Circuit Court, Jason Horton maintains that he was hazed for about five hours when he was a pledge at the fraternity.
Fraternity members forced pledges to consume large quantities of alcohol, struck them with eggs and other flying objects and beat them for long periods of time with fists and paddles, Horton said in his lawsuit. He said he vomited blood the next day, was bleeding internally, sustained organ damage and had to be hospitalized for 24 days.

Man gets 35 years in violent crime rampage

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A state judge has ordered a Baton Rouge man to spend 35 years in prison for his role in a violent crime spree in 2010 that included the shooting injury of a good Samaritan trying to help a pregnant woman who was being robbed at gunpoint near LSU.
On Monday, Judge Don Johnson sentenced Jonathan Brit Murray to 30 years in prison on three counts of armed robbery and tacked on five more years for engaging in a pattern of criminal street-gang activity.
“You’ve forfeited your right to be outside with the rest of us,” the judge told Murray.
The Advocate reports Johnson also sentenced one of Murray’s co-defendants, Leslie Harris, to 30 years in prison on 10 counts of armed robbery. Prosecutor Will Morris told the judge that Harris placed numerous victims in “unimaginable fear.”
The prosecution of Murray, Harris and Leroy Molden Jr. marked the first time the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office utilized a rarely used 1990 Louisiana law that makes it a crime for three or more people, formally or informally, to engage in a “pattern of criminal gang activity.”
The 1990 law required that the sentence Murray received on the gang-related charge run consecutively with the sentence he received for the armed robberies, Morris said.
The three armed robberies that Murray pleaded guilty to occurred in 2010 on Oct. 23, Nov. 19 and Nov. 21. Two of the victims were pizza delivery drivers, Morris said.