National Roundup

Court: State erred in lethal injection regs

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Executions in California will remain suspended after a state appeals court ruled that corrections officials made several “substantial” procedural errors when they adopted new lethal injection rules.
The 1st District Court of Appeals said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation failed to explain, as required by state law, why it was switching from a three-drug injection method to a single drug.
The court’s opinion, which affirmed a lower court ruling, also said the agency misled the public by not providing the documents and information it used to reach its decision.
Corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in an email that the agency was reviewing the ruling.
“In the meantime, at the governor’s direction, CDCR is continuing to develop proposed regulations for a single-drug protocol in order to ensure that California’s laws on capital punishment are upheld,” Hoffman said.
California has not executed an inmate since 2006, when a federal judge halted the practice, finding that the three-drug mixture amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The state was ordered to redo its capital punishment system.
Since then, California has built a new death chamber at San Quentin State Prison and trained a new team to carry out executions.
There are currently 733 inmates on death row in California.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered prison officials to explore using a single drug, as some other states do, which could reduce the risk of suffering by condemned inmates. But the appeals court found that, in adopting those rules, corrections officials did not give the public the level of information that is required in adopting new regulations.
“A hearing is ... meaningful only if the interested public has timely received all available information that is relevant to the proposed regulations, accurate, and as complete as reasonably possible,” Presiding Judge J. Anthony Kline wrote. “The public that participated in the CDCR’s rulemaking process was not so fully informed.”
The agency argued that it responded to more than 29,000 public comments and a lengthy public hearing on the matter during which 102 people provided comments as proof that it complied with state law in making the new regulation.
Kline did not agree.
“As we have seen, the 102 people who attended the ... hearing and the 29,416 who submitted written comments were not made aware (or timely made aware) of much of the information relied upon by the CDCR in proposing the three-drug protocol, and were, in fact, misled about this,” Kline wrote.

Conviction in 2009 murder case oveturned

OZARK, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri woman whose 2009 murder conviction was overturned is out of jail on bond while awaiting a new trial.
Paula Hall of Sparta was released Thursday from Christian County jail after posting a $25,000 bond. She had been in prison for seven years for the murder of Freda Heyn, a 68-year-old great grandmother who disappeared in November 2003 from Oldfield, which is about 30 miles southeast of Springfield.
Heyn’s skull was found in the Mark Twain National Forest in southern Christian County in 2004.
Hall and her former brother-in-law, Billy Hall, and another man, David Epperson were charged in Heyn’s death in 2006. Paula Hall was convicted of first-degree murder in February 2009 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In 2011, a judge overturned the conviction after finding that Hall’s attorney didn’t have information about the criminal history of Lisa Bonham, an inmate at the Christian County jail who testified that Hall admitted to killing Heyn with a golf club. The judge said the information would have allowed Hall’s attorney to challenge Bonham’s testimony.
An appeals court upheld the ruling and prosecutors did not appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Hall’s next trial is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Taney County, KYTV-TV reported.
Under conditions of her bond, Hall cannot live in Christian County or go within 1,000 feet of Heyn’s family. She also must attend substance abuse resistance meetings at least once a week.
Epperson pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of tampering with evidence in exchange for testifying against Hall. A prosecutor dropped all charges against Billy Hall.

Teen convicted of killing mother placed in Eldora

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) — A 14-year-old convicted of killing his mother will be held at the Eldora State Training School for Boys for the next four years.
The Globe Gazette reports a judge made that decision Thursday for Noah Crooks, who earlier this month was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 killing of his mother at their Osage home. The teen shot his mother 22 times.
Noah Crooks’ attorney, William Kutmus, says his client’s case will be reviewed annually, and when he turns 18 a district court judge will have the information needed to decide the teen’s future.
He was tried as a youthful offender, meaning he will stay under the supervision of the judicial system past his 18th birthday.
Options include continued incarceration or another placement.

New York
Feds ordered to pay tribe $7.4M for health care

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the federal government to pay more than $7 million to the Seneca Nation of Indians to make up for underfunded health care services.
The Buffalo News reports that a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that Indian Health Services underestimated the number of patients served by Seneca Nation health clinics in western New York by about a third in 2010 and 2011. She ordered the agency to pay the tribe $7.4 million.
Seneca leaders said the problem occurred because the agency had believed that health clinic visits in towns on Seneca territory had actually taken place in towns with the same name in 14 other states.
The tribe took the government to court last year after the agency refused to address the complaints.S