National Roundup

Georgia
Court reinstates death sentence for bank robber

ATLANTA (AP) — The Supreme Court of Georgia has reserved a lower court’s decision and reinstated a death sentence for a man convicted of killing a man shortly after the robbery of a suburban Atlanta bank.
The court on Monday released its opinion that sends Michael Wade Nance back to Georgia’s death row.
The state had appealed a lower court’s ruling that had thrown out his death sentence but upheld his convictions. Nance had claimed that his lawyers were ineffective and should have taken a different strategy in defending him.
Evidence at Nance’s trial showed that he robbed the Tucker Federal Bank in Lilburn on Dec. 18, 1993, ran from the bank and then shot and killed Gabor Balogh, who was backing his car out of a parking space at a nearby store.

Pennsylvania
Man jailed — again — in alleged teen tryst

KITTANNING, Pa. (AP) — A 41-year-old western Pennsylvania man awaiting trial on charges he concealed a 15-year-old girl in an apartment earlier this year has been jailed again on charges that he contacted the girl online and had even begun discussing marriage plans with the girl.
Online court records don’t list an attorney on the new charges filed against Gregory Shaffer, of Kittanning. He faces a preliminary hearing June 19 on charges including soliciting statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor, and criminal use of a computer.
Police say Shaffer and the girl shared more than 700 messages last month, while he was free on bond for the earlier charge.
Shaffer had been arrested April 24 and charged with concealing the girl in an Indiana County apartment against the wishes of her guardian.

Indiana
Woman who was condemned at age15 goes free

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana woman whose death sentence for a killing when she was 15 years old helped change the way juveniles are treated by courts across the country was released from prison.
Forty-three-year-old Paula Cooper was freed Monday from a state prison in Rockville in western Indiana.
Cooper was sentenced to die in Indiana’s electric chair after she was convicted in the 1985 stabbing death of a 78-year-old Bible school teacher in Gary.
Her death sentence fueled international protests. Over the years since, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to execute anyone under age 18 or to sentence them to life without parole.
In 1988, the Indiana Supreme Court set Cooper’s death sentence aside and ordered a 60-year sentence.

Kentucky
Judicial portraits return to county courthouse walls

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — A series of portraits depicting all of the circuit judges who served even before Daviess County existed is back on display at the county courthouse.
Daviess County Circuit Judge Robert Short undertook the history project in the 1970s, either to find or replace each of the 22 pictures of the jurist. The last photos went up earlier this year.
Circuit Judge Joe Castlen told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer that some of the pictures were lost while others were pilfered by people who wanted the frames, but not the portrait of the judge.
“Some people called folks and said, ‘if you want to protect your ancestor’s portrait, come and get it,’” Castlen said.
The portraits were originally collected between 1905 and 1919. There are 22 portraits in all, and 13 of them were found between 2005 and 2013.
Castlen’s courtroom in the Morton J. Holbrook Judicial Center is filled with portraits of judges leading up to 1958, when Circuit Court was split into two divisions. Castlen’s courtroom contains all of the Division II judges, while portraits of Division I judges hang in Judge Jay Wethington’s courtroom.
Recovering the portraits and tracking down biographical information on each of the judges was a process that involved research and the help of painters, historians and photography experts. The process also required a bit of luck — a photo that was used to recreate a portrait was found, dirty and faded, in the closet of a relative, Castlen said.
“You could barely tell it was (the judge), it was so dirty,” he said.
Earlier this year, the portrait of Judge Charles Wintersmith, who served from 1867 and 1868, was the last to be hung.
“It has been interesting. I have learned so much about Daviess County,” Castlen said.

Louisiana
Hearing started Monday in 1995 police killing

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A death row inmate is asking for a new trial on charges that he helped a New Orleans policewoman rob and kill three people at a restaurant where she worked off-duty.
The hearing for Rogers LaCaze opened Monday and could last more than a week, The Times-Picayune reported.
LaCaze, 36, was convicted of helping Antoinette Frank rob Kim Anh Restaurant and kill her patrol partner, Ronald Williams II, 25, and two of the owners’ children, Cuong Vu, 17, and Ha Vu, 24.
The two were tried separately. Both were convicted.
Attorneys at the Capital Appeals project have filed hundreds of pages of documents with Criminal District Court in New Orleans.
They contend that prosecutors’ failed to disclose a key witness’ early statement that might have bolstered the argument that LaCaze did not shoot anyone at the restaurant.
They also have argued that prosecutors concealed early suspicion that Frank’s brother was her accomplice — and that he later was found with a gun that might have been the murder weapon.
Meanwhile, filings show that the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office is prepared to argue that LaCaze and his lawyers — who have the burden of proof in this phase of the case — fall short of establishing that he should get a new trial.
Prosecutors say the witness’ statement wouldn’t have exonerated LaCaze because too many reliable witnesses implicated LaCaze and not Frank’s brother, who doesn’t look like LaCaze.
LaCaze’s attorneys also contend that trial lawyer Willie Turk did a poor job. Prosecutors say Turk’s testimony would be needed to prove that. He died in 2006.r

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