National Roundup

New Mexico
Judge rules Ten Commandments monument must go

BLOOMFIELD, N.M. (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday ruled that a New Mexico city must remove a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments from the lawn in front of Bloomfield City Hall.

Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker said in his ruling in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that the monument amounts to government speech and has the "principal effect of endorsing religion."

Because of the context and history surrounding the granite monument, Parker said Bloomfield clearly violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. He gave a Sept. 10 deadline for its removal.

The suit was filed in 2012 on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who practice the Wiccan religion.

Peter Simonson, ACLU of New Mexico executive director, called the decision a victory for protection against government-supported religion.

According to previous court testimony, plaintiff Jane Felix said the display "says that anybody who doesn't agree with this monument on city grounds is an outsider."

City attorneys say private individuals erected and paid for the monument under a 2007 city resolution. That resolution allows people to erect historical monuments of their choosing.

Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein said he was surprised the judge would rule against "a historical document."

"The intent from the beginning was that the lawn was going to be used for historical purposes, and that's what the council voted on," Eckstein told the Daily Times.

The city has 30 days to file an appeal. City attorney Ryan Lane said he will review the opinion and tell the city council if there is basis for one.

The 6-foot-tall monument was erected in July 2011 by a former city councilor and weighs 3,000 pounds.

State attorney general to appeal capital rulings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Friday that he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate death sentences for two brothers over the fatal shooting of four people in snow-covered soccer field and another man convicted of murdering a couple.

Schmidt notified the state Supreme Court that he is appealing its rulings in the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr and Sidney Gleason.

The Carr brothers were sentenced to lethal injection for the four killings, which occurred in Wichita in December 2000 and followed dozens of other crimes, including robbery and rape. Gleason was sentenced to die over the couple's deaths, in the central Kansas town of Great Bend in February 2004.

"In each case, we doubt the U.S. Constitution compelled the Kansas court to set aside the death sentences that were recommended by juries of the defendants' peers," Schmidt said in a statement.

An attorney who represented both Gleason and Jonathan Carr did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

The Kansas court hasn't upheld a death sentence since the state enacted a new capital punishment law in 1994, and the state's last legal executions, by hanging, were in 1965. It has another five men on death row.

The rulings in the Carr brothers' cases prompted criticism from the Republican-dominated Legislature because the crimes were among the most notorious in the state since the 1959 killings of a western Kansas farm family that inspired the classic book, "In Cold Blood."

Authorities said the Carr brothers broke into a Wichita home and forced the three men and two women inside to have sex with each other and repeatedly raped the women. The brothers forced them to withdraw money from ATMs before taking them to the field, where one woman survived a gunshot wound to the head and ran naked through the snow for help.

The Kansas court ruled that the brothers should have had separate sentencing hearings, instead of a joint one.

In Gleason's case, the same court said the presiding judge gave flawed instructions to jurors about weighing evidence in favor and against recommending a death sentence. One victim was a woman who'd witnessed a robbery in which he was involved. The other was her boyfriend, and authorities said Gleason shot him as he sat in a Jeep.

Online suicides case back in lower court

FARIBAULT, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota prosecutors are arguing that an ex-nurse should be convicted of assisting suicide for online communications in which he urged two people to kill themselves.

William Melchert-Dinkel was initially convicted of encouraging the suicides. But the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed that, saying the state law against encouraging suicides is too broad.

The high court upheld part of the law that makes it a crime to "assist" a suicide, and sent the case back to district court.

A prosecutor argued Friday that 52-year-old Melchert-Dinkel met the definition for "assisting" by providing information on how to commit suicide.

The Faribault Daily News reported that a defense attorney said there's no evidence that Melchert-Dinkel's advice led to the suicides.

The judge took the case under advisement and will rule within 30 days.

Judge Judy, personal injury lawyer settle lawsuit

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Television's Judge Judy and a Hartford personal injury lawyer she sued for allegedly using her image in ads without her permission have settled the case, she said Friday. Terms weren't disclosed.

Judith Sheindlin, a retired Family Court judge who has starred in the show "Judge Judy" for 18 years, said in a statement that she and attorney John Haymond "reached an amicable resolution of their claims against each other."

She filed a lawsuit against Haymond and his firm in federal court in Connecticut in March, saying they had used her image without authorization in advertisements that falsely suggested she had endorsed the firm.

The spots combined footage from "Judge Judy" with clips showing Haymond and his daughters, according to the suit. It said the ads were broadcast in Connecticut and Massachusetts during her show and that Sheindlin's producer had told the firm - to no avail - that the use of her image wasn't allowed.

Sheindlin called the unauthorized use of her name and image "outrageous" at the time.

Haymond later countersued, alleging that she had made defamatory claims against him that hurt his business. Neither Haymond nor his attorney immediately returned calls Friday seeking comment.

Sheindlin had sought more than $75,000 in damages. In her statement, she said the settlement will "solely benefit the girls of Her Honor Mentoring Program."

Published: Mon, Aug 11, 2014


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