National Roundup

Prosecutor says inmate killed ma­n to have own cell

CLEARFIELD, Pa. (AP) - A prosecutor says an inmate killed his cellmate at a Pennsylvania prison because he wanted his own private cell.

Forty-five-year-old Lawrence Peterson Jr., formerly of Easton, will now serve a life sentence on top of the 40- to 80-year term he had been serving for a violent robbery.

Clearfield County District Attorney Bill Shaw planned to pursue the death penalty but decided to skip the trial after Peterson said Friday he was willing to plead guilty to first-degree murder and take a life sentence for the Aug. 2, 2013, beating of 59-year-old William Keitel.

Keitel died in the infirmary at the state prison in Houtzdale nine days later.

Shaw says it would have been a "terrible waste of tax dollars" to push for a trial.

High court pick under fire over email withdraws

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Efforts to fill two vacant seats this year on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court are at a standstill.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday that he'll make no further nominations after a white nominee under fire after apparently forwarding a racially insensitive email withdrew.

Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler, a Republican, says he's withdrawing because developments in his county's court system leaves matters that require his full attention.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican, says there's no decisions on whether to confirm the other nominee, Duquesne Law School dean Ken Gormley, a Democrat.

Corman says he's worried that confirming Gormley to the court could leave the justice gridlocked at three-to-three tie decisions. He also says there's not enough time to nominate another Republican before the court's March oral argument session.

North Carolina
Vanishing Marine found guilty of desertion in Iraq

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A U.S. Marine who vanished a decade ago in Iraq has been found guilty of desertion charges related to his disappearances there and in Lebanon.

The judge, Marine Maj. Nicholas Martz, gave his verdict Monday in the bench trial of Cpl. Wassef Hassoun.

Martz found that Hassoun was guilty of deserting in Iraq in 2004 and then deserting again in 2005 by fleeing to Lebanon after a brief return to the U.S.

Hassoun was also found guilty of causing the loss of his service pistol.

Sentencing is expected later this week.

Prosecutors argued during trial that Hassoun made preparations to flee his base in Fallujah in 2004 and foreshadowed his actions by threatening to leave for Lebanon.

Defense attorneys maintained Hassoun was kidnapped by insurgents in 2004.

Supreme Court won't reinstate dismissed case

WASHINGTON (AP) - Bobby Chen's legal luck has finally run out.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to reinstate Chen's appeal in a legal dispute with the city of Baltimore.

Chen beat long odds last year when he convinced the court - without the help of an attorney - to hear his case. But then he disappeared for two months and court officials couldn't reach him. The court dismissed the case last month after he missed a filing deadline.

Chen later re-emerged with a high-powered lawyer who said his client was traveling, experienced a slip-and-fall injury, and was unaware his case had been granted.

But the court declined to give him a second chance.

Chen had been fighting Baltimore officials for years, claiming the city illegally demolished his row house.

Court seems split over right to pro­test visa denial

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court seems divided over whether a California woman has the right to know why her husband from Afghanistan was denied a visa to enter the United States.

The justices heard arguments Monday in the case of Fauzia Din, a naturalized U.S. citizen who sued the government after her husband was rejected.

Her husband had worked as a clerk in the Afghan government when it was controlled by the Taliban. But the U.S. embassy in Pakistan offered no factual explanation for refusing his visa request, other than to cite a law giving the government broad discretion to deny visas based on "terrorist activities."

His wife argues that the visa rejection triggers her marital rights under the Constitution and that she deserves to know the specific reason for the denial.

State set to kill only female death row inmate

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia is set to execute its lone female death row inmate this week unless the state parole board or a court steps in with last-minute relief.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner, who's 46, is scheduled to die Wednesday at the state prison in Jackson.

Gissendaner was convicted in the slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, in February 1997. Prosecutors say she plotted with her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, to kill her husband.

Owen, who pleaded guilty and is serving life in prison, testified at Gissendaner's trial.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has scheduled a clemency hearing for Gissendaner Tuesday. The parole board is the only entity in Georgia authorized to commute a death sentence to life in prison.

Gissendaner's lawyers are also asking a judge to halt the execution.

Justices reject tour guides' free speech appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has rejected a free-speech appeal from guides in New Orleans who object to having to be licensed to lead tours.

The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place lower court rulings that said the licensing requirements do not violate the First Amendment.

Opponents of the requirements had hoped that the New Orleans case might attract the Supreme Court's interest because a District of Columbia court has held that similar rules in the nation's capital were unfounded.

The case is Kagan v. New Orleans, 14-585.

Published: Tue, Feb 24, 2015