National Roundup

South Carollina
Judge trying to avoid family stress in church shooting trial

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The federal judge in the trial of Dylann Roof in the Charleston church shootings says he wants to avoid undue stress on the victims’ families.

During a hearing in chambers last Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel discussed court plans to recess during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. An attorney representing families of the victims said some plan to be out of town during that time.

Gergel assured him the trial would break and said there’s plenty of stress and tragedy in the case without lawyers and the court adding to it. A transcript was released Monday.

Jury selection continues in November.

The 22-year-old Roof faces the death penalty if convicted on federal charges in the shooting deaths of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in June, 2015.

Prosecutor to ask for evaluation of prison guard 

DERMOTT, Ark. (AP) — A prosecutor says he will request a mental health evaluation for a prison guard who was arrested after a standoff at a southeastern Arkansas prison.

Authorities say the 24-year-old officer barricaded himself inside an observation tower at the Delta Regional Unit in Dermott on Saturday. State police say the guard had access to a rifle and refused orders to leave the tower, leading to the standoff. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ( ) reports that the guard faces a commercial burglary charge and an impairing operation of a vital public facility charge. He appeared in court Monday, but hasn’t been arraigned.

Attorney Thomas Deen said he’s seeking the mental health evaluation because the guard didn’t seem to have a purpose for his actions. Deen’s request for an evaluation will be made after a judge is assigned to the case, he said.

“It does not appear (McCarter) wanted to harm himself or anyone else,” said Solomon Graves, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman. “Throughout the entire process, he never made any demands. We don’t have any idea as to why he chose to hole up in the tower.”

If convicted of commercial burglary, MCarter would face between three and 10 years in state prison. Impairing operation of a vital public facility is a misdemeanor with a one-year maximum sentence.
McCarter is on paid leave pending the outcome of internal and police investigations, Graves said. A request for disciplinary records produced no documents, meaning McCarter had not been suspended previously because of his conduct.

Detective whose story told in ‘McFarland USA’ gets prison

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — An ex-detective who was on the championship 1987 track team depicted in the movie “McFarland USA” has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to bribery and drug charges.

The sentence given to Damacio Diaz on Monday was more lenient than prosecutors had urged for the 17-year veteran of the Bakersfield Police Department. The Bakersfield Californian says the U.S. Attorney’s Office recommended between 17 and 22 years.

Diaz was charged with assisting a drug dealer and providing him with names of police informants, and with trafficking drugs that had been seized for evidence.

“McFarland USA” was released in 2015 and tells the story of coach Jim White, played by Kevin Costner, and the transformation of a rural running team.

Diaz and his brothers were members of the team that won the state championship.

Unmarried gay woman granted full parental rights

BOSTON (AP) — The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that an unmarried gay woman whose former girlfriend gave birth to two children through in vitro fertilization has the same parental rights as their biological mother.

Julie Gallagher gave birth to the children, and her former partner, Karen Partanen, has helped raise them.

After the couple split, Partanen wanted to be declared a full legal parent.

A family court judge dismissed Partanen’s request, finding that she didn’t meet the requirements under state law because she and Gallagher were not married when the children were born, and Partanen is not a biological parent.

The Supreme Judicial Court overturned that ruling Tuesday, finding that a person may establish themselves as a child’s presumptive parent under state law, even without a biological relationship with the child.

Court invalidates law restricting abortion providers

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court has thrown out another state law that would put new restrictions on abortion providers.

In a unanimous opinion handed down Tuesday, all nine justices agreed that the statute adopted by the Legislature last year “contains different and unrelated purposes” in violation of the Oklahoma constitution’s requirement that legislation cover a single subject.

The law encompasses four abortion-related topics: minors and parental consent; tissue preservation; inspection of clinics; and legal liability for abortion providers.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law and the state’s highest court subsequently blocked it from going into effect. The center sued on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns of Norman, who performs nearly half of Oklahoma’s abortions.

Oklahoma’s attorney general didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday.

Chief justice begins appeal of ethics conviction

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is starting the appeal of the judicial ethics conviction that led to his ouster.

Moore’s attorneys filed a notice with the Alabama Supreme Court on Monday.

Moore is challenging his conviction by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary on charges of violating judicial ethics. The court ruled that Moore overstepped bounds with an order he issued last year about same-sex marriage.

Full legal arguments will come later. But Moore’s lawyers write that they’re challenging issues including whether the court has the power to review administrative orders like the one issued by Moore.

Moore’s eight remaining colleagues on the Supreme Court will consider his prosecution and conviction. The court suspended Moore for the remainder of his six-year term with its decision last week.