National Roundup

Suit over public defender system gets tossed

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit alleging Washington County's public defender system is too underfunded and overworked to properly support its low-income clients.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports the suit was filed in January on behalf of William Cox and Edward Paulus, who have both been assigned public defenders for their pending criminal cases. But a judge dismissed the complaint Monday, ruling that the men can't claim they've been harmed because their criminal cases have not yet been resolved.

The judge also called their claims "sweeping, yet unsupported."

Attorney Michael Studebaker, who filed the proposed class-action suit, says the judge's decision represents a setback for "indigent defense." He says they're considering an appeal.

Another lawsuit claiming the state's public defender system is unconstitutional is pending in federal court.

Rhode Island
Judge awards legal fees in sex harassment suit

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A federal judge has awarded nearly $184,000 in attorneys' fees to a former Rhode Island firefighter who won an $806,000 verdict against Providence and its fire department in a sexual harassment suit.

The Providence Journal reports that the judge on Monday issued an order awarding legal costs to retired Providence firefighter Lt. Lori Franchina.

Franchina had won the verdict in April. A judge later overturned $100,000 in punitive damages.

She filed suit in 2012, accusing her male colleagues of harassing and discriminating against her because she's a woman and a lesbian. She said she developed severe post-traumatic stress disorder because of the constant mistreatment and alleged the city failed to stop it.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Jorge Elorza says the city intends to appeal.

Court upholds life sentence in fatal stabbing of woman

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the life prison sentence of a 54-year-old man who was convicted in the fatal stabbing of a 42-year-old woman.

The court handed down the ruling Wednesday in the case of Billy Clifford Brown Jr., who was convicted of first-degree murder by a Tulsa County jury in the Oct. 13, 2014, stabbing death of 42-year-old Sukey Francis-Walters.

An affidavit says the woman suffered a stab wound to her upper chest. The Oklahoma medical examiner's office matched the stab wound to a steak knife that was found with blood on it near Francis-Walters' body.

Brown alleged he was deprived of effective assistance of counsel during his trial and that prosecutors committed misconduct.

His attorney, Richard Couch, didn't immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Candidate barred from bench wins judge election

CHICAGO (AP) - A law clerk who faces charges of impersonating a judge has been elected as a judge in the Chicago area even though she's been barred from taking the office.

Rhonda Crawford had been expected to win Tuesday's election over a write-in opponent, as she was the only name listed on the ballot. The 45-year-old can't be sworn in to the $180,000-a-year job unless she's cleared of wrongdoing.

The former nurse was fired from her courthouse job and criminally charged for donning a black robe and presiding over traffic cases that should've been heard by a real judge. The Illinois Supreme Court temporarily suspended her law license.

Crawford has said she'd been shadowing judges, observing how they work, when Judge Valarie Turner "encouraged" her to put on the robe and preside.

Grandmother gets 12 years in failed murder-for-hire

CULPEPER, Va. (AP) - A Virginia grandmother will serve 12 years in state prison for putting a hit on relatives after losing custody of her grandson.

The Culpeper Star-Exponent reports that a county judge on Monday sentenced 45-year-old Tammy Smith Kelly of Stevensburg. She pleaded guilty in August to four counts of solicitation to commit murder.

Authorities said Kelly lost custody of her grandson last fall and attempted to arrange the killing of his maternal grandparents and their two adult children.

She was arrested last November.

Defense attorney David Randle attempted to use an insanity defense in the case, but Kelly was deemed competent to stand trial.

In court Monday, Kelly apologized for her actions, saying she made a "very bad choice" and deeply regretted what she had done.

New Mexico
Pediatric surgeon accused of child porn charges

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A pediatric surgeon in Albuquerque has been accused of distributing and possessing child pornography.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office arrested the 63-year-old man on Tuesday in connection to the child pornography charges.

According to court documents, when detectives executed a search warrant on the man's home there was a 16-year-old boy in his bedroom wearing only underwear. The suspect told investigators that the boy is a former patient who stays with him because the boy is not in school. The suspect denied allegations that he had a sexual relationship with the teen.

Detectives found the suspect possessed a flash drive on his key chain full of at least a dozen images of child pornography.

Dad faces new murder charge after boy beaten in 2007 dies

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio man imprisoned for severely beating his infant son in 2007 has been indicted on a murder charge following the boy's death last year.

The Columbus Dispatch reports a Logan County grand jury indicted 52-year-old Michael Robinson on the new charge Tuesday. Court officials say their records do not show an attorney for Robinson.

Robinson pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges including felonious assault and domestic violence in the beating of his son, Dana, at their Bellefontaine home. The boy suffered brain injuries and was left a paraplegic with cerebral palsy.

He died in his sleep last November. A coroner determined he died of complications from the brain trauma.

Robinson is serving 14 years, but could face life in prison if convicted on the new charge.

Published: Thu, Nov 10, 2016