National Roundup

Attorneys: ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ inmate’s IQ too low to execute

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Attorneys for a Nebraska death row inmate whose case inspired the 1999 movie “Boys Don’t Cry” say he should be found ineligible for execution because he has the intellect of a child.

John Lotter was sentenced to death for his role in the 1993 killings of Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old transgender man, and two witnesses, Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine, at a farmhouse in Humboldt, about 75 miles south of Omaha.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Lotter’s lawyers filed a motion stating that recent IQ testing shows the 46-year-old Lotter is intellectually disabled and therefore can’t be put to death under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling forbidding the execution of the intellectually disabled.

Nebraska law says an IQ of 70 or below is presumptive evidence of an intellectual disability. Court records show Lotter scored a 67 last year, which would be the equivalent IQ of an 8-year-old.

The judge will need to grant an evidentiary hearing to consider the issue.

Defense: Spare mother death penalty in daughter’s  1998  death

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) — A judge is considering a defense request to lift the death penalty from a woman convicted in the starvation death of her 7-year-old daughter two decades ago and resentence her to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Forty-nine-year-old Michelle Sue Tharp was convicted of the 1998 death of daughter Tausha Lee Lanham. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the conviction but ordered a new sentencing hearing, saying her public defender was ineffective.

The (Washington) Observer-Reporter reports that Tharp’s attorneys argued Monday that relatives and medical professionals with direct knowledge of the case have died in the intervening years.

Washington County prosecutors argue that the testimony can still be presented to jurors. But defense attorneys want the judge not to empanel jurors but instead to sentence Tharp to life.

Prosecutors seek death penalty in ­transgender teen’s killing

HOUSTON, Mo. (AP) — Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for one of the suspects in the slaying of a transgender teenager in southwest Missouri.

Court records show a notice requesting the sentence for Andrew Vrba was filed Monday. Vrba is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Ally Steinfeld. Vrba’s attorney declined comment ahead of a hearing Tuesday.

Investigators say Steinfeld was stabbed several times, including in the genitals. Her eyes were gouged out and her body was set on fire. Officials say the slaying wasn’t a hate crime. Steinfeld’s remains were found in September near Cabool.

One female suspect has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder, while another awaits a first-degree murder trial. A fourth suspect has pleaded not guilty to abandonment of a corpse.

Feds asks to join settlement talks over opioid lawsuits

CLEVELAND (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice wants to join settlement talks in federal court involving hundreds of lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of opioid painkillers.

The government says it can provide information and expertise to parties in the case and facilitate requests to government agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.

The government made a request to join as a “friend of the court” in a filing before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland on Monday.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the government is determined to see justice done and the nation’s “unprecedented drug crisis” ended.

More than 400 cities and counties across the country have sued drug makers and distributors for costs associated with the addiction crisis.

After girl’s death, family sues school ­district, ­classmates

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The family of a student who died after being attacked by classmates in Delaware is suing her attackers and the school district.

Sixteen-year-old Amy Inita Joyner-Francis died in 2016 after she was attacked by three classmates in a Wilmington high school bathroom. She died from a pre-existing heart condition.

The News Journal of Wilmington reports that the lawsuit filed Monday seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the school district and two students charged in the attack. The filing alleges the school district failed to monitor bathroom activities, which amounts to negligence in its duty to protect Amy.

The suit follows a judge overturning a criminally negligent homicide and conspiracy conviction of one of the students last month. She will be resentenced next month.

Lawyers spar over case ­accusing Maine governor of blackmail

BOSTON (AP) — A lawyer for Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage has urged a federal appeals court to toss a Democrat’s lawsuit accusing him of blackmail.

Attorney Patrick Strawbridge told the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday that the governor is immune from the legal challenge brought by former House Speaker Mark Eves.

Eves says the governor overstepped his authority when he threatened to withhold state funding to force a charter school operator to rescind a job offer to Eves.

Eves’ attorney, David Webbert, told the court that no “reasonable” official could think that the job would be subject to a “political loyalty requirement.”

Eves said after the hearing that the court must set a precedent to prevent something like this from happening again.

Eves also is running for Maine governor.