National Roundup

State high court to hear ­'unrestorably incompetent' man's case

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - More than 13 years after a 16-year-old girl was found raped and murdered, the case of the man whose DNA was found at the scene is heading to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports 46-year-old Oswaldo Elias Martinez has never stood trial in Brittany Binger's 2005 death. Deemed incompetent because he can't speak or hear, he's been held in jail and mental hospitals.

Martinez's lawyers want his capital murder charge dismissed. Their filing says the state law used to hold him permits detention only for "medical" treatment to restore competency.

The state tried to teach Martinez sign language to assist in his defense.

Commonwealth's Attorney Nate Green says someone "unrestorably incompetent" who's charged with capital murder and poses a danger must continue along the restoration process.

Arguments are scheduled for Oct. 31.

Police applicants asked to disclose if sex assault ­victims

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The Oakland, California, police department asks officer applicants to disclose whether they have been sexually assaulted, which appears to be a rare and potentially problematic inquiry, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The San Francisco Chronicle queried police in the state's 10 most populous cities and could not find another instance of screening for sexual assault victims.

Legal experts told the newspaper the inquiry is odd and potentially problematic, but there is disagreement over whether it's illegal.

Oakland police officials said a candidate would not be denied a position for being a sexual assault victim. Officials said they want the information so they can review police reports in which applicants may appear.

The disclosure request is on a release form that has been in use since at least 2011, well before the #MeToo movement that started a year ago with accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

The question comes up when recruits sign and get notarized a form that allows the Police Department to conduct a background check on them to determine suitability. The form authorizes, for example, the release of educational transcripts, credit history and local criminal history information, "including if I have been a victim of sexual assault."

Oakland Police Officer Marco Marquez said the department's background investigators are "interested in every police report that an applicant might appear in," including whether the person was a suspect, witness or victim.

But questions about an applicant being a witness or suspect are not asked, the newspaper said.

The Oakland application practice is inexcusable, said retired Portland, Oregon, Police Chief Penny Harrington, the first woman to lead a major city police force.

"There's absolutely no reason to be doing that," said Harrington, who founded the National Center for Women and Policing. "I can't imagine why they would need to know that information, except as a way to wash out women."

Professor Joan Williams, an expert on employment law and sex discrimination at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, called the disclosure requirement "clearly illegal."

"The stereotype is that women who have been sexually assaulted turn into raging ids and tear machines and could never be objective again," she said.

Deborah Rhode, a Stanford Law School professor who studies equal protection and sex discrimination, disagrees that the question is illegal, saying it's posed to men and women.

But she too finds the disclosure request puzzling. "I don't know if the assumption is that someone who's been a victim can't be objective," she said.

The newspaper reported that representatives of police departments in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Anaheim and Santa Ana said they do not ask applicants to disclose whether they are sexual assault victims.

Representatives for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the Oakland Police Department did not respond to the Associated Press' request for comment on Sunday.

State high court lets voter photo ID injunction stay in place

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has allowed an injunction to remain in place against part of the state's voter photo identification law.

A Cole County judge issued an injunction earlier this month against a provision requiring people lacking photo identification to sign a sworn statement and show some other form of identification in order to cast regular ballots.

Attorney General Josh Hawley's office had asked the Supreme Court to suspend enforcement of the injunction until after the Nov. 6 election while the case is being appealed. State attorneys argued that the ruling could create confusion for voters and local election authorities.

The Supreme Court issued a one-sentence decision Friday declining to suspend the injunction. It did not explain its reasoning.

Judicial ­watchdog probes court's practice of cutting fines

ATLANTA (AP) - The agency that monitors Georgia's judiciary is looking into the City of South Fulton Municipal Court's practice of slashing fines for defendants who agree to register to vote.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the Judicial Qualifications Commission's director, Ben Easterlin, says it's trying to determine whether any violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct have occurred.

The controversy came to light this month when South Fulton Solicitor LaDawn Jones disclosed on Twitter that defendants in the city's Municipal Court had their fines reduced by $50 in exchange for registering to vote. Polls indicate that the state's nationally watched governor's race is extremely close.

The court's chief judge, Tiffany Sellers, said Friday that she did not do anything wrong.

It's unclear how many people took advantage of the discount offer.

Published: Tue, Oct 23, 2018