National Roundup

Rhode Island

@ROUND UP Briefs Headline:ACLU: Rejecting 'indecent' vanity plates ­unconstitutional

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties plans to challenge a Rhode Island policy that bars vanity license plate applications deemed indecent.

ACLU Rhode Island Executive Director Steven Brown tells the Providence Journal the Division of Motor Vehicles is violating the First Amendment by rejecting license plates based on "what they see as in good taste."

Brown says the organization is looking for a plaintiff to represent in federal court.

A probe by the paper found that the agency has rejected 50 license plate applications since 2012. Rejected license plates include BONG and PPLSUC.

State law gives the agency the authority to refuse a plate that "might carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency."

Administrator Walter Craddock has said plates should stay "within the bounds of good taste."

North Carolina

New trial ordered as jurors weren't told about defense law

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina appellate court has ordered a new trial for a man convicted in a fatal shooting he argued was self-defense.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports the state Court of Appeals said Tuesday that jurors in Kelvin Oyakahil Irabor's first trial weren't told about the state's "stand your ground" law. The 33-year-old Irabor was convicted last year of murder in the 2015 shooting of Dondre Keyshaw Nelson. Irabor admitted to shooting Nelson and said it was in self-defense.

The appellate court says in its unanimous opinion that a jury could have decided the state's stand your ground law applied to the shooting. It says trial testimony indicated an altercation precipitated the shooting, and Irabor said then that he was afraid of what Nelson would do.

Louisiana

Free after 36 years, he won't face prosecution in1980 death

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A decades-long legal ordeal that included 36 years behind bars officially ended Tuesday for a 69-year-old man when a New Orleans prosecutor announced he was officially ending efforts to prosecute him for a 1980 murder.

John Floyd had long insisted he was plied with drinks, beaten and coerced into confessing to the similar murders of two men - one in a French Quarter apartment and another in a downtown hotel - days apart. He was acquitted in the downtown murder but a judge found him guilty in the French Quarter stabbing death of William Hines.

Floyd eventually got help from the Innocence Project New Orleans and, in 2016, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance ruled that his claims were credible. Floyd was freed in 2017 and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her decision in June.

Prosecutors never objected to Floyd's release during appeals and it's not clear that they would seek to imprison him again - the court record includes notes that he had been offered plea deals.

But prosecutors have said Vance's ruling was erroneous and would set bad legal precedents regarding the strength of evidence needed to overcome time limits on appeals. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro was faced with pressing on in federal court with efforts to reinstitute the conviction or re-trying a nearly 40-year-old case in state court. On Tuesday, he filed motions to officially vacate the conviction and dismiss the case.

In a news release, Cannizzaro said he remains convinced of Floyd's guilt.

"Our hope is that Mr. Floyd takes stock of his criminal past, appreciates his freedom in this season of Thanksgiving, and conducts himself in the years ahead as a law-abiding and productive member of society."

IPNO attorneys had been calling on Cannizzaro to end the prosecution for months. The organization hailed the ruling on its Facebook page, saying there would be a celebration with Floyd once he returns from spending the holidays in Mississippi with family.

Floyd had confessed to murdering Hines at the victim's French Quarter apartment and businessman Rodney Robinson three days later at a downtown hotel. Both were killed after apparently sharing a drink and having consensual sex with their attacker, according to the court record.

Vance's ruling noted evidence that Robinson was killed by a black man with type A blood. Floyd is white with type B blood.

Evidence in the Hines case has been lost over the years, but Vance said there were strong indications of Floyd's innocence in that case as well, including "the striking similarity" between the Robinson and Hines slayings and the finding of African-American hair in the bed of Hines, who was white.

She also noted the presence of fingerprints at the Hines murder scene that matched neither Hines nor Floyd.

California

FBI re-creates decoy heads ­Alcatraz inmates used in escape

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Half a century after a notorious prison escape from Alcatraz Island, the FBI has created replicas of decoy heads that inmates used to distract guards from a plan that still captivates researchers and tourists.

Authorities last week unveiled 3D-printed copies of the decoys that inmates Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin constructed with soap, plaster and human hair.

Morris and the Anglin brothers placed the decoys in their beds and climbed through a wall to escape the island prison in San Francisco Bay. The men were never found.

Inmate Clayton West also created a head but never made it out of the maximum-security prison that housed dangerous criminals like Al Capone and offenders with a history of escaping.

Authorities said they made the replicas to share with the public because the original decoys are fragile and are evidence in the still-open investigation into the escape by the U.S. Marshals Service.

"We understand the original items can't be out here - they've got to be archived," said John F. Bennett, FBI special agent in charge in San Francisco. "But we recognize that those items are also part of the rich and historic fabric and the landmark of this city."

Bennett said a team from the FBI's laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, traveled to San Francisco to scan the original decoys. Employees at the lab donated their own hair to accurately re-create the original masks, which included human hair that the inmates had collected from the prison barber shop.

The FBI investigated the prison break - which was featured in the 1979 movie "Escape from Alcatraz" starring Clint Eastwood - for 17 years before it was turned over to the Marshals Service.

Now, Alcatraz visitors can see models of the heads on display that were used in the movie. The FBI hopes the public will soon be able to view the agency's replicas, which were unveiled to some media outlets along with "Wanted" signs for the long-escaped inmates.

Authorities are investigating any and all credible leads, said Don O'Keefe, U.S. marshal for the Northern District of California.

Published: Fri, Nov 23, 2018

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