National Roundup

Woman pleads guilty to killing grandmother by smothering

BEND, Ore. (AP) - A Bend woman who said she smothered her 92-year-old grandmother with a pillow pleaded guilty a second time and received a 5-year prison sentence Monday after her first conviction was overturned.

Angela Judd entered the plea to criminally negligent homicide in Deschutes County Circuit Court in the New Year's Eve 2015 death of Nada Bodholdt, District Attorney John Hummel said.

In July 2016, to avoid a murder trial, Judd also had entered a conditional guilty plea - meaning she could file an appeal over disputed testimony - and was sentenced to more than six years in prison, KTVZ-TV reported. But that conviction was overturned by the Oregon Court of Appeals in December.

In 2015, Bodholdt was under hospice care in Bend. On Dec. 31, Judd entered her grandmother's room, climbed into her bed, placed a pillow over her face, and smothered her to death.

A few weeks later, Judd related what she did to a social worker and the social worker told police. At the time, Judd was employed as a nurse at the Sky Lakes Health Center in Klamath Falls.

The appeals court reversed the initial conviction and the remanded the case back to the lower court. It ruled that the counselor, who testified at trial over defense objections, could only file an initial report with police and that the rest of what she was told and testified to was privileged information.

The court reviewed lawmakers' debate over the details of legislation in Salem and ruled that they had intended to only "allow for an initial report of suspected elder abuse," and that "the trial court erred in concluding otherwise."

Judge: Get out of bed, get dressed for Zoom hearing

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A Florida judge has one request for attorneys showing up for court hearings via Zoom: Get out of bed and put on some clothes!

Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey made the plea in a letter published by the Weston Bar Association, news outlets reported.

"It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera," Bailey said in the letter. "One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers."

Bailey isn't making any exceptions for lawyers lounging in the Florida sunshine, either.

"Putting on a beach cover-up won't cover up you're poolside in a bathing suit," he wrote.

Since courthouses shut down on March 16 to help slow the coronavirus pandemic, Broward County's judicial system has held about 1,200 Zoom meetings involving some 14,000 participants, WPLG-TV reported.

Bailey, for one, said he won't hold a complicated trial over the video conferencing site, given the technology's shortcomings.

"Often, lawyers are not looking at their screens but down at their files, their outlines and notes, or simply out the window, and cannot see the judge is hollering "Stop! Stop!" because an objection has been made and the audio stays with the witness rather than obeying the judge," he said.

Court allows medication abortions during pandemic

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A federal appeals court panel ruled that medication abortions, in which pills are taken to terminate a pregnancy, can be provided in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last month that bars non-essential medical procedures so that health resources can go to treating coronavirus patients. Texas' Republican attorney general has said that providing abortions other than for an immediate medical emergency would violate the order.

In a ruling Monday, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that medication abortions can go forward. In a concurrence, Judge James L. Dennis wrote that Texas' move to ban medication abortions "is a strong indication that the enforcement is pretextual and does not bear a 'real or substantial relation' to the public health crisis we are experiencing."

Over the weekend, Texas abortion clinics asked the Supreme Court to step in to allow medication abortions.

Such an abortion involves taking one pill at a clinic, then taking a second pill 24 to 48 hours later, typically at home. Clinics have argued that medication abortions do not require personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns that might be needed for coronavirus patients.

Texas permits medication abortions during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Similar legal challenges have been filed in other states that have moved to restrict abortions during the pandemic. On Monday, a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower-court order that overturned an Oklahoma ban.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also declined to hear an appeal by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost seeking to reverse a judge's temporary restraining order allowing abortion facilities in the state to continue performing surgical abortions.

New Jersey
Women's prison failed to address sex abuse

CLINTON, N.J. (AP) - A federal report accuses officials at New Jersey's only state women's prison of having failed to take action to prevent rampant sexual abuse at the facility despite being aware of systemic problems.

The Department of Justice report released Monday alleges that the state corrections department and officials at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women violated inmates' constitutional rights by failing to protect them.

Several corrections officers at the prison have pleaded guilty or been convicted of sexual abuse and misconduct in recent years.

The report called sexual abuse at the prison "severe and prevalent," and said a "culture of acceptance" has persisted for many years. It concluded that the prison failed to adequately investigate abuse complaints and didn't protect those who reported abuse from retaliation.

The prison could face a federal lawsuit by June if it doesn't comply with the report's recommendations.

In an emailed statement, the state corrections department said a task force has made improvements at the prison including increased camera surveillance and an enhanced training program.

"The Department of Corrections remains committed to ensuring the safety of all those in its care, and in service of that goal continues to regularly monitor and evaluate its operations, programs and services," the statement said.

The Mahan facility, which is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of New York City, gained notoriety in the late 1970s when Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop in 1973, escaped and eventually fled to Cuba, where she was granted asylum by Fidel Castro.

Published: Wed, Apr 15, 2020