National Roundup

Cannibalism case jury may have to come from another county

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — The jury that will hear the murder trial of a southern Indiana man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and eating parts of her body may have to come from another county to avoid depleting the jury pool during another high-profile trial.

Attorneys for Joseph Oberhansley, 39, and prosecutors are expected to report back to a Clark County judge within days on whether the jurors should come from a different county, or if his trial set to start Sept. 8 should be postponed, the News and Tribune reported.

Oberhansley is accused of killing and mutilating his ex-girlfriend, 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton, in Jeffersonville in 2014.

He was set to go stand trial last August with a jury drawn from central Indiana’s Hamilton County, but a mistrial was declared during the first day of testimony after a state’s witness spoke of things that attorneys had previously agreed would not be mentioned to the jury.

Attorneys tried to select a new jury drawn from Hamilton County, but they found that due to media coverage of the crime’s gruesome nature many of those potential jurors already knew details of the case.

Clark County Circuit Court Judge Vicki Carmichael later agreed that the jurors would be selected from St. Joseph County, in northern Indiana, due in part to its distance from the media markets of southern Indiana, Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky.

But Carmichael said during a Thursday attorneys meeting held via Zoom that St. Joseph County has another high-profile case of its own there within a week of Oberhansley’s scheduled trial and the court doesn’t want to deplete that county’s jury pool.

Top US judge in LA steps down over remark called insensitive

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The top-ranking federal judge for the Los Angeles area has told fellow judges and court staff that he is stepping down from his post because of a remark he made about a Black woman who is the court’s top administrative official that some regarded as racially insensitive, the Los Angeles Times reported.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, chief judge of the federal Central District of California, announced his decision Friday in an email that summarized his remarks, the critical reaction and his decision to leave the four-year position he had begun on June 1, the Times reported Sunday.

Carney apologized to Kiry K. Gray, who has been the district’s executive and clerk of the court since 2015.

“I have apologized to Ms. Gray, but I have concluded that a simple apology will not put this matter to rest. There will be division in the Court, unnecessary, negative and hurtful publicity, and a diversion from the Court’s essential mission of administering justice if I were to continue serving as the Chief District Judge,” Carney wrote. “I cannot allow the Court to become politicized and embroiled in controversy.”

The Times said the controversy dates to a June 9 webinar sponsored by the local chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

Carney was speaking about taking on the role of chief district judge when he mentioned Gray.

“Fortunately for me, we have just a fabulous clerk of the court in Kiry Gray. She’s so street-smart and really knows her job,” Carney said.

When Carney learned that some who heard or learned of the “street-smart” remark thought it was derogatory or racially insensitive, he explained: “To me, the term means a person of great common sense, initiative, and ability to work with people and get things done. It saddened me greatly to learn that some people view the term to be demeaning to people of color. I never knew that there was a different definition of the term.”

Carney said that during a later conversation with Gray he learned that some thought he should step down as chief judge.

“In a moment of anger and frustration, I said to Ms. Gray that the people criticizing me were equating my well-intended use of the term ‘street-smart’ with the reprehensible conduct of a police officer putting his knee on a person’s neck,” Carney said.

Carney said that statement was wrong and it was directed at critics, not Gray.

“My statement was an insensitive and graphic overreaction to the criticism that was leveled against me. I never should have made the comparison,” Carney said.

Gray declined to comment when reached by phone, the Times said.

Carney is a former Orange County Superior Court judge who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2003.

Carney, who will remain a judge, said Judge Philip S. Gutierrez will take over as chief of the district, which includes Los Angeles and six adjacent counties.

Prosecutors seek stiffer sentences for 2 in rare book thefts

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Prosecutors asked a judge to stiffen the home confinement and probation sentences imposed on a former librarian and a bookseller who pleaded guilty in the theft of rare books from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in a years-long scheme.

Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket sentenced 56-year-old John Schulman earlier this month to four years of home confinement and 64-year-old Gregory Priore to three years of home confinement. Both were ordered to spend a dozen years on probation after completing their sentences.

Priore, former manager of the rare books room at the library, pleaded guilty in January to theft and receiving stolen property. Schulman, the owner of Caliban Book Shop, pleaded guilty to theft by deception, receiving stolen property and forgery. The judge told the two men that if not for the pandemic, their sentences would have been stiffer.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Catanzarite suggested Friday that Bicket sentence the two men to “total confinement” and said he wouldn’t object to suspending home confinement until they can be lodged safely. A prison term, he said, would reflect “the serious and atypical nature of the offenses to which they pleaded guilty.”

Catanzarite earlier asked the judge to sentence both men to two to four years in state prison.

“The history of our nation was stolen and resold merely to feed the defendants’ avarice,” he wrote, saying Priore and Schulman “plundered irreplaceable cultural treasures for which money provides no substitute.”

Authorities said Priore stole prints, maps and rare books and handed them off to Schulman to resell them. Prosecutors said several hundred rare items worth more than $8 million were taken in a scheme investigators believed dated back to the 1990s.

Officials said the library discovered the missing items during a 2017 appraisal that concluded that more than 340 books, maps and images had been stolen over 20 years. Both defendants apologized to the city, its residents and the library.

Schulman’s attorney said they will respond to the memo “in due course” while Priore’s attorney said it was still under review.