National Roundup

Sheriff: Substitute teacher sent vulgar messages to students

PINCKARD, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama substitute teacher was arrested and accused of sending inappropriate messages to students, authorities said.

Darius Salter, 21, was charged Monday with two counts of possession of obscene matter, news outlets reported.

Dale County Chief Deputy Mason Bynum said Salter worked at South Dale Middle School and Dale County High School.

Bynum said investigators were contacted by the Dale County Board of Education and told of a possible inappropriate relationship between a student and a substitute teacher.

School administrators immediately removed Salter from the classroom. Investigators found multiple victims.

Bynum said all inappropriate communication between Salter and the victims were done electronically.

“We do not believe any sexual contact was made between the victims and the suspect. As the investigation continues, we anticipate additional charges to be filed,” Bynum said.

It’s unclear whether Salter had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

New Hampshire
Senators ask for drug-trafficking information on dark web

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire is asking the U.S. attorney general’s office and the FBI for a progress report on illegal drug trafficking, particularly of fentanyl and other opioids, on a hidden part of the internet known as the dark web.

Hassan was joined by fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California, and Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, in a letter Tuesday asking for information regarding the work of the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement, known as J-CODE.

That was created by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018 to develop a strategic plan to disrupt and dismantle dark web marketplaces that facilitate the distribution of opioids. The senators wrote that the dark web can provide anonymity to those who use it, hiding identities and locations.

The senators asked whether the Justice Department has a system that tracks indictments and investigations related to crimes involving the dark web and opioids; if authorities have been able to determine which countries opioids are coming from on the dark web; and whether there are technology companies that provide secure or encrypted communications that don’t cooperate with law enforcement with respect to drug trafficking.

Death row inmate claims intellectual disability

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee death row inmate is asking a federal judge to postpone his December execution, saying that he is intellectually disabled.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing an intellectually disabled person violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. In a court filing on Monday, attorneys for Pervis Payne argue that in Tennessee, however, there is no procedure to allow Payne to bring his claim of intellectual disability before the courts.

Tennessee has its own law forbidding the execution of the intellectually disabled, but that law does not contain a mechanism for people to reopen their cases if they were sentenced before the law went into effect, according to the court filing. State Rep. G. A. Hardaway has said he intends to file a bill to address the problem, but the next legislative session does not begin until January. Payne’s execution date is Dec. 3. In his petition to the federal court in Nashville, Payne asks the judge to postpone his execution until after Tennessee’s law is amended and a court examines his intellectual disability claim.

Payne was sentenced to death in a Memphis court for the 1987 stabbing deaths of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie Jo. Christopher’s son, Nicholas, who was 3 at the time, was also stabbed but survived. Payne, who is Black, has always maintained his innocence. He told police he was at Christopher’s apartment building to meet his girlfriend when heard the victims, who were white, and tried to help them. Then he panicked when he saw a white policeman and ran away.

In a separate petition filed in state court, Payne is asking a judge to order that DNA evidence in his case be tested. The Memphis district attorney opposes the testing and a ruling is expected Wednesday.

The Monday filing claims the evidence of Payne’s intellectual disability is “unassailable.” In addition to IQ testing, attorneys spoke to people who knew Payne as a young man and said Payne could barely read or write, could not follow complex directions, couldn’t use a ruler, count money or iron clothes.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office said they have no comment on Payne’s petition.

In a news release from Payne’s attorneys, Katie Powers, a past president of the Tennessee Disability Coalition, said the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of people with intellectual disability because it “recognized that people with intellectual disability present ‘a special risk of wrongful execution’ because they have trouble assisting their attorneys and make poor witnesses on their own behalf. This is precisely what happened to Pervis Payne.”

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a similar case out of Tennessee in July. In that case, lawyers for David Keen said tests from 2008 and 2010 prove Keen’s intellectual disability, but there is no procedural mechanism to reopen Keen’s case and present the evidence to a court. Attorneys for the state opposed Keen’s petition, arguing, in part, that Keen was not intellectually disabled.

Man gets 48 years in prison for killing Missouri couple

TUNAS, Mo. (AP) — A southwestern Missouri man has been sentenced to 48 years in prison for killing a couple in 2018.

KYTV-TV reports that 24-year-old Billy Medley of Macks Creek was sentenced Monday. He pleaded guilty to killing Joseph and Brandy Allen in September 2018. Investigators say the Allens were shot when they tried to confront Medley and Jeffery Stevenson, who were stealing their truck.

Surveillance video from nearby businesses helped lead authorities to Stevenson and Medley. The stolen truck was found in a wooded area near Stevenson's grandmother's home.

Medley pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and seven other crimes.

A plea hearing for Stevenson is scheduled for Oct. 8. He also is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and other crimes.