Court Digest

Court weighs fate of sweeping abortion law restrictions

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A federal appeals court panel is weighing the fate of a sweeping Missouri abortion law, including a provision that prohibits a woman from having an abortion because the fetus has Down syndrome.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis heard arguments Thursday in the legal battle over the 2019 measure that bans abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy. The appeals court ruling isn't expected for several weeks.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood, operator of Missouri's lone abortion clinic, and the American Civil Liberties Union sued. A federal judge blocked the law  while the legal challenge plays out, prompting the state's appeal to the 8th Circuit.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said at the time of his ruling last year that Planned Parenthood and the ACLU would likely succeed in their lawsuit alleging that the law is unconstitutional. Similar laws have been struck down in North Dakota and Iowa.

Most of the discussion Thursday centered around the provision banning abortions because the fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome.

"That epidemic of abortions targeting children with Down syndrome for elimination solely because of their disability, not for any other reason ... is a crisis," Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer said.

Planned Parenthood attorney Claudia Hammerman argued that four decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent "make it clear that this is unconstitutional." She said doctors won't take the risk of losing their medical license for aborting a fetus with Down syndrome, regardless of whether the condition was the reason the woman sought the procedure.

"That woman will be deprived of an abortion," Hammerman said.

Missouri is among several conservative states in recent years that have passed abortion restrictions in hopes that the increasingly conservative Supreme Court will eventually overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. The Supreme Court vacancy created by the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has heightened a sense of alarm among supporters of abortion rights.

State Supreme Court affirms convictions in 2015 shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed on Friday convictions for first-degree murder and battery stemming from a 2015 shooting at the Roxy bar in Overland Park.

The  court ruled that Dale Willis'  claims of jury instruction errors were barred because he had requested and agreed to those jury instructions.

The state's highest court also said none of the statements made by the state during the trial constituted prosecutorial error and the court properly admitted testimony from an agent with the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The case stems from dispute that erupted at the bar on Sept. 16, 2015 that ended with Jurl Carter being fatally shot multiple times in his car. Willis defenses at trial were that his brother acted alone in the shooting or that alternatively that if he had acted in concert with his brother, he did so in self-defense.

Willis got a hard-50 sentence for the murder conviction and a concurrent six-month sentence for the battery conviction following a jury trial.

The appeals court found no sentencing errors.