Courts - Courts Round Up

Iowa

Man sentenced for torturing puppy to death

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) -- A Sioux City man convicted of animal torture in the beating death of his puppy will spend a month in jail.

Bobby Loggins was charged last June after authorities say he punched his American bulldog puppy to death.

A judge on Friday sentenced Loggins to 365 days in jail, but suspended all but 30 days of the sentence. He will be on probation for 18 months.

Authorities say Loggins repeatedly punched the dog in the face for urinating on the carpet.

Tennessee

Defendant walks away as verdict returned in trial

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Sheriff's deputies in Memphis are searching for a man charged with murder who walked away from a courthouse moments before a jury returned a verdict in his case.

Shelby County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Shular says 21-year-old Dearick Stokes of Memphis told his attorney he needed to use the restroom and left the courtroom at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The move came after jurors sent the judge a note a verdict had been reached. Jurors returned moments later and found Stokes guilty of the charges.

Shular says Stokes, who was free on $250,000 bond, never returned and hasn't been found as of Sunday afternoon.

Stokes was on trial on charges of first degree murder and criminal attempt especially aggravated robbery.

Prosecutors say he killed a man on Feb. 26, 2009 during a robbery attempt.

Kentucky

Judge weighing 10 life sentences in sex case

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A southern Kentucky man will find out later this month if he'll receive 10 life sentences for convictions on multiple counts of rape and incest.

The Kentucky New Era reports that a jury in Christian County last week recommended the multiple sentences for 45-year-old David Hoff. Christian Circuit Judge Andrew Self has scheduled sentencing for Feb. 24.

The 16 charges that made up Hoff's one-day trial stem from the rape of one of the three children he fathered with the mentally handicapped woman. Jurors deliberated for about two hours before convicting Hoff and 11 minutes before recommending the maximum sentences on all charges.

Christian County Commonwealth's Attorney Lynn Pryor says the sentences, if imposed, would constitute the "most significant" prison time given in the county in years.

Kentucky

Court overturns conviction in 1998 killing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A man serving 52 years in a 1998 western Kentucky shooting death has been ordered freed or granted a new trial after a federal appeals court ruled that his attorney had a conflict of interest because he was defending another suspect in the case.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday gave prosecutors 180 days to retry 31-year-old Treon McElrath on charges of murder and wanton endangerment or free him from prison.

McElrath was convicted in 1999 with his cousin, Terrance Boykin, and a friend, Andre Everett, of taking part in the slaying of Natasha Wilson in Clinton in far western Kentucky. Boykin and Everett were arrested in Union City, Tenn., 35 minutes after the shooting.

The unanimous three-judge panel ruled that the attorney representing both McElrath and Boykin at trial had a conflict of interest. The attorney, Benjamin Lookofsky, effectively abandoned McElrath's best chance at an acquittal to pursue a joint defense of the two men, Judge Ralph B. Guy wrote.

Guy wrote that the attorney's decision to pursue the joint defense went against the weight of the evidence, including shells, bullets and bullet holes at the scene.

"We conclude that counsel's decision to forgo McElrath's best defense and pursue a doomed mutual defense to the detriment of McElrath (and Boykin) is evidence of disloyalty and demonstrates an actual conflict that affected the adequacy of counsel's representation.

Wilson was shot June 21, 1998, while with her boyfriend at her grandmother's house in Clinton. Wilson had previously filed charges against Boykin for unlawful imprisonment, burglary and sexual abuse. That night, Wilson's boyfriend identified only McElrath as the shooter. But at trial, he said both Boykin and McElrath had a part in the shooting.

The 6th Circuit overturned Boykin's conviction in September 2008. Boykin is now serving 26 years in state prison. Everett is serving 23 years in state prison.

McElrath's attorney, Christopher Lasch, could not be reached for comment.

Pennsylvania

Woman gets 2-1/2 to 5 years in boyfriend's death

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- A western Pennsylvania woman convicted in the shooting death of her boyfriend after they argued because another man flirted with her has been sentenced to 2-1/2 to five years in prison.

Fayette County President Judge Gerald Solomon said the sentence he imposed on 44-year-old Johnna Palya, of Hopwood, was the maximum she could receive on a conviction of involuntary manslaughter.

During her trial, prosecutors alleged that the August 2007 killing of 43-year-old Barry Pavlicko was premeditated. But Palya testified that the gun went off accidentally after Pavlicko held it to his head and dared her to shoot him. A previous trial ended in a hung jury.

Before she was sentenced, Palya again said the shooting was unintentional and also said she still loves the victim.

Published: Tue, Feb 16, 2010