Court Roundup


Man gets 36 years in prison over death of son, 2

MCKINNEY, Texas (AP) -- A North Texas man who told a 911 dispatcher that he ignored "voices in his head" that tried to stop him from killing his toddler son is going to prison for the death.

The Dallas Morning News reports 35-year-old Toby Kristopher Payne of Allen pleaded guilty to murder and received a 36-year prison term.

Payne had been charged with capital murder over the April 2009 death of 2-year-old Sean Payne. The plea agreement was reached Friday in court in McKinney.

An affidavit indicates that the father, as emergency personnel tried to save his son, told one of the officers he had strangled the child.

Defense attorney Juan Carlos Sanchez says Payne has mental health issues.


Convicted ex-judge now facing state discipline

ERIE, Pa. (AP) -- The Judicial Conduct Board has begun disciplinary proceedings against a former Pennsylvania Superior Court judge serving a 46-month federal prison sentence for insurance fraud.

It was not immediately clear if ex-Superior Court Judge Michael Joyce could lose his pension if he's found to have violated the state's Code of Judicial Conduct. The Erie Times-News says the board alleges the judge has violated the code by his 2008 felony conviction in U.S. District Court.

Joyce's attorney, John Quinn of Pittsburgh, has not immediately returned a call for comment Tuesday.

Joyce was convicted of defrauding two insurance companies out of $440,000 he collected after exaggerating injuries to his neck and back following a low-speed auto accident in August 2001. He was also required to forfeit some items he spent that money on, including his home.

New Mexico

State high court won't suspend Las Cruces judge

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- The New Mexico Supreme Court has declined to suspend a Las Cruces judge while bribery allegations against him are being investigated.

The court turned aside a recommendation for a temporary suspension of Judge Mike Murphy sought by the state Judicial Standards Commission.

District Attorney Matthew Chandler of Clovis is acting as a special prosecutor in the case. He is looking into allegations that Murphy paid kickbacks to a Las Cruces political figure for his appointment to the bench in 2006 by then-Gov. Bill Richardson.

Murphy's attorney says the allegations are baseless. Lawyer Michael Stout told the Las Cruces Sun-News that the accusations are 'unjust and improperly leaked' and says his client will continue on his job.

The Supreme Court did not explain its Monday ruling.


Judge rejects free speech case from lawyer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A federal judge has upheld a rule restricting what lawyers can say publicly in order to uphold public confidence in the judiciary.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves ruled on Tuesday that the Kentucky Supreme Court's regulations on attorney speech are constitutional, even if they restrict some speech legally protected by the First Amendment.

Reeves' decision comes in the case of attorney John M. Berry, who challenged the Kentucky Bar Association's ability to regulate what attorneys can say. The bar issued a warning letter to Berry in 2007 over comments he made criticizing the state's Legislative Ethics Commission.

Reeves also found that federal courts have no jurisdiction to overturn state bar association disciplinary actions, no matter what form the discipline takes.

New York

$3.75M claim in Binghamton slay in federal court

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) -- A $3.75 million lawsuit against the company that allegedly sold gunman Jiverly Wong weapons and ammunition before his rampage at a Binghamton immigrant center that killed 13 people has been transferred from state to federal court.

The Press and Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton reports that Samir Muhammad Al-Salihi filed a suit in state court seeking payment from Gander Mountain Inc. for pain and suffering experienced by his wife, Layla Salman Khalil, who died in the April 2009 attack. He alleges that Gander Mountain ignored signs of Wong's mental instability when he was a customer.

The Minnesota-based company last week requested that the case be moved to federal court, partially because of federal laws protecting firearms sales.

Gander has said the firearms in question were purchased legally.


Judge arrested on suspicion of domestic violence

VALLEJO, Calif. (AP) -- Police say a Northern California judge has been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.

Vallejo police Sgt. Jeff Bassett says Solano County Superior Court Judge Robert Bowers was arrested early Monday in his vehicle after police received a complaint from his wife late Sunday night.

Bassett told the Vallejo Times-Herald that Bowers' wife suffered "a minor, but visible injury."

The 51-year-old Bowers was booked in the Solano County Jail and posted $25,000 bail. The newspaper reports Bowers was at work on Monday but spent much of the day in his chambers as another judge handled his cases.

Bowers' attorney, Daniel Russo, denied the allegations and said that the judge's reputation has been damaged.

Bowers is scheduled for arraignment on May 2 in Solano County Superior Court in Vallejo. He was appointed to the bench in 2003.


City settles with family of shocked boy

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (AP) -- A northern Indiana city has settled a lawsuit filed by the family of a 5-year-old boy fatally shocked in 2008 when he crawled into an electrical transformer box.

WSBT-TV in South Bend reports that attorneys for Mishawaka confirm the settlement with the family of Izaya Baiz-Hickey, who died on Thanksgiving Day 2008.

The attorneys won't discuss the details of the settlement, but state laws caps settlements involving lawsuits against municipalities at $700,000.

Mishawaka Utilities owned the utility box, which had been left unlocked the day the boy died. His family sued the city of Mishawaka, the apartment complex where the boy died and its management company for wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit against the management company and apartment complex is ongoing.

Published: Wed, Apr 13, 2011