SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Court rejects

NRA appeals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has turned away appeals from the National Rifle Association which complained about resistance by governments and judges to the high court's recent seminal rulings declaring that Americans have a constitutional right to own a gun.

The justices on Monday let stand rulings that upheld a federal law that prevents young adults ages 18-20 from purchasing a handgun or ammunition from a licensed federal firearms dealer and a Texas regulation that prohibits most 18-to-20 year olds from carrying a handgun outside the home.

The NRA said the laws make it difficult, if not impossible, for young adults to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

The court did not comment in denying the appeals.

Capital murder retrial not blocked

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court will not block Virginia from retrying an accused drug dealer, whose earlier capital murder conviction was set aside because of misconduct by prosecutors.

The justices on Monday rejected an appeal by Justin Wolfe, who said the prosecutors' misdeeds were so serious that they precluded a fair second trial.

A federal judge agreed with Wolfe and had ordered his immediate release, but the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., said the new trial could be held fairly.

Wolfe was sent to death row in 2002 for a drug-related murder, but his original conviction and sentence were overturned.

Poker club

conviction

denied review

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court will not disturb the criminal conviction of a New York man whose underground poker game ran afoul of a federal anti-gambling law.

The justices on Monday rejected an appeal from Lawrence DiCristina, who said his twice-a-week games of Texas Hold 'em should not be covered by the federal Illegal Gambling Businesses Act. DiCristina said the law targets games of chance, like lotteries, slot machines and dice, but not poker, which is a game of skill.

Bridge and Scrabble players weighed in on DiCristina's behalf, worrying they could be targeted under a federal appeals court's expansive interpretation of the law.

At least three justices, Elena Kagan, Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor, like to play poker.

Abortion law will not be considered

PHOENIX (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to consider a move to resurrect an Arizona law that would have disqualified abortion providers from receiving public funding for other medical services.

The high court declined to hear Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked the 2012 law.

That ruling was upheld last August by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with U.S. District Judge Neil Wake that the law violated federal Medicaid law by not allowing patients to freely choose a qualified medical provider.

The Supreme Court in May refused to revive a similar law in Indiana that also has been blocked.

Horne and the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom had argued the state's case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Arizona should be free to enforce its public interest against the taxpayer funding of abortion and in favor of the best health care for women, which is what this law sought to do," Alliance senior counsel Steven Aden said in a statement. "We are disappointed that the Supreme Court did not decide to weigh in on that principle."

Planned Parenthood has served Medicaid patients through the state's Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System since 1991.

Justices keep

file sealed

DENVER (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by a Colorado death row inmate who argued it is a violation of his First Amendment rights that the court file from his murder case remains sealed six years after his conviction.

Attorneys for Sir Mario Owen had asked the high court to overturn Colorado rulings that maintained his trial judge's earlier order that both sealed the file and barred them from distributing any documents from the case, even transcripts of testimony during the trial. Owens is one of three people on Colorado's death row.

He was convicted in 2008 of killing the witness in another murder trial and that man's girlfriend. Prosecutors had cited that history in asking the trial court to restrict access to court records.

Owens' attorneys said they wanted to be able to distribute the case records to publicize government misconduct.

The Colorado Supreme Court denied Owens' request last year. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeal Mondau without written comment.

Media organizations are also asking Colorado courts to unseal the file, noting that the death penalty is expected to be an issue in this year's governor's race because of Gov. John Hickenlooper's controversial stay of execution granted last year to another death row inmate.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado said it was disappointed in the Supreme Court.

"It is baffling that Colorado courts and now the U.S. Supreme Court have continued to deny the public access to the transcripts and other records of a death penalty case that was concluded six years ago," Legal Director Mark Silverstein said.

"The records of criminal cases, especially where the government seeks an execution, must be open to public review and scrutiny. With questions nationwide and here in Colorado about the deep systematic flaws in administration of the death penalty, these trials should not be conducted in secret."

Death row

appeal declined

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from a Mississippi death row inmate who argued there was a constitutional error in his capital murder trial for the killing of a junior college student.

Charles Ray Crawford made his request to the Supreme Court in October. The court denied the request without comment Monday.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a Mississippi federal judge said while Crawford was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel as it related to a 1993 psychiatric evaluation, prosecutors presented enough evidence to the trial jury to uphold his conviction and sentence.

The 5th Circuit panel called the error harmless.

Crawford, now 43, was sentenced to death in 1994 for the murder and rape of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County.

In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape, with a notice he planned to pursue an insanity defense. Four days before his trial, the 20-year-old Ray was abducted from her parents' home in Chalybeate. After his family and attorney notified police that they feared another crime was being committed, Crawford was arrested. Crawford told authorities he did not remember the incident but later led them to the body buried in leaves in a wooded area.

It was after the arrest for Ray's death that a judge ordered the mental examination.

Crawford later was tried and convicted on the original charges and sentenced to 66 years in prison.

During his trial for Ray's death, psychiatrists differed on Crawford's mental condition. Court documents show prosecutors used results of the 1993 examination, which found Crawford mentally competent, to attack Crawford's insanity defense in the capital murder case. Ultimately Crawford was convicted and sentenced to death.

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his death sentence in 1998. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case that year.

Crawford was granted an appeal to the 5th Circuit to argue he was subjected to a 1993 psychiatric evaluation without benefit of counsel. The Sixth Amendment protects the rights of criminal defendants to have a lawyer and effective legal representation.

In 2009, the 5th Circuit ordered the Mississippi district court to hear the Sixth Amendment argument.

After a hearing, a federal judge in north Mississippi ruled in 2012 that Crawford's right to counsel was violated but it was constitutionally harmless.

Death penalty appeal denied

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from a woman on Mississippi's death row who was seeking a new trial in the 1999 slaying of her husband based on claims that she was abused.

The court issued the order Monday without comment.

Michelle Byrom has argued her original lawyer failed to present evidence of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband. Prosecutors say the abuse issue was raised at her trial and denied.

Byrom, now 56, was convicted of capital murder in 2000 in Tishomingo County. In a rare move, she asked the judge, instead of the jury, to decide her sentence. The judge sentenced her to death.

State and federal courts have denied Byrom's appeals for a new trial.

Appeal from

condemned woman rejected

HOUSTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review an appeal from an Arlington woman on Texas death row for the starvation of a 9-year-old boy a decade ago.

A Tarrant County jury in 2006 convicted Lisa Ann Coleman of capital murder and decided she should die for the death of Davontae Williams.

Her appeal to the high court was rejected by the justices Monday with no comment.

Coleman shared an apartment with the boy's mother, Marcella Williams. She took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty and is serving a life prison term. Evidence showed Coleman beat, bound, neglected and starved the boy, who weighed 35 pounds. An autopsy showed he had more than 250 scars.

Coleman does not yet have an execution date.

Justices refuse appeal from killer

HOUSTON (AP) -- A convicted killer facing execution next month for a Dallas-area slaying 11 years ago has lost an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Anthony Doyle is set to die March 27 for the 2003 beating death and robbery of 37-year-old Hyun Mi Cho. She was delivering a doughnut and burrito order to a house in Rowlett. Her body was found in a trash can behind the house. Doyle was 18 at the time and on probation for theft. He also had a juvenile record.

The high court Monday, without comment, refused to review his case.

Doyle told police he intended to rob the woman and struck her with a baseball bat when she told him she had no money. Evidence showed he took her car and used her credit cards.

Published: Wed, Feb 26, 2014