SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Justices refuse to block case against ExxonMobil

BOSTON (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a bid by ExxonMobil meant to block an investigation by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey into whether the company misled investors and consumers about what it knew about the link between fossil fuels and climate change.

The Democrat is seeking documents from the Irving, Texas-based oil and gas giant into whether it concealed information about the impact of burning fossil fuels.

Monday's decision is the latest legal blow for ExxonMobil. Last year the highest court in Massachusetts ruled the company must hand over documents sought by Healey.

Healey said Monday's decision clears the way for the investigation. She said the public deserves answers about what ExxonMobil knew about the effect of burning fossil fuels, and when.

An ExxonMobil spokesman declined to comment.


Court declines to review sentence in school shooting

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the nearly 112-year prison sentence of a man who fatally shot his parents before killing two students and wounding two dozen others at an Oregon high school more than 20 years ago.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports 36-year-old Kipland P. Kinkel had submitted his own typed petition to the nation's highest court in early August, and then his two new lawyers submitted their own petition on Kinkel's behalf.

The lawyers argued the Oregon Supreme Court got it wrong last year when it upheld Kinkel's sentence and found that Kinkel is incapable of rehabilitation.

The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal Monday means the state Supreme Court ruling stands.

Kinkel was 15 at the time of the shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon.


Justices won't hear appeal from Craigslist killer

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from an Ohio man sentenced to death for killing three down-and-out men lured by fake Craigslist job offers.

The appeal from 59-year-old Richard Beasley was among those that the high court on Monday declined to hear.

One of his attorneys, Donald Gallick, told the Akron Beacon Journal the decision is disappointing.

Beasley was convicted of posting bogus job offers on Craigslist to rob and murder three men in 2011. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld his death sentence last February.

Beasley sought to argue that state Supreme Court Justice Patrick DeWine should have recused himself because he's the son of state Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office argued the case.

Beasley previously challenged his sentence because he said there were multiple trial errors.


Court sides with Ohio over death row inmate

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is ordering a federal appeals court to re-examine the case of a convicted killer in Ohio whose death sentence was thrown out after he was found to be mentally disabled.

In an unsigned opinion Monday, the justices said that the federal appeals court in Cincinnati applied the wrong standard when it concluded that inmate Danny Hill was ineligible to be executed.

The high court said the appellate judges wrongly relied on a recent Supreme Court decision, but should have instead based their decision on rulings that were in effect at the time that state courts judged Hill not to be mentally disabled.

The Supreme Court banned the execution of mentally disabled people in 2002, but states still retain significant discretion in assessing mental disability.


Justices reject de Havilland's case about TV miniseries

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is declining to revive a lawsuit by Olivia de Havilland over the FX Networks miniseries "Feud: Bette and Joan," which centered on the rivalry between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

The high court on Monday said it would not take the actress's case. That means a California appeals court's decision throwing out the lawsuit stands. The appeals court unanimously ruled in 2018 that California law and the First Amendment required the lawsuit's dismissal.

The 102-year-old de Havilland had objected to her depiction on the eight-part miniseries. She said her likeness was illegally used and her character, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, came across as a vulgar gossipmonger.

As is its usual practice, the Supreme Court did not say anything about the case in declining to hear it.


Lawsuit over art seized during World War II turned down

WASHINGTON (AP) - Heirs of a renowned Jewish art collector won't be able use U.S courts to sue Hungary's government for the return of paintings seized during World War II that are worth millions.

The Supreme Court on Monday said it wouldn't take the case. That means an appeals court ruling that Hungary is immune from being sued in U.S. courts over the paintings stands.

The family of Baron Mor Lipot Herzog is still pursuing a case in the United States against three museums and a university all run by Hungary. The family says those institutions together hold about 40 pieces that were Herzog's but confiscated by Hungary, a wartime ally of Nazi Germany.

The family unsuccessfully tried suing in Hungary before suing in the U.S. in 2010.


Court won't take case of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel

By Jessica Gresko and Dave Collins
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court announced Monday that it is leaving in place a decision that vacated a murder conviction against Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel.

Skakel was convicted in 2002 of the 1975 bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley, who lived across the street from the Skakel family in Greenwich, Connecticut, and whose body was found in her family's backyard. Both Skakel and Moxley were 15 at the time of her death.

The high court's refusal to hear the case means that a 2018 decision by Connecticut's highest court throwing out Skakel's conviction will stand. Connecticut's highest court based its decision on Skakel's attorney's failure to seek out an additional alibi witness.

Though it would be difficult, the state could retry Skakel, who is a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy. The state has not said how it would proceed if the Supreme Court declined to intervene. Top Connecticut prosecutors said Monday they appreciated the Supreme Court's consideration of their request to hear the case, but declined further comment.

Moxley's mother said Monday she was disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision. Dorthy Moxley, 86, who now lives in New Jersey, said she has no doubt that Skakel killed her daughter and she wants to see him back in prison, but will support whatever decision Connecticut prosecutors make about whether to retry him.

"The state of Connecticut had a very, very, very good case, and we absolutely know who killed Martha," she said. "If Michael Skakel came from a poor family, this would have been over. But because he comes from a family of means they've stretched this out all these years."

Skakel's appellate lawyer, Roman Martinez, said he hoped Connecticut prosecutors would decide against retrying Skakel.

"Over the past 10 years, two Connecticut courts - including the Connecticut Supreme Court - have painstakingly reviewed every detail of Michael Skakel's case," Martinez said. "Both reached the same conclusion: Michael's conviction violated the U.S. Constitution."

Skakel's case has spent nearly two decades winding its way through the court system after he was charged in 2000 with Moxley's killing. After a jury convicted Skakel, he argued that his lead trial lawyer did an inadequate job representing him, including by failing to contact an additional witness who could confirm his alibi for the time of the killing.

Skakel says he was watching an episode of the "Monty Python" television show at his cousin's house at the time Moxley was killed. Moxley was beaten with a golf club that belonged to Skakel's mother.

Prosecutors told the Supreme Court that if Skakel "had been provided the assistance of an attorney who undertook only half the efforts his defense team undertook in this case, he still would have been afforded far better representation than that provided for the typical criminal defendant."

Skakel served more than 11 years in prison before being freed on $1.2 million bail in 2013 when a judge overturned his conviction, citing errors by his lead trial lawyer Michael Sherman, who has defended his work.

But Connecticut's Supreme Court reinstated Skakel's conviction in December 2016, ruling 4-3 that Skakel was adequately represented. That decision didn't last.

The Connecticut Supreme Court justice who wrote the majority opinion, Peter Zarella, retired immediately after the decision was announced, and Skakel asked that the decision be reconsidered. A new justice, Gregory D'Auria, sided with the three justices who had previously dissented and in May reversed the court's original decision. It is that ruling that the Supreme Court left in place, turning away the case without comment, its usual practice when it declines to hear a case.

D'Auria and his colleagues' ruling was based on Sherman's failure to seek out the additional witness who could confirm Skakel's alibi.

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Associated Press reporter Dave Collins reported from Hartford, Connecticut.

Published: Wed, Jan 09, 2019

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