Court declines to hear inmate case on civil death

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case of a Rhode Island inmate serving life behind bars who had challenged the state's law that considers him "civilly dead."

The high court did not say why it would not hear Dana Gallop's case. The court traditionally takes up only a small percentage of the cases it is asked to review each year.

Gallop, of Boston, is serving two life sentences plus 45 years for fatally shooting a rival gang member outside a Providence nightclub in 2008. He was attacked in 2010 by another inmate with a razor and suffered permanent scarring to his face. He alleged in a lawsuit against the state prison system that guards were tipped off to the attack and looked the other way.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that Gallop can't sue because under state law he is considered civilly dead. Rhode Island is one of the few places where inmates serving life in prison are deemed dead by state statute with respect to property rights, marriage and other civil rights, as if their natural death took place when they were convicted.

Gallop's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenged the constitutionality of the 1909 state law, which he said derived from laws that were used to "socially exclude and politically disenfranchise African Americans after the Civil War."

Gallop's attorney called the Supreme Court's decision "disappointing and depressing."

"This is a stupid rule that makes no sense," Ronald Resmini said, noting that someone's civil rights should be preserved no matter their situation.

J.R. Ventura, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said the agency had no comment on the court's decision.

Justices reject ex-cop's appeal of rape convictions

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal for a former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of sexually assaulting black women he encountered while patrolling the city's low-income neighborhoods.

Attorney James L. Hankins asked the highest court in December 2019 to review a ruling against 33-year-old Daniel Holtzclaw issued months earlier by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The Supreme Court's denial of the written request means the lower court's decision stands.

Holtzclaw's sister, Jenny Holtzclaw, called the lower court's ruling "outrageous flawed and scientifically illiterate."

"The average time it takes to exonerate an innocent person like Daniel is upwards of 14 years," she said. "This is devastating and Daniel lives through it every day, but he remains strong in his faith and spirit."

Prosecutors alleged Holtzclaw targeted black women and girls while on duty in 2013 and 2014. Holtzclaw was found guilty in 2015 of 18 charges, including rape and sexual battery involving eight women. He was sentenced to 263 years in prison the following year.

Oklahoma's criminal appeals court rejected his appeals last August that argued a lack of evidence, misconduct by prosecutors and a failure by the defense attorney at trial to present an expert to offer an alternative explanation to how DNA of one victim wound up on Holtzclaw's pants.

His case became a rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement. A 2015 Associated Press investigation highlighting it found about 1,000 officers in America lost their licenses for sexual misconduct over a six-year period - an undercount because some states don't have a method for banning problem officers.

Published: Wed, Mar 11, 2020