NATIONAL NEWS FOR AUGUST 2012
Jared Lee Loughner will spend the rest of his life in prison. Shortly after he was arrested for murdering six people and wounding thirteen others, Loughner was diagnosed as schizophrenic and found not competent to stand trial. Loughner received months of intensive psychiatric treatment before his court-appointed psychologist certified that he was ready to face the charges against him. Loughner then accepted a plea offer from the prosecution. He entered guilty pleas to 19 criminal charges, including murder and attempted assassination of a member of Congress. The federal government dismissed 30 other counts and agreed not to pursue the death penalty. Loughner was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, followed by 140 years in prison.
The Tenth Circuit refused to overturn the conviction of a New Mexico man after a federal judge forgot to swear in the jury. Gilbert Turrieta was convicted for assaulting a U.S. marshal. After the jury returned the guilty verdict, Turrieta’s defense lawyer moved to set it aside. As counsel pointed out, the judge inadvertently failed to swear in the jury. Counsel argued that Turrieta was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury. The judge denied the motion to set aside, and Turrieta appealed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals criticized defense counsel for failing to disclose the mistake until the end of the trial. The court found that the case against Turrieta was clear cut, so the judge’s failure to swear in the jury did not seriously affect fairness and integrity.
David Lee Wiggins was exonerated after 24 years in prison. In 1989, Wiggins volunteered to participate in a police line-up, because he was innocent and felt he had nothing to worry about. Wiggins was mistakenly identified as the perpetrator and was convicted of rape. In 2012, the Innocence Project used DNA technology, not available in 1989, to prove that Wiggins had been wrongly convicted. Although DNA testing has been now used to exonerate dozens of individuals, DNA testing is possible in just 5-10% of criminal cases.
“The steady stream of exonerations has shaken our faith that the system works well enough. Twenty years ago, they were all guilty. Today we can no longer pretend that the system works well enough that a man can voluntarily walk into a line-up, knowing he’s innocent, and believe that the truth will come out.”
Juvenile offender Jeffrey Raglund gets a second change after Miller v. Arizona. At age 17, Raglund was involved in a parking lot fight. Raglund’s friend, Matthew Gill, struck 19-year-old Timothy Sieff in the head with a tire iron. Sieff died from his injuries. Gill accepted a plea deal and received 50 years in prison. Raglund took his case to trial and lost. Under Iowa law, juvenile murderers received a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole sentence. Raglund has spent the last 26 years in prison, while Gill was paroled after three years. In June, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Miller v. Alabama, that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. Following the decision, Raglund challenged his sentence. Iowa Judge Timothy O’Grady said that Raglund should be immediately eligible for parole, finding that his sentence was cruel and unusual in light of the relatively short prison term served by his co-defendant.
Marijuana may be decriminalized in two states by the end of the year. Proponents of marijuana legalization have raised $3 million to support initiatives in Washington and Colorado to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The initiatives will be included on November ballots in both states. Surveys report that 55 percent of Washington voters and 61 percent of Colorado voters support legalization.
AND IN UTAH NEWS . . .
The Utah Supreme Court ruled that the government has a right to trial by jury. Middle-school cafeteria worker Jamie Greenwood was accused of rape and unlawful sexual activity with a minor, after demanding sexual favors from a 16-year-old boy. On the day her case was set for trial, Greenwood asked the court to re-schedule the case for bench trial, rather than jury trial. The Court granted Greenwood’s motion, and the prosecution appealed. The Utah Supreme Court found that defendants don’t have the right to choose a judge over a jury if prosecutors don’t sign off.
Roberto Miramontes Roman was found not guilty of murdering a Millard County sheriff’s deputy. The verdict came as a shock to prosecutors and law enforcement authorities. Roman initially confessed to the crime, describing how he shot and killed deputy Josie Fox. However, he changed his story at trial. Roman testified that Fox’s brother, Ryan Greathouse, had actually fired the shots that killed Fox. Roman claimed that Greathouse threatened him and demanded his false confession. Roman and Greathouse had consumed methamphetamines together shortly before the murder. Greathouse could not confirm or deny Roman’s story. He was found dead in Las Vegas shortly after Fox’s murder. The jury claimed they wanted to convict Roman but found too much reasonable doubt.
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