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Roderick Nunley pleaded guilty to the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 15-year-old in 1989. The state court judge sentenced him to death. Nunley had argued, before the Eight Circuit, that his capital sentence was a violation of state and federal precedent, since he was sentenced to death without a jury. According to Nunley, state and federal Supreme Court precedent required a jury sentencing for a death penalty to be permissible.

Not so, ruled the Eighth, which found that Nunley had unequivocally waived his right to a jury sentencing when he plead guilty.

As expected, the family of Michael Brown filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Ferguson, Missouri, its former police chief, and former police officer Darren Wilson.

Brown was killed by Wilson in an altercation last year, which began the most recent national conversation about young black men being shot by white police officers. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson for Brown's death, leading to accusations that the prosecution stacked the evidence in Wilson's favor, and then to protests in Ferguson and elsewhere.

What can you get from two marijuana roaches with leftover weed, blunt paper, cigarillo wrappers, and 2 baggie knots pulled from the trash? No, it's not the worst Christmas present ever -- it's probable cause!

A few scraps of marijuana and paraphernalia recovered after searching through thirteen -- thirteen! -- bags of trash weren't the evidence of crack dealing that cops sought, but they were enough to support a warrant to search the house, the Eighth Circuit ruled on Monday.

After Henry Lyons gave a student athlete an "F" in his course at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, a university committee determined that the student should get a second chance. The paper, graded by the committee, got a D+.

Lyons complained to the school's chancellor about the preferential treatment afforded student athletes and asked for an investigation. The university didn't offer him a job for the next semester, which Lyons said was retaliation for speaking out about the treatment of student athletes, a violation of his First Amendment rights.

In what The Associated Press called "a surprise," the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals announced that it would hear same-sex marriage appeals from South Dakota, Arkansas, and Missouri in a consolidated oral argument held the week of May 11 in Omaha, Nebraska.

The court agreed not only to consolidate all the cases, but to expedite the appeals. The court's ruling will definitely be influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in the Sixth Circuit same-sex marriage cases, which it will hear some time this term.

While we were away for the holidays, news surfaced that Robert McCulloch, the prosecutor who failed to secure an indictment against Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, may have withheld a teensy bit of information from the grand jury.

McCulloch said on December 19 that he put anyone who claimed to have seen the event in front of the grand jury, even if they were knowingly lying, and even if McCulloch knew they were lying.

Where does that get you?

Last week, the University of Iowa asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a second trial in the case of Teresa Wagner, a part-time writing instructor at the University of Iowa College of Law who claimed she was denied a full-time position because of her conservative politics.

In July, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said that Wagner was entitled to a second trial after the trial judge made a procedural misstep. So what's going on?

Ferguson is Burning While Questions Remain About Unusual Grand Jury

Ferguson is burning. The first night's casualties are in: dozens of burned and looted businesses in Ferguson, two police cruisers burned, bottles and rocks tossed at police officers and reporters alike, riots, sixty-one arrests, and more National Guard troops on the way, reports CNN and The New York Times.

And the riots weren't confined to Ferguson: reports of riots and looting popped up in even the most far away places, like Oakland, California, where protestors shut down the I-580 freeway, looted, and set fires as well, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Why? The disputed tale of the death of Michael Brown, alternatively portrayed as an aggressor who attacked a police officer or as the victim of an execution-style murder. After an unusual grand jury featuring "all the evidence" and testimony from Office Darren Wilson, there is no indictment -- only pain, protests, riots, and unanswered questions.

Throwback Thursday: Did 8th Cir. Already Rule on Gay Marriage Bans?

Last week, a federal district court in Missouri joined a chorus of state courts in striking down the state's ban on gay marriage. In doing so, that court set aside precedent from 2006 that many regarded as a controlling opinion on same-sex marriage bans: Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, an Eighth Circuit opinion upholding Nebraska's ban.

Judge Ortrie D. Smith of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri distinguished Bruning by classifying it as a political right-of-access case, rather than a case about a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

Was he right? And what impact does Bruning have today, post-Windsor?

Fed. Judge Joins State Judges, Strikes Missouri Gay Marriage Ban

And the Feds weigh in!

Two days ago, a state court judge held that Missouri's ban on gay marriages performed in the state was unconstitutional. A month before that, a second state judge held that the state's refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, we were wondering what was happening with the federal case.

The opinion was being proofread, apparently. Today, Judge Ortrie D. Smith of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri invalidated that state's law banning same-sex marriage, saying, quite interestingly, that it amounted to gender-based discrimination.