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October 2013 Archives

No Guns for Neighborhood Watch: Sanford Police

Neighborhood watch volunteers will no longer be allowed to carry guns in Sanford, Florida -- the city where unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in 2012.

The new rules from Sanford's police department will state that residents who are part of a neighborhood watch "may not carry a firearm or pursue someone they deem suspicious," Reuters reports.

In other words, Sanford police want to put the "watch" back in neighborhood watch.

Why Do DUI Cases Take So Long to Resolve?

DUI cases have been known to take longer than many defendants expect, especially when the charges are fairly serious.

Even for a “run-of-the-mill” first-time DUI case, it can often be months before a defendant learns his or her ultimate fate. So why do the wheels of justice seem to move so slowly?

Here are just a few reasons why DUI cases take so long to resolve:

Mars Heiress Charged in Fatal Crash

As we suspected would happen, Mars heiress Jacqueline Badger Mars, 74, is now facing criminal charges after a fatal crash that killed an 86-year-old woman and caused a pregnant passenger's miscarriage.

With reckless driving charges underway, what's at stake for the heiress who's worth a staggering $20.5 billion -- making her the third-richest woman in the United States?

Man Killed Mistress After HIV Disclosure: Police

A Texas man allegedly killed his mistress after she revealed to him that she was HIV positive.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Larry Dunn, 37, was cheating on his wife with Cicely Lee Bolden. Bolden told Dunn in September 2012 that she was HIV positive, prompting him to allegedly stab her to death with a steak knife. Her body was found by her 7- and 8-year-old children.

Murder is certainly a crime, but what about not disclosing your HIV status?

Are Halloween Sex Offender Laws Unfair?

Halloween is a festive time for communities to come together in costume and share candy. But with children's freedom to knock on strangers' doors comes heightened parental fears of sex offenders.

A number of states have Halloween sex offender laws in place to assuage parents' pedophilia concerns. But is the perceived heightened threat around Halloween actually credible, or are sex offenders the new bogeymen?

Trayvon's Mom: Clarify 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

Trayvon Martin's mother told a Senate panel Tuesday that states must clarify their "Stand Your Ground" laws to prevent tragedies like the shooting that claimed her son's life.

"By being unclear in when and how it is applied, 'Stand Your Ground' in its current form is far too open to abuse," Sybrina Fulton said as part of her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to The Associated Press.

Fulton's call for reform echoed similar calls for action after the acquittal of Martin's killer.

Ride Operator Arrested Over N.C. Fair Injuries

A North Carolina State Fair ride operator has been arrested for causing injuries that made national headlines last week.

Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Georgia, faces three counts of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly tampering with the "Vortex" ride at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh last Thursday.

Tutterow allegedly restarted the ride as people were exiting, dropping some riders from what eyewitnesses estimated to be 20 or 30 feet in the air. Of the five victims, three are still in the hospital.

Sara Kruzan, Woman Who Killed Pimp, Set for Release

Sara Kruzan, a California woman who killed her former pimp as a teenager, is set to be released after originally being sentenced to life in prison.

Kruzan had been serving 25 years to life on a commuted sentence. But a parole board is expected to grant her freedom after serving more than 15 years behind bars, CBS News reports.

Why? It's all because of a new California law regarding juvenile life sentences.

What Happens If You Refuse a DUI Breath Test?

What happens if you refuse a DUI breath test? Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar might have an answer for you, after he refused to take a breath test during a recent traffic stop.

Kosar was pulled over last month for suspicion of OVI -- operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Ohio's version of a DUI. But when asked to take a breath test, he refused, saying that he'd always been advised never to take one, reports.

When you refuse a DUI breath test like Kosar did, what happens next? While DUI laws vary by state, here are some possible outcomes:

Kennedy Cousin Michael Skakel to Get New Trial

In a scathing 135-page decision, a Connecticut judge has set aside Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's murder conviction and ordered a new trial. Skakel was convicted in 2002 for the grisly murder of Martha Moxley, his teenage neighbor in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1975.

Though Skakel has served about half of his 20-year sentence, he's slated for a brand spankin' new trial because his original trial lawyer did not competently represent him.

Getting another bite at the "judicial apple" is no easy feat -- but it is possible under pretty extraordinary circumstances.

YouTube DUI Confessor Gets 6 Years in Prison

Matthew Cordle, the Ohio man dubbed the "YouTube DUI Confessor," has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison and a lifetime loss of driving privileges for aggravated vehicular homicide.

In his video confession, which has drawn more than 2 million hits on YouTube, Cordle "accept[ed] full responsibility" for his actions and was prepared to face a lengthy prison sentence, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

But will he actually have to serve the full sentence?

Calif. Deputies Kill Boy, 13, Carrying Toy Gun

Sheriff's deputies Tuesday shot and killed a California teenager who was reportedly carrying a "replica" toy rifle. Was the shooting justified?

Andy Lopez, 13, was killed by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies during an "encounter" just outside Santa Rosa, California, about 3 p.m., San Francisco's KPIX-TV reports. The deputies ordered Lopez to drop his weapon and then opened fire.

Police are only authorized to use deadly force in certain instances. Was this one of those cases?

Pa. Considers Ignition Interlocks for 1st-Time DUIs

A proposed DUI law would require ignition interlock devices even for first-time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania, making it the 21st state in the nation to do so.

Pennsylvania's current law only requires ignition interlock devices for second-time (or subsequent) DUI convictions. Supporters of Senate Bill 1036 insist that requiring first-time DUI offenders to get the devices installed in their cars will help save lives, Harrisburg's WHTM-TV reports.

What is an ignition interlock device, and what do others think about the bill?

N.H. Mom Guilty of Burning, Torturing Son

A New Hampshire mom who pleaded guilty to brutally torturing her son has been sentenced to nine to 30 years in prison.

Christine Gelineau, 52, of Concord, burned off her mentally challenged 18-year-old son's nipples with a lighter, stabbed him with a pen and forced him to eat worms and feces. She also burned his penis to the point of causing permanent nerve damage.

Acquaintance Daniel Tyler Cantrell, 20, and the victim's 29-year-old cousin Amy Nason are also awaiting trial for torturing the man.

Fla. Escapees' Fake Court Orders Spur Crackdown

Two convicted Florida murderers who used fake court orders to temporarily escape from prison were recaptured on Saturday.

Convicted murderers Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker were apprehended at a hotel in Panama City Beach, where authorities believe they were waiting to be transported to another state.

The pair's escape from a Florida prison was made possible by counterfeit court documents -- a security breach that has prompted the Florida correctional system to crack down on court orders.

Texting and Driving: 3 Ways to Prove It

Texting and driving is a crime in many states. But what proof do prosecutors need to show that a driver was distracted by a text message?

In one recent case in Maryland, prosecutors allege 19-year-old Haley Meyers was texting and driving moments before her car crashed into a motorcycle, killing the 30-year-old rider. If convicted of negligent manslaughter, Meyers could face up to 10 years in prison, Baltimore's WJZ-TV reports.

This case is an example of how prosecutors can try to prove texting and driving using these three kinds of evidence:

5 Potential Defenses to Domestic Violence

Allegations of domestic violence are taken seriously -- and for good reason. According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, more than 1 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year. And while it doesn't get as much attention, men can be domestic abuse victims too.

At the other end of the victim spectrum are those who are wrongly accused of committing acts of domestic violence. For such individuals, a strong domestic violence defense is essential in protecting their reputations -- and their freedom.

For defendants who feel they've been wrongly charged, here are five potential defenses to domestic violence:

Tampa DUI Scandal: Cop Fired, Charges Dropped

A Tampa DUI scandal has led to a dozen DUI charges being dropped. Many more cases are being questioned after a Tampa police sergeant was fired for allegedly concealing his role in a "set-up" DUI arrest.

According to The Tampa Tribune, Sgt. Ray Fernandez was allegedly involved in deleting text messages related to the planned arrest of a Tampa attorney -- actions that led to his firing from the force and the dropping of "about a dozen cases."

Fernandez's credibility has been tainted, so what can prosecutors do for any cases in which he was a witness?

Fatigued Trucker Gets 20 Years for Fatal Crash

An Illinois trucker convicted of killing a Maryland family in a 2012 crash has received the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The truck driver had failed to heed federal regulations aimed at curbing truck driver fatigue.

Josef Slezak, 37, of Rivergrove, Illinois, pleaded guilty to four counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular homicide of an unborn fetus as part of a plea agreement.

Slezak fell asleep behind the wheel shortly before the crash on Interstate 80 in western Nebraska. The tragic case underscores the growing concern over fatigued truck drivers.

Do Police Have to Inform You of Your Charges?

It is a common misapprehension that police officers are required to tell you why you’re being arrested or what offense you’ve committed when you’re being arrested.

This legal legend may be supported by some state laws, like New York’s, that require police to notify suspects of the reason for their arrests. But even these state laws allow police to forgo this requirement if it isn’t practical.

Here is a general overview of when officers have to inform you of your charges:

Mo.'s Lt. Gov. Wants Maryville Rape Case Reopened

After a firestorm of public outrage, the alleged Maryville rape case in Missouri has captured the attention of a leading state politician.

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder wants a grand jury to investigate the case of Daisy Coleman, who claims she was raped at age 14 by a popular 17-year-old football player while others filmed them with an iPhone.

Her alleged attacker was never tried. But will Kinder's call to action make a difference?

5 Questions to Ask During a DUI Consultation

After a DUI, you’ll want to consult with an attorney who can field the many questions you might have about what happens next.

For Denise Oher, mother of Baltimore Ravens player Michael Oher (and the real-life inspiration for the crack-addicted mother in the movie “The Blind Side”), a DUI consultation could help her figure out her next move after her DUI arrest last month, reports

As many DUI lawyers offer free consultations, how can you get the most out of your time? Here are five key questions you’ll want to ask during a DUI consultation:

Alleged Bullies Arrested in Fla. Girl's Suicide

Two Florida girls whose alleged bullying led to a 12-year-old girl's suicide have been arrested and charged with felony aggravated stalking.

The girls, 12 and 14, allegedly ganged up against Rebecca Sedwick of Lakeland and "terrorized" her for nearly a year through online message boards and texts. As many as 13 other girls took part in bullying Sedwick online, investigators claim.

Last month, Sedwick jumped to her death from atop a silo at an abandoned concrete plant.

How to Get a Public Defender

Want to know how to get a public defender? It's a common question for those in the criminal justice system, especially if you've just been accused of a crime.

Public defenders exist to represent and defend in criminal court those persons who cannot afford a private defense attorney.

If you find yourself in need of legal representation after an arrest, follow these general steps to get a public defender:

Mo. Execution Halted Over Propofol Concerns

Missouri executions will not be carried out by lethal injections via propofol after all. The state was slated to be the first in the country to use the anesthetic in an execution scheduled for October 23.

But on Friday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon halted Allen Nicklasson's execution until the state finds a new drug to use in lethal injections.

The decision came after the drug's German manufacturer said using propofol for executions could lead the European Union to ban the export of the drug to the United States.

N.Y. Rabbis Arrested Over Divorce Kidnappings

Three rabbis allegedly conspired to kidnap and torture Orthodox Jewish men in an attempt to coerce them to divorce their wives.

It may sound like something out of a Michael Chabon novel, but according to New York's WCBS-TV, the rabbis and seven other suspects were charged with conspiracy to kidnap in federal court on Thursday after FBI raids in New York and New Jersey.

Why would these rabbis allegedly resort to kidnapping and torture?

N.Y. 'Pot Mom' Andrea Sanderlin Pleads Guilty

Andrea Sanderlin, the upscale suburban New York "pot mom," has pleaded guilty to spearheading a multimillion-dollar marijuana growing operation.

Sanderlin fessed up to running the highly sophisticated pot enterprise out of a Queens warehouse from 2009 to 2013.

Sanderlin's story draws parallels to the anti-heroes in shows like "Weeds" and "Breaking Bad" who entered the drug world to support their families. Was the guilty plea a sign of defeat -- or a tactical legal move?

DUI Murder Appeals: Too Drunk to Be 'Depraved'

Three convicted murderers are arguing on appeal that they were too drunk to be legally convicted for their DUI-related crimes.

Martin Heidgen, Taliyah Taylor, and Franklin McPherson were convicted of murder in three separate cases in New York. But each one claims that prosecutors failed to prove they acted with "depraved indifference to human life."

This question of criminal law is now before New York's highest court.

When Can You Get a New Trial?

The notorious "Hiccup Girl" -- who made headlines years ago for her inability to stop hiccuping and recently re-entered the spotlight after being convicted of first-degree murder -- is requesting a new trial.

After making it all the way through trial, defendants can seek new trials. Getting a new trial isn't easy, but it is possible under certain circumstances.

Here are five situations which have warranted new trials:

Undercover Cop Arrested in SUV Biker Assault

An undercover police officer was arrested Tuesday in connection with a biker assault on an SUV driver that was caught on video.

Police arrested Detective Wojciech Braszczok, 32, for his alleged involvement in the biker incident, according to New York's WABC-TV. Braszczok was charged with "riot and criminal mischief."

Braszczok was under scrutiny for allegedly not immediately reporting the assault to Internal Affairs, and for allegedly not telling the truth about his role in the attack.

Are There Any Defenses to Drugged Driving?

A drugged driving charge can result in harsh penalties. Luckily, if you're hit with DUI charges for drugged driving, there are defenses you can raise.

For example, Kerry Kennedy (daughter of Sen. Robert Kennedy), was once arrested for drugged driving in suburban New York after careening her Lexus into a tractor-trailer. As part of her defense strategy, she claimed she accidentally took a sleeping pill. Is that a valid defense? 

Steubenville Rape Case: School Official Charged

A rape case involving high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, has resulted in a school administrator being charged on allegations that he attempted to hinder the investigation.

School district director of technology William Rhinaman, 53, was arrested Monday after being indicted by a grand jury on charges of perjury, obstruction with justice, obstructing official business, and tampering with evidence, Reuters reports.

What exactly was Rhinaman's alleged role in stymieing the rape investigation?

Another Biker Charged in SUV Assault Case

A third biker has been charged in the SUV assault caught on tape, for his alleged smashing of driver Alexian Lien's window with a motorcycle helmet.

Reginald Chance, 37, has been charged with "assault, gang assault, weapons possession, criminal mischief, and unlawful imprisonment" for allegedly setting in motion events that led to Lien's beating, according to The New York Times.

What do these charges mean for Chance?

Texting and Driving: 5 Potential Consequences

From tickets to incarceration, the consequences for texting and driving can costly.

A growing number of states, counties, and municipalities are enacting "distracted driving" laws that categorically ban texting while driving. Even in states without explicit laws, behind-the-wheel texting can lead to negligent and reckless driving charges, giving every driver good reason to keep their hands on the wheel and off their phones.

Here are five potential consequences for texting and driving:

'Revenge Porn' Law Now in Effect in Calif.

California has outlawed revenge porn, in a bill that was signed into law this week. It immediately serves to make this spiteful, harassing practice a crime.

As Reuters reports, the new law targets an increasing number of persons posting nude images of an ex-romantic partner online as "a way of exacting revenge after a breakup."

What exactly does this law say, and what does it mean for California breakups?

Dad Gets 90 Years for DUI Crash; 5 Kids Killed

A Mississippi man was sentenced to 90 years in prison for killing his five kids and an adult family friend in a fatal DUI crash last year.

Duane John Sr., 34, of Philadelphia, Mississippi, was sentenced to 15 years on each count of DUI-related manslaughter to run consecutively for a total 90 years.

Fifteen years were suspended, leaving 75 to serve in prison.

'Silk Road' Founder Faces Murder-for-Hire Charges

The founder of the Internet black market site Silk Road was arrested and appeared in federal court Wednesday for allegedly running the illicit online marketplace.

Ross Ulbricht, 29, was a college graduate who not only allegedly ran a worldwide portal for illegal drug and weapon sales, but is also believed to have put out a hit on two of his former associates, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Though Ulbricht has reached the end of the Silk Road, his journey through the federal criminal system is just beginning.

Woman Sues Over DUI Strip Search Caught on Video

An Illinois woman is suing LaSalle County over a DUI strip search. Jail surveillance cameras recorded the entire incident as four deputies -- three men and a woman -- forcibly stripped 33-year-old Dana Holmes and left her in a jail cell, taking her clothes with them.

Holmes was arrested for drunken driving with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit in May.

But did Holmes' alleged DUI give deputies legal justification to pull her to the ground, carry her into a cell, forcibly strip her and walk out with her clothes?

1 Biker Charged, 1 Released in Road Rage Attack

A biker suspected in a road rage assault will not be charged by the Manhattan DA's office.

According to the New York Post, Allen Edwards, a biker from Queens, was one of the riders who allegedly punched in the rear driver's side window on the assaulted man's SUV. Edwards turned himself in to the police on Tuesday.

Why did the DA decline to pursue charges against Edwards?

2 Seniors Charged in Ex-Spouses' Cold-Case Murders

Two seniors in Missouri have been charged with the decades-old murders of their ex-spouses.

Alice Louise Uden, 74, and husband Gerald Uden, 71, each allegedly killed their exes in Wyoming separately before the couple married each other, prosecutors say.

Authorities are keeping mum on details, but the two seniors face extradition from their home in the Ozarks in Chadwick, Missouri.

Undercover Sex Stings: Are There Legal Limits?

Undercover sex stings are common ways for law enforcement to make arrests for solicitation, prostitution, and other sex crimes.

But as some "innocent" victims of undercover sting operations can attest, there are limits to how much an undercover officer can push his or her suspect.

Here are a few guidelines that separate legal sex stings from illegal police activity: