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Despite Alabama prisons allowing Christian ministers and spiritual advisors to attend executions, and despite a last-minute appeal from a Muslim death row inmate to have his imam accompany him at his execution, and despite the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision to stay his execution in order to hear his First Amendment arguments, the Supreme Court ordered the man's execution yesterday.

Dominique Ray was put to death last night via lethal injection at a state prison in Atmore, without his imam present.

With Felony-Murder Rule Change, CA Starts to Release Some Inmates

In California, approximately 800 prisoners incarcerated for murder may soon be set free. Last fall, California legislature, joined by then-Governor Jerry Brown, passed SB 1437, a bill co-sponsored by Democratic State Senator Nancy Skinner and Republican State Senator John Anderson. This law significantly modifies California's felony murder rule, and allows for retroactive resentencing.

The law went into effect on January 1, 2019. As a result, earlier this week, Adnan Khan, sentenced to 25 years to life under the felony murder rule, was released for time served. Khan's plight was the impetus behind the senate bill, and he was the first to be released under the new law.

The First Step Act, signed into law by President Trump last week, represents just that: a great first step towards criminal justice reform that altered federal sentences guidelines. While there are many other steps that need to be taken -- especially at the state and local level -- the bill will provide some major changes to minimum sentencing statutes, give judges more leeway, and give federal prisoners more options in reducing their sentences.

Here are three of the biggest reforms included in the First Step Act, and what could follow.

Jury Recommends Life Sentence for Neo-Nazi Who Drove Into Crowd

A Charlottesville, Virginia jury recommended life plus 419 years in prison, to be served consecutively, for the self-avowed neo-Nazi who ran his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally last year, killing one and injuring 35 others. James Alex Fields, Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, was found guilty of murder for the killing of Heather Heyer, as well as aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, and leaving the scene of a fatal crash. Fields can have his sentence decreased, but not increased, when he faces sentencing from Judge Richard Moore on March 29, 2019. Fields must still face related federal hate crime charges; if convicted of those, he could face the death penalty.

Michael Cohen, the man who claims he covered up the president's "dirty deeds," was sentenced to three years in prison this morning for his role in funneling hush money to two Donald Trump mistresses in the run-up to the 2016 election. The former lawyer and "fixer," also received a two-month sentence for lying to Congress regarding Trump's business dealings in Russia, which he will be able to serve concurrently.

This is big news, of course, but the questions naturally turn to: What does Trump think, and how will this affect the presidency?

The whole idea of having a "fixer" is that the person keeps you out of trouble and doesn't get caught doing it. It's safe to say that former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen was not a great fixer.

Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud in August, admitting he worked "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" to influence the 2016 presidential election. That influence involved making payments to alleged Trump mistresses to keep them quiet before the election. Cohen pleaded guilty again in November, conceding he lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding a proposed Trump Tower construction in Moscow.

On Friday, federal prosecutors submitted a sentencing memorandum recommending a substantial prison term for the president's former fixer.

Can a Juvenile Get Life in Prison?

Juveniles commit murder. It is a tragic fact of life. Sometimes these juveniles are barely teens, and one has to wonder if they were capable of having the requisite state of mind necessary to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Many courts have said yes, trying them as adults, and handing down life sentences.

Man Sentenced to 8 Years for Medical Marijuana in Mississippi

Patrick Beadle, a 46-year-old father of two, was sentenced to eight years in prison, without the possibility of parole, for possessing nearly three pounds of medicinal marijuana. He was pulled over for allegedly crossing a double-yellow line, and police found the weed during a routine search.

Beadle purchased the marijuana in Oregon to deal with knee pain management, where it is both medicinally and recreationally legal. But he continued to possess it in Mississippi, which allows only 30 grams of marijuana to be possessed by an individual, but forbidden in cars. The state has no medicinal marijuana exception.

Homeowners generally have the right to defend themselves and their property in their own home. Specifically, the so-called "castle doctrine" says that a homeowner does not have a duty to retreat if they are in their home, though state laws may limit the amount of force allowed and require that an intruder be in the house to permit that force.

Neither of these legal principles, however, apply to firing a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun at a teenager who knocked on your door for directions to school. So learned Jeffrey Zeigler, who was convicted of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony following an April shooting at his home.

Washington Becomes the Latest State to Abolish the Death Penalty

Washington became the latest state to outlaw the death penalty in the Washington Supreme Court ruling of State v Gregory, in furtherance of Governor Jay Inslee's vow in 2014 to never have another execution while he was in office.

The vote was unanimous, with five justices citing that the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner." They added, "Given the manner in which it is imposed, the death penalty also fails to serve any legitimate penological goals." The eight individuals currently on death row will have their sentences changed to life in prison. Gregory is one of three African-American men currently on Washington's death row.