Florida’s proposal for non-unanimous death sentences is major outlier: Legal experts

Florida won’t be alone if it adopts non-unanimous jury verdicts in death penalty cases, but it would be the biggest outlier of the outlying states on capital punishment, legal experts say.

Only three of the 27 states that have the death penalty do not require a unanimous verdict. In Missouri and Indiana, a judge can make the decision if a jury can’t reach unanimity. In Alabama, a 10-2 jury can hand down a death sentence. Seven states have imposed moratoriums on capital punishment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and state lawmakers moved to allow a death sentence if at least eight of the 12 jurors agree. The legislation was introduced in the wake of the 9-3 jury vote on the death penalty for the 2018 Parkland high school mass murderer.

“It’s probably a bad idea. It will tie things up in litigation,” John Blume, director at Cornell Law School’s Death Penalty Project, told The Washington Times. “It’s an outlier, and what it would allow really is sort of what you saw in non-unanimous sentencing. It would basically dilute or remove minority participation.”

Richard Dieter, interim executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the high school shooting case isn’t a reason for the state to upend the entire standard.

“It’s a big deal sort of going back on something so fundamental as our jury system in the country. It’s not just changing from 9-3 to 10-2. That might not be a big deal. But doing away with unanimity, I think, a lot of caution should be practiced in that change,” Mr. Dieter said. “And in the sense that this is happening in response to one case is a concern.”

A 2020 analysis from his group found that judge-imposed death sentences without jury unanimity “create a heightened risk

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Texas AG Ken Paxton agrees to pay $3.3 million in whistleblowers settlement

By James Barragán, The Texas Tribune

Attorney General Ken Paxton and four of his former top deputies who said he improperly fired them after they accused him of crimes have reached a tentative agreement to end a whistleblower lawsuit that would pay those employees $3.3 million.

In a filing on Friday, attorneys for Paxton and the whistleblowers asked the Texas Supreme Court to further defer consideration of the whistleblower case until the two sides can finalize the tentative agreement. Once the deal is finalized and payment by the attorney general’s office is approved, the two sides will move to end the case, the filing said.

“The whistleblowers sacrificed their jobs and have spent more than two years fighting for what is right,” said TJ Turner, an attorney for David Maxwell, a whistleblower and former director of law enforcement for the attorney general’s office. “We believe the terms of the settlement speak for themselves.”

Paxton, a Republican who won a third four-year term in November, said in a statement that he agreed to the settlement to save taxpayer money and start his new term unencumbered by the accusations.

“After over two years of litigating with four ex-staffers who accused me in October 2020 of ‘potential’ wrongdoing, I have reached a settlement agreement to put this issue to rest,” Paxton said. “I have chosen this path to save taxpayer dollars and ensure my third term as Attorney General is unburdened by unnecessary distractions. This settlement achieves these goals. I look forward to serving the People of Texas for the next four years free from this unfortunate sideshow.”

The tentative agreement would pay $3.3 million to the four whistleblowers and keep in place an appeals court ruling that allowed the case to move forward. Paxton had asked the Supreme Court to void

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Attorney General Ken Paxton agrees to apologize and pay $3.3 million to whistleblowers in settlement

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Attorney General Ken Paxton and four of his former top deputies who said he improperly fired them after they accused him of crimes have reached a tentative agreement to end a whistleblower lawsuit that would pay those employees $3.3 million.

In a filing Friday, attorneys for Paxton and the whistleblowers asked the Texas Supreme Court to further defer consideration of the whistleblower case until the two sides can finalize the tentative agreement. Once the deal is finalized and payment by the attorney general’s office is approved, the two sides will move to end the case, the filing said.

The agreement would bring an end to the lawsuit over the firing of the staffers, but would not end Paxton’s legal troubles. The allegations by the former aides of bribery and abuse of office prompted an FBI investigation, though no charges have been filed and Paxton has denied wrongdoing. Separately, Paxton remains under felony indictment on state charges of securities fraud.

In a joint statement, attorneys for three of the whistleblowers — Blake Brickman, David Maxwell and Ryan Vassar — said, “Our clients are honorable men who have spent more than two years fighting for what is right. We believe the terms of the settlement speak for themselves.”

Don Tittle, a lawyer for the other whistleblower, Mark Penley, said in a statement that the case was really important for “how government should function and what we expect out of our public officials.”

“We think this settlement goes a long way toward restoring the good reputations of the men who brought this suit against the attorney general’s office. They should never have been fired in the first place. [T]his settlement

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Texas AG Ken Paxton to apologize and pay $3.3 million to whistleblowers


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Tex McIver: Georgia’s Supreme Court overturned a prominent attorney’s murder conviction. Prosecutors now want to retry him

Claud “Tex” McIver was convicted in 2018 of felony murder and other charges stemming from the 2016 killing of his wife, Diane, who was fatally shot by McIver while sitting in front of him in a car. The attorney previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the shooting was an accident and that the gun, which was on his lap while he was sleeping in the back seat, fired after he was abruptly awoken.

In June, Georgia’s highest court overturned McIver’s felony murder conviction, ruling that the jury should have been instructed that they could consider a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

In a motion filed on Friday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis asked the county superior court to set a new date for the trial within 180 days of receiving the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The district attorney‘s office said it plans to retry McIver on felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

“The jury which served at the original trial of this case evaluated all of the evidence and unanimously convicted Defendant of intentional crimes of violence against his wife,” the district attorney’s office said. “This fact weighs heavily in the State’s consideration of how best to serve the interests of justice in this case.”

McIver remains in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections, according to jail logs.

In its request for a trial, the district attorney’s office said McIver is serving his five-year sentence for his conviction of influencing a witness, which the Supreme Court did not overturn, adding that while he “has not spent five years in custody, five years will have elapsed soon.”

In a statement to CNN, McIver’s attorneys maintained their client’s previous murder conviction was wrong.

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How much are judges using Wikipedia?

Judges are utilizing Wikipedia, the free, volunteer-driven online encyclopedia, to help inform their decisions, according to a study released Thursday. Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Cornell University, and Maynooth University in Ireland came to that conclusion after conducting a randomized field experiment that analyzed the impact of Wikipedia articles on the Irish legal system.

“To our knowledge, this is the first randomized field experiment that investigates the influence of legal sources on judicial behavior,” said the paper’s lead author, MIT researcher Neil Thompson, in a press release. “And because randomized experiments are the gold standard for this type of research, we know the effect we are seeing is causation, not just correlation.”

Thompson previously studied how scientific articles on Wikipedia influenced academic literature on the subject. His work caught the eye of Brian McKenzie, an associate professor at Maynooth University, who suggested to Thompson that they conduct a similar study on judicial influence. The researchers ultimately decided to focus on the Irish legal system, which shares a similar structure to that of the US, with higher and lower courts. However, the Irish legal system has a much smaller footprint of Wikipedia articles about key cases, like decisions from the Supreme Court. So, the team enlisted law students to develop more than 150 new Wikipedia articles on Irish Supreme Court decisions. Those writings were split into two groups: one set of articles was published on Wikipedia, while the other was kept offline to serve as a control for the experiment.

[Related: Meta thinks its new AI tool can make Wikipedia more accurate]

The researcher’s key questions were whether the cases documented on Wikipedia would be cited more as precedents in more recent judicial decisions and whether they could see the “thumbprint” of the language their

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Can a state block access to online information about abortion services?

Can a state that prohibits most or all abortions block access to online information provided by abortion rights advocates and clinics in states with more permissive abortion laws? After Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationin which the US Supreme Court returned to states the power to regulate access to abortion, that question is no longer theoretical.

The answer ought to be “no.” After all, the First Amendment generally provides robust protection against government attempts to limit speech. However, a review of some of the Supreme Court precedents that will be invoked when this question inevitably appears shows that getting to that answer is more complex than it might first appear.

In 1975, the Supreme Court decided Bigelow v. Virginia, a case that arose from an advertisement published in a Virginia newspaper in 1971 regarding abortion services available in New York. A Virginia statute at the time outlawed the “sale or circulation of any publication” that would “encourage or prompt the procuring of abortion.” Bigelow, who was the managing editor of the newspaper that published the advertisement, was found guilty of violating the statute, and his conviction was subsequently upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court. The Virginia Supreme Court also reconsidered the conviction after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, upholding it a second time.

The US Supreme Court reversed the conviction on First Amendment grounds. The Court noted that “the fact that the particular advertisement in [Bigelow’s] newspaper had commercial aspects or reflected the advertiser’s commercial interests did not negate all First Amendment guarantees.” (A year later, the Court more directly addressed the question of commercial speech and the First Amendment, concluding that “commercial speech, like other varieties, is protected.”)

A key consideration in Bigelow was that the advertisement, while unquestionably commercial in nature, also conveyed facts through

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Why Deleting Your Period Tracker Won’t Protect Your Privacy

In May 1972, the Chicago police raided a high-rise apartment where a group called the Jane Collective was providing abortions. It was the year before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision gave women the constitutional right to decide whether to give birth, and abortion was a criminal offense in Illinois.

Seven women were arrested, including two who had the names and addresses of patients on index cards in their purses. According to a history written by a member of the collective, “The Story of Jane,” the women destroyed the cards in the police van on the way to the station, tearing them into small pieces and eating some of them. They didn’t know what the police might do with the information, so they got rid of it.

Fifty years later, the Supreme Court has overturned the Roe decision. Abortions will be banned or seriously limited in much of the country. But now, thanks to the digital trails left behind in the modern technological age, it will be far harder to hide incriminating data about a decision to end a pregnancy.

When a draft of the court’s decision was first leaked in May, and then when the ruling became official last week, people focused on these digital trails, specifically the information that millions of women share about their menstrual cycles on period tracker apps. The knee-jerk advice was simple and direct: Delete them all. immediately.

“Delete those fertility apps now,” tweeted Gina Neff, a sociologist and director of the Minderoo Center for Technology and Democracy at the University of Cambridge. In an interview over Zoom, Dr. Neff said the apps contained “powerful information about reproductive choices that’s now a threat.”

These apps allow users to record the dates of their menstrual cycles and get predictions about when they

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Georgia Supreme Court overturns prominent Atlanta attorney’s murder conviction in wife’s killing

Claud “Tex” McIver was convicted in 2018 of felony murder and other charges stemming from the 2016 killing of his wife, Diane, who was fatally shot by McIver while sitting in front of him in a car. The attorney previously told mciver-says-shooting-his-wife-was-accident/rTkc1qZ0lIzxjBagkJJtSO/”The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the shooting was an accident and that the gun, which was on his lap while he was sleeping in the back seat, fired after he was abruptly awoken.
The weekslong trial gripped the city’s attention and included testimony from the friend who was driving the vehicle, firearms experts and a sleep expert who told jurors McIver suffered from a sleep behavior disorder — which defense attorneys suggested was partially to blame for the shooting, according to to the AJC. Prosecutors had called attention to alleged conflicts between the couple, including over financial interests.

Georgia’s Supreme Court overturned McIver’s felony murder conviction, ruling that the jury should have been instructed by the court that they could consider a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

The court said based on the evidence and testimony during the trial, “the jury could have concluded that the revolver was not deliberately or deliberately fired, bur rather, as McIver suggests, discharged as a result of his being started awake, reflexively or involuntarily clutching at the bag holding the firearm, and inadvertently contacting the trigger,” according to the ruling.

The court further found that the evidence supporting that McIver intended to kill his wife was “disputed and circumstantial,” adding, “No witness testified to any disagreement or quarrel between McIver and Diane, and many witnesses testified that they were very much in love. “

The court also overturned McIver’s conviction for possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, but did uphold his conviction of influencing a witness.

This Georgia Department of Corrections photo shows Tex McIver.

In a

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List of Georgia district attorneys not prosecuting abortion grows | News

ATLANTA — At least seven Georgia district attorneys have vowed not to prosecute abortion-related cases following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In the hours following the June 24 court decision, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr Carr filed a notice to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit requesting it allow Georgia’s 2019 “heartbeat” law to take effect.

The 11th Circuit had put the law on hold until the Supreme Court made a ruling in a landmark Mississippi case, which overturned Roe v. Wade — a 1973 court decision protecting a woman’s freedom to have an abortion — on June 24.

The 11th Circuit has now asked both sides in the Georgia lawsuit — the state of Georgia and women’s health organization — to file legal briefs within 21 days before deciding on Georgia’s law (HB 481) taking affect. The heartbeat law, once in affect, will ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, typically at six weeks.

However, the seven Georgia district attorneys, some of them representing multiple counties, have already vowed not to prosecute abortion-related cases. District attorneys from Chatham, DeKalb, Douglas, Gwinnett, Augusta Judicial Circuit, Macon Judicial Circuit and Western Judicial Circuit (Athens) have joined the movement of nearly 90 DAs nationwide.

“We stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions,” a joint statement from the prosecutors reads. “As such, we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”

Though the Georgia law is vague in who — either the woman, person performing or aiding the abortion, or both — to persecute in

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