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News Scan

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"Death Penalty Rare, Executions Rarer in Military":  Associated Press writer Mark Sherman reports on the rarity of capital punishment in the military.  Though Major Nidal Hasan, the suspect in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, could face the death penalty, he will be prosecuted by a military justice system that has not executed a person since 1961, although five men sit on the military's death row at Fort Leavenworth.  Authorities would have had more reason to take the case to federal court if they had found evidence Hasan acted with the support or training of a terrorist group, but investigators  believe he acted alone, without outside direction.  Before a military execution can be carried out, the president must personally approve.  The President's involvement sets military death-penalty cases apart.  The President can commute any federal death sentence, civilian or military, but must personally approve each military execution and sign an order to carry it out.  This makes the execution a political act of the president, subject to the differences of each administration.

UK Moves to Decrease DNA Database:  Associated Press writer Sylvia Hui reports on the UK's decision to decrease the size of their database.  Britain said Wednesday it plans to get rid of DNA profiles of most innocent people after six years in response to a European Court of Human Rights ruling that said keeping the information indefinitely was a violation of privacy.  The DNA of terror suspects could still be held indefinitely, even if they are not charged with terrorist offenses.  Britain has one of the largest DNA databases in the world, with profiles of over 5 million people, or 8 percent of their population.  Human rights groups are calling the six year retention of DNA unethical, and violating the spirit of the Court's ruling to get rid of innocent peoples'  DNA profiles.  Britain's government said that DNA data is essential for fighting crime and providing justice for victims.  The Home Office said that between April 1998 and September 2009 there were more than 410,589 crimes with DNA matches, providing the police with leads on the identities of offenders.

Some California Inmates Striving for Death Penalty:  LA Times writer Carol J. Williams reports on a problem that CA's penal system is facing with the current state moratorium on executions and an appeals process that can last for decades.  Most recently, white supremacist gang hit man Billy Joe Johnson got exactly what he asked for of the jury that convicted him of first-degree murder last month, a death sentence.  It was not remorse that drove him to his request, but the expectation of more comfortable living conditions on death row coupled with the knowledge that the executioner would be decades away if it came at all.  Compared to Virginia, where Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad was put to death Tuesday night, capital punishment in California is a process that has become so bogged down by legal challenges it viewed by some as an empty threat.  "This is a dramatic reaffirmation of what we've already known for some time, that capital punishment in California takes way too long," Kent Scheidegger, Legal Direct for the Sacramento based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said of Johnson's gamble on life on death row.

New Lawsuits Threaten to End of Judicial Immunity:  Wall Street Journal writer Ashby Jones reports on the concept of absolute judicial immunity, and how today we are seeing it called to question.  People who believe they have been wronged by a judge can ask the judge to reconsider, appeal to a highe court or, if they suspect judicial wrongdoing, ask a bar association to investigate.  People cannot usually sue.  Absolute Judicial Immunity shields judges when they issue a ruling that makes someone unhappy.  A set of civil lawsuits filed against two former Pennsylvania judges is testing this doctrine of immunity.  In January, federal prosecutors filed fraud charges against Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan for allegedly sending numerous juveniles to detention centers over several years in exchange for more than $2.6 million in kickbacks.  After these criminal charges, several lawyers have filed civil suits seeking monatary damages on behalf of dozens of families, stating that the judges violated their civil rights.  "On one level, it seems outrageous to ban someone from suing a corrupt judge," states University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman, "But if you allow plaintiffs to pierce the immunity by alleging bad motive, it opens the floodgates."

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fines and sentenced to death for no one. Fines only be given to the legal way


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