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News Scan

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Opposing The Client's Wishes:  Hartford Courant writer Alane Griffin reports on the dilemma facing veteran defense attorneys Patrick J. Culligan and Thomas J. Ullmann, both "vehement" death penalty opponents.  At a competency hearing last Thursday, their client, Steven Hayes, announced his intention to plead guilty to the brutal Cheshire home invasion murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela. This story by CBS News reporter Sammy Rose Saltzman provides details of the 2007 crime.   At a hearing on Tuesday, Culligan and Ullmann will argue against the court accepting Hayes' guilty plea, although they have already conceded that he was mentally competent to do so.     

Update:   According to this Associated Press report, Steven Hayes' moment of contrition has passed.  After further consultation with his legal team, Hayes has changed his mind and will continue with his plea of not guilty to participation in the Cheshire home invasion murders. 


California AG Race Heats Up:  With just two months to go until the state's June 8th primary, the Democrat front runner, San Francisco DA Kamala Harris, is beginning to face some tough questions about her policies, according to this story by SF Chronicle reporter Marisa Lagos.  Harris' recent decision to drop hundreds of drug cases due to the discovery last month that a crime lab technician may have been stealing and using drug evidence has sparked criticism from one of  the six other Democrats vying for the party's nomination.  Harris' opposition to the death penalty, a plus in San Francisco, "will be a major handicap in the general election against a strong Republican," according to one Democratic consultant. 

Nevada Death Row Delays: "Why is he still alive after 30 years? He still is on death row. Time to go." So asks the son of murder victim George Monahan, in this story by Ed Vogel for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Unfortunately, the story does not explain that the primary hold-up has been in the federal courts.

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With respect to Sam Howard's case, let me fill in the details, since I am the Deputy Attorney General handling his habeas corpus case.

Howard's federal habeas corpus petition was denied by the United States District Court -- which granted a Certificate of Appealability on only one issue (most of the claims were procedurally defaulted).

Yesterday, Howard's attorney filed a Motion to Stay the Ninth Circuit Appeal because Howard has an appeal pending in the Nevada Supreme Court based on its McConnell decision (forbidding the use of the underlying felony as an aggravator if felony murder the theory for First Degree Murder).

I will have to respond to it in the next few weeks.

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