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News Scan

Fire Ignited by Inmates Kills 83:  Officials say a fire was deliberately started during a fight among inmates at the San Miguel prison in Chile, fire killing 83 inmates and critically injuring 14 others.  The Chilean government said it's the worst incident yet in the country's jail system.  President Sebastian Pinera's response to the frustrated and angry relatives of the inmates was, "We cannot keep living in a prison system which is absolutely inhumane," referring to the overcrowding in the country's jails.  "We are going to speed up the process to ensure our country has a humane, dignified prison system that befits a civilized country."  The New York Times has more on the story here

Santa Gets Fired From Macy's:
  John Toomey, known as "Santa John" has been the Santa for 20 years at the Union Square Macy's in San Francisco.  This past Saturday he was fired because an adult couple complained about a joke he made.  "When I ask the older people who sit on my lap if they've been good and they say, 'Yes,' I say, 'Gee, that's too bad,' " the Santa said Monday.  "Then, if they ask why Santa is so jolly, I joke that it's because I know where all the naughty boys and girls live."  "Santa John" admits to having told the jokes for years and he's never had any complaints before.  He claims he has never said anything inappropriate to the children, he only saves his sense of humor for the adults.  Several workers and fans of "Santa John" say they're devastated and believe the elderly couple overreacted by telling on him. Kevin Fagan from the San Francisco Chronicle has more on the story here.

Prosecutor Files Charges Against California Jail Escapee:  District Attorney Bob Lee filed charges yesterday against 24-year-old Maurice Lamont Ainsworth, including attempted murder for stealing a deputy's handgun and firing it at a woman who tried to intervene during Ainsworth's escape from Dominican Hospital on November 29.  Ainsworth faked a shoulder injury and was transported from a Santa Cruz jail to the hospital for an MRI, a procedure that requires inmates to be unshackled.  After assaulting the sheriff's deputy and shooting at a bystander, Ainsworth proceeded to terrorize a preschool and point a gun at the head of a teacher watching several toddlers.   The San Francisco Chronicle has the story here.

Trend in Culture as Defense:  Samantha Henry of the AP reports on the increasing trend to use cultural norms as a criminal defense, a tactic that recently proved unsuccessful in the human trafficking case against Togolese immigrant Akouavi Kpade Afolabi.  Afolabi, convicted of bringing to the U.S. at least 20 girls between the ages of 10 and 19 to work in salons for free, attempted to argue her behavior constituted "protective measures" in African culture.  Afolabi's case is just one example of "cultural defenses," by which defense attorneys argue cultural upbringing is probative of a defendant's culpability.  Ashby Jones has this post on the article at WSJ Law Blog.

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