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Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty Against the "Kensington Strangler":  Philadelphia prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against suspected serial strangler Antonio Rodriguez, nicknamed the Kensington strangler.  At a preliminary hearing yesterday, two police detectives read confessions Rodriguez gave regarding three women he allegedly sexually assaulted and murdered between November and December of 2010.  DNA testing linked the 21-year-old homeless man to the attacks in the city's Kensington district.  Rodriguez is suspected of killing Casey Mahoney, 27; Elaine Goldberg, 21; and Nicole Piacentini, 35.  CNN has this story.

Apprendi Cited to Overturn Third Strike:
  San Francisco Chronicle writer Bob Egelko reports on a decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the 25-years-to-life sentence for three-time felon Rick Wilson.  In its 2-1 ruling Tuesday, the court cited the Supreme Court's 2000 ruling in Apprendi v. New Jersey which entitles defendants to a jury trial on sentencing factors that increase the maximum sentence.  There is an exception for prior convictions, but sometimes the sentence enhancement does not fit neatly with the elements of crime in the prior case. In 1993 Wilson, while intoxicated, crashed the vehicle he was driving, killing one passenger and seriously injuring the other.  He pleaded no contest to gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence and to proximately causing bodily injury while under the influence.  In 1999 Wilson ran a red light and refused to take a blood test and a jury convicted him of drunk driving, which due to his prior convictions of two serious felonies, counts as a felony.  At the sentencing hearing for the DUI, the Judge counted the prior convictions as strikes and imposed a sentence of 25 years to life.  The Ninth Circuit ruling overturned the sentence.   For the "strike" involving the surviving passenger, the trial judge found three facts which were not elements of the offense: personal infliction of the injury, extent of the injury as "great," and that the victim was not an accomplice. Chief Judge Kozinski dissented on the ground that whether such findings violate Apprendi is not clearly established, so under AEDPA the state court decision should stand.

Prosecutors May Increase Charges Due to Lack of Cooperation:  In another Ninth Circuit ruling announced Tuesday, the Court upheld the ability of prosecutors to up the charges against defendants who agree to plead guilty but refuse to testify against others.  It's the second time in a week that the federal appeals court has supported the tough plea-bargaining practices used by former U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello.  In U.S. v. Jay Kent the court upheld a San Francisco drug dealer's 10-year sentence.  The defendant was willing to plead guilty to distributing crack cocaine, which is punishable by at least five years in prison.  Prosecutors said they would specify a prior drug conviction, increasing his sentence to ten years, unless Kent agreed to testify against others.  U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney allowed prosecutors to file the additional charge and Kent later pleaded guilty to both charges and received a ten-year sentence.  Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle has this story.

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