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News Scan

Court Hears Arguments about Death Penalty Protocol:  The Winston Salem Journal reports the North Carolina Supreme Court heard argument today about whether an administrative law judge had the authority to order the elected officials to revise the state's execution protocol.  Attorneys for five death row inmates argue the North Carolina Council of State failed to fulfill its duties when it hastily approved new execution procedures in 2007 without hearing from those representing condemned prisoners.  After a trial court judge ruled in the Council's favor, the death row inmates sought further review from the state's high court. 

First Amendment Rights Collide in Westboro Case:  John Crisp of Del Mar College in Corpus Christi has this op-ed in the San Angelo Times on Snyder v. Phelps, the recent Supreme Court case upholding the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to peacefully protest at military funerals.  Crisp opines "[t]he opinion's declaration of the reasoning behind judgment by eight members of the court is thoroughly convincing," but that "Alito [the lone dissenter] convincingly challenges the reasoning of the majority opinion."  Crisp concludes that "[l]imiting speech in any way is always dangerous.  But the right to speech is no more important than another essential American right, the right to be left alone, especially when you're grieving."

Convicted Killer Seeking Stay of Execution:  The AP reports attorneys for Arizona death row inmate Eric John King, 47, have filed a second motion with the state's high court seeking a stay from his scheduled March 29 execution date.  King was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a convenience store clerk and a security guard during a 1989 robbery.  His defense team claims jurors should not have been shown a condensed copy of a store surveillance video and that Jones has "no memory of the crime" because he was in an intoxicated state on the night of the robbery. 

New Hampshire House to Vote on Expansion of Death Penalty:  The New Hampshire House is scheduled to vote this week on whether to expand the state's category of death-eligible crimes to include murders during home invasions, reports the AP.  The proposed expansion comes in light of the 2009 fatal slashing death of Kimberly Cates in her home, a crime that, despite its gruesome nature (Andrew Wolfe of The Nashua Telegraph has the details here), was not death-eligible under current New Hampshire law.  

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