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News Scan

Jurors' Privacy vs Public Rights:  Michael Tarm of the Associated Press reports that jurors of the perjury trial for retired baseball player Barry Bonds will remain anonymous, according to Judge Susan Illston.  Illston based her decision on a previous case in which Judge James Zagel withheld the names of the jurors in the trial of former impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  Zagel said that keeping the names of jurors private protected the jurors from media harassment and stated, "jurors summoned from the community to serve as participants in our democratic system of justice are entitled to safety, privacy and protection against harassment."  Opponents argue that in the 1987 racketeering trial of John Gotti, keeping the names of the jurors anonymous led to Gotti's friend being selected as part of the jury who took bribes, which resulted in Gotti being acquitted.  Chicago attorney Christopher Keleher states, "jurors engage in improprieties when not subject to public scrutiny."

Judge Orders Mental Exam for Loughner:  Amanda Lee Myers of the Associated Press reports U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered Jared Lee Loughner, 22, to undergo a mental exam at the Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility in Springfield, Missouri.  Loughner pleaded not guilty to charges of an attack on January 8th that killed six and injured thirteen.  Burns stated that the purpose of the exam should be whether Loughner is competent to stand trial, not whether he was sane at the time of the shooting.  Loughner's defense lawyer Jude Clarke was concerned that moving Loughner to Missouri for the exam could harm their attorney-client relationship. 

Georgia Supreme Court Considers Strict Execution Standard:  NECN News reports Georgia's top court is considering whether death row inmates have an unfair standard to prove they are retarded to avoid execution. (The story uses the term "mentally disabled," but that is not correct.) In 1998, Georgia was the first state to ban executing retarded inmates, which was followed by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2002 Atkins decision making this a constitutional rule.  Georgia is the only state that requires defendants to prove they are retarded beyond a reasonable doubt.  On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments from Alphonso Stripling who claims he cannot be executed because he is retarded.  Stripling was sentenced to death in 1989 for fatally shooting two co-workers.  Defense Attorney David Gossett claims Georgia's execution standard is too strict and that, "it's far better for a few non-mentally retarded defendants to be sentenced to life in prison than a mentally retarded inmate to be executed."  However, even without the categorical exclusion, the jury can still consider low intelligence as a mitigating circumstance, just as they could before the Atkins decision.  Further, the Atkins decision was based on a finding that laws including Georgia's established a national consensus, and it is a strange argument to say that the very law used to establish a rule violates the rule.

Georgia Man Convicted in Serial Killer Hoax Seeks Appeal: Greg Bluestein of the Associated Press reports that Andrew Scott Haley, who posted a video on YouTube under the name "catchmekiller" where he claimed to have killed 16 people, asked the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday to overturn his conviction. Authorities quickly realized he had nothing to do with these crimes. Haley was convicted of tampering with evidence and making false statements. On his video he gave "clues" about where bodies were located and urged people to help solve the crimes. Prosecutors said that Haley's lies wasted countless hours of detective work. Haley made reference to two missing persons cases, and sent the link to his video to the father of one of the women. He admits what he did was wrong, but believes that his free speech rights were violated. Haley's defense team claims the law used to convict him was flawed because it failed to distinguish between a false statement and a fraudulent one.   

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