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Judge Orders Alleged Rape Victim to Testify:  Josh Funk of the Associated Press reports Lancaster County District Judge Paul Merritt has issued a contempt order against a 24-year-old rape victim, threatening up to 90 days in jail if she does not testify against her alleged attacker.  Glen Riensche, 62, is charged with sexually assaulting the then-child victim over a two-year period in the early 1990s.  The victim was initially cooperative with police, but then became unwilling to testify, stating that discussion of her previous sexual abuse would cause humiliation to her and her children.  Although victim testimony in these cases is often critical, president and founder of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network Scott Berkowitz says this type of judicial action is counterproductive to efforts to get more rape victims to report their assaults. 

Nevada Bill Could Reduce Death Penalty Appeals:  Testimony was heard yesterday on a bill proposed in the Nevada Senate aimed at cutting delays in the state's death penalty process, reports Jaclyn O'Malley of the Reno-Gazette Journal.  Last year, the average time spent on Nevada death row was 17 years.  The bill, introduced by Senator Don Gustavson (R), will give local judges the discretion to appoint new lawyers for the inmate's postconviction proceedings, rather than leaving it mandatory under current law.  Supporters estimate the bill, if passed, could save the state millions of dollars.

Wiretapping Not Permitted in Massachusetts Gang Murder:  The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today held police improperly used the state wiretap law to gather evidence about a murderous street gang.  The state's current law permits wiretapping only for offenses associated with "organized crime," defined as "a continuing conspiracy among highly organized and disciplined groups to engage in supplying goods and services."  Because the gang murder in this case was not tied to a "pecuniary or illegal business purpose" or the strict disciplinary structure characteristic of organized crime groups, the wiretapping statute was not applicable.  John R. Ellement of The Boston Globe writes two concurring justices used "unusually blunt language" to urge legislative expansion of the 1986 law.

New York Choking Law Has "Unprecedented" Impact:  The Elmira Star-Gazette (NY) reports officials yesterday announced an "unprecedented" impact from New York's recent strangulation law.  The law established three crimes for strangulation, two felonies and one misdemeanor, depending on the severity of effect to the victim.  Previously, alleged abusers could strangle a victim almost to the point of unconsciousness but avoid punishment if the victim did not display signs of physical injury.  More than 2,000 people were charged during the first 15 weeks after the law went into effect.  Although a majority of the charges were misdemeanors, New York law requires DNA collection of those charged, which could help other law enforcement efforts.   

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