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News Scan

Alleged Serial Killer's DNA Sample is Missing:  The investigation of alleged Ohio serial killer Anthony Sowell is getting messier, reports Rachel Dissell of The Plain Dealer (OH).  Last week, Ohio prosecutors announced that an untested rape kit was a match to Sowell and that the rape kit had been obtained before five of Sowell's alleged 11 victims went missing.  Now Ohio officials admit that although a DNA sample was collected from Sowell while he was in prison in the 1990s, the sample was never processed or entered into the state's database.  The Virginia lab, to which Ohio sent its DNA samples for testing pending completion of the state's lab, also discovered recently 200 biological samples that had never been tested.  Sowell's sample is not among the 200.

Pennsylvania County Jury Recommends Death Sentence for First Time in 25 Years:
  Riley Yates and Pamela Lehman of The Morning Call (PA) report a Northampton County jury yesterday recommended a sentence of death for quadruple-murderer Michael Ballard - the first such sentence in the Pennsylvania county since 1987.  In what prosecutors call a "slaughter" and "massacre," Ballard last summer stabbed to death his former girlfriend, her father, her deaf, blind, and wheelchair-bound grandfather, and a neighbor who heard screaming in the home and tried to help.  At the time of the murders, Ballard was on parole for slitting the throat of a man in 1991 and stealing the dead man's wallet and car.  The jury reached its unanimous decision after two hours of deliberation.

Court Did Not Follow Proper Procedure When Closing Drug Cartel Sentence:   The Fifth Circuit yesterday ruled a federal district court in Houston did not follow proper procedures when it closed to the public the sentencing of Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, former head of a notorious Mexican drug cartel.  At the time of his 2003 arrest in Mexico, Cardenas-Guillen was considered by the government to be "one of the most wanted, feared, and violent drug traffickers in the world."  The government requested a closed sentencing proceeding for reasons of public safety and the district court agreed, sentencing Cardenas-Guillen in February to 25 years and ordering him to forfeit $50 million in a closed proceeding held without any public notice.  The Houston Chronicle, who had previously attempted to keep the proceedings in this case open to the public, discovered the closed courtroom on the day of sentencing and was denied access.  The Fifth Circuit found this to be error: "the press and public have a First Amendment right of access to sentencing hearings, and [] the district court should have given the press and public notice and an opportunity to be heard before closing the sentencing proceeding in this case."  Dane Schiller of the Houston Chronicle has this story.

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