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Ninth Circuit Tosses Arizona Death Sentence:  The Ninth Circuit yesterday vacated the death sentence of Arizona inmate Richard Hurles, who was convicted of raping librarian Kay Blanton before stabbing her to death 37 times with a paring knife.  The court found the trial judge displayed judicial bias and should have recused herself, and ordered a new sentencing hearing to be presided over by a different judge.  Amanda Lee Myers of the AP has this story.

Iowa Sex Offender Inmates Can Be Required to Admit Crimes:  The Iowa Supreme Court today ruled that prison treatment programs can require sex offender inmates to admit their crimes without violating the inmates' right against self incrimination, reports the Des Moines Register.  Convicted sex offender Robert Harkins claimed an Iowa law permitting inmates to earn good time credits for participating in treatment programs, which in some cases requires assuming full responsibility for past offenses, violated his constitutional rights.  A closely divided court disagreed: "Harkins had every right not to be a witness against himself... Now that he has been convicted as a sex offender, though, the State of Iowa may constitutionally establish an incentive for him to obtain treatment in prison by withholding earned-time credits if he declines to participate."

California Death Penalty Abolition Bill Advances:  Parash Dave reports in The Sacramento Bee a bill to abolish the death penalty in California cleared its first legislative hearing yesterday after it was approved by the Assembly's Public Safety Committee.  If Senate Bill 490 receives a majority vote to pass the California legislature, the decision will be left up to voters in the November 2012 election.  Many lawmakers acknowledge that polls show two-thirds of voters support capital punishment, but are nevertheless harping on California's fiscal crisis to argue capital punishment is an exorbitant cost.

Connecticut Supreme Court Reverses Order Freeing Two Men:  The Connecticut Supreme Court today unanimously reversed a lower court's ruling that ordered two men to be freed from their 80-year prison terms.  George Gould and Ronald Taylor were convicted of participating in a deadly robbery of a New Haven retail store in 1993.  A judge last year ordered the two men to be released immediately, accepting their claims of actual innocence based largely on a recanting witness.  The state's high court determined the lower judge applied the wrong standard in evaluating "actual innocence," relying too heavily on the recantation and failing to identify affirmative evidence that the men did not commit the crime.  David Owens has this story in The Hartford Courant. 

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