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News Scan

Cigarette Butt Key to 1989 Cold Case Murder:  Natalie Sherman of the Boston Herald reports a single cigarette butt may help solve a Boston cold case, after a crime scene sample matched a DNA sample of a current Massachusetts inmate.  Police discovered 87-year-old Zahia Salem dead on her couch in 1989 with broken ribs and bruising indicating sexual assault.  The case went unsolved until a DNA sample collected in May from convicted rapist Charles Brook Jr. matched the remains of a cigarette butt found at the scene.  Brook has denied killing Salem, but admitted that he met her at a thrift store and helped her back to her home.  The case against Brook is part of an effort by Boston police to solve the more than 1,200 cold case murders dating back to the 1960s.   

Sixth Circuit Overturns Michigan Death Sentence:  Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press reports the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today overturned the death sentence of the only person on federal death row from Michigan.  Marvin Gabrion was convicted and sentenced to death in federal court for the murder of Rachel Timmerman, whom was found bound and weighted with cinder blocks in a lake in a national forest (hence the federal jurisdiction), and her infant daughter.  Gabrion killed Timmerman while awaiting trial for raping her.  The Sixth Circuit majority (Judges Merritt and Moore) found that the trial judge should have allowed Gabrion's defense counsel to point out that Michigan had abolished the death penalty in 1846, and thus, had Gabrion been tried in Michigan state court, a death sentence would not have been available.  The Court said such an argument was "'mitigating' because [it] could conceivably make a juror question 'the appropriateness in the case of imposing a sentence of death.'" Chief Judge Batchelder, dissenting, cites a contrary Fourth Circuit decision from 2003.

Transportation Authority Forced to Rehire Addicts, Convicts:   The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has been forced by arbitrators to rehire seven drivers and other key employers after they were fired for offenses such as drug use and assault.  Among the rehired employees is a trolley operator who tested positive for cocaine, admitted to an addiction, and was caught dozing behind the controls, after an arbitrator determined the drug test violated her right to privacy.  A bus driver fired over his 1987 conviction for child rape was also given his job back when an arbitrator ruled the MBTA knew about his record when he was initially hired, before a 2004 rule change banning workers with sex convictions.  Richard Weir has this story in the Boston Herald. 

California Lawmaker Pushes for Change After Jaycee Dugard Case:  Don Thompson of the AP reports California Republican Senator Ted Gaines announced today he will introduce legislation intended to circumvent a 2008 California Supreme Court case ruling that the state parole board cannot deny a prisoner's release based solely on the circumstances of the original crime.  Gaines says that since that ruling, the board has granted parole to more than 1,300 inmates serving life terms.

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