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News Scan

Texas Closes First State Prison: Robert Stanton of Hearst Newspapers reports Texas has closed one of its state prisons for the first time. On Wednesday the Texas Legislature agreed to end funding for the Central Unit in Sugar Land. The closing of the Sugar Land facility is expected to save the state about $12.4 million a year.

Decrease In Death Penalty Convictions Tied to Bad Economy: Dan Springer of Fox News has this piece about the decline of death penalty convictions partly due to the bad economy. Death penalty sentences have dropped 60 percent nationwide since 2000. Death penalty cases costs 2-3 times more than a comparable murder case where the state is seeking life in prison without parole. King County (Wash.) Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg says "it is a big deal for county budgets... when a death penalty case comes up cost is a factor that everyone is considering."   Talking about why the costs are so high Satterberg noted that defense attorneys have increasingly used mitigation specialists to conduct lengthy investigations into a defendant's past looking for abuse, mental illness or any other reason that might explain the murderer's behavior.  "They want to drive up the cost.  They want to delay the cases forever, only to turn around and use those arguments why we should get rid of the death penalty,"  Satterberg said. "They're given a blank check," he added.

No "Hot Pursuit" for Tribal Police Off Reservation: In its third time addressing the case, the Washington Supreme Court today reversed its 2010 decision and ruled that tribal police cannot follow drunk drivers off reservation land in "hot pursuit." Justice Mary Fairhurst acknowledged that the ruling could create "the incentive for intoxicated drivers to race for the reservation border," but that such policy problems would be best addressed by legislative tools "such as cross-deputization or mutual aid pacts." The court noted, however, that tribal police could be permitted to effect an arrest outside the reservation under the common law rule "when in fresh pursuit of one who had committed a felony." Levi Pulkkinen of Seattlepi.com has this story

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