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News Scan

Conviction of MLK Jr. Adviser Considered After Death: Larry O'Dell of The Associated Press reports the lawyer for Reverend James L. Bevel has petitioned the Virgina Supreme Court to quash Bevel's incest conviction because he died while the appeal was pending. Bevel, a former adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr., had served several months of his 15-year sentence and was appealing his conviction when he died in December 2008. His attorney, Bonnie Hoffman, is seeking an abatement based on the theory that a conviction is not final until the appeals process is complete. "An appeal is a fundamental step in the process," Hoffman said. "When it's terminated by death, the conviction should be abated." Bevel's case is unique because of the 2009 testimony of the victim, Bevel's daughter, in which she stated the conviction had given her closure. A county judge rejected Bevel's bid for abatement after hearing the emotional testimony, and the Virgina Court of Appeals affirmed. An attorney for the state says the Virginia Supreme Court should affirm, arguing that convictions are presumed to be valid.

Army Won't Seek Death Penalty for Soldier's Murder: The Associated Press reports Army Spc. Neftaly Platero, 33, won't face the death penalty for the shooting deaths of fellow soldiers and roommates Pfc. Gebrah Noonan, 26, and Spc. John Carillo Jr., 20, when he stands trial by court martial beginning in February. Platero instead faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole for two counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted murder. Noonan's father says he feels prosecution has been stripped of a valuable bargaining chip with the death penalty off the table.

Female Inmates With Children Set to be Released Early: Jack Dolan of the Los Angeles Times reports prison officials will begin releasing female inmates who have children to serve the remainder of their sentences at home. As early as next week, mothers who were convicted of non-serious, non-sexual crimes and have two years or less remaining on their sentences could start going home with GPS-enabled ankle bracelets. More than 4,000 of the state's roughly 9,500 female inmates could be eligible. Sen. Carol Liu (D) originally wrote the bill to single out female inmates with children, but because of a constitutional ban against gender-based discrimination, the phrase "primary caregiver" was added to the bill. Administrators says the policy could be extended to male inmates in the near future. According to a 2010 memo from Liu's office, keeping kids with their parents instead of in foster care will hopefully "reduce the likelihood that inmates' children will embark on a life of crime." Harriet Solarno of Sacramento-based Crime Victims United says in many cases the children might be better off in foster care. "If they were such great mothers to begin with, they never would have committed the heinous crime that got them sent to state prison," said Salarno. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley says, "if properly supported, with the proper amount of supervision, it's not a bad idea." But Cooley also added he doesn't have a whole lot of confidence in state prison officials.

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