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News Scan

California's Death Penalty Ban Likely to Continue Into 2013: The Associated Press reports the moratorium on California's death penalty will likely extend into 2013. Government lawyers agreed to resume the court battle with the lawyers representing inmates no sooner than September. Due to the time it takes a judge to rule and the likelihood of appeals, any scheduled executions will be pushed back into 2013. Executions were halted nearly six years ago by a federal judge who found flaws in the state's executions process, which prison officials say they have revised. There are currently 720 inmates on death row in California. On Friday another judge in Marin County is scheduled to hear arguments regarding whether prison officials properly followed procedures when revising the lethal injection process.

Two of Infamous "Texas 7" Get Execution Dates: Michael Graczyk of The Associated Press reports two members of the "Texas 7" gang, who engineered the biggest prison escape in Texas history in December 2000, have been scheduled to be executed in February of next year. George Rivas and Donald Newbury were two of seven convicts who escaped from a south Texas prison. Two weeks later they fatally shot a police officer during their holdup of a sporting goods store and were caught in Colorado a month later, where one of the gang killed himself. The other six faced trial and were given the death penalty. Michael Rodriguez was executed in 2008. Rivas, 41, the mastermind of the breakout, will be executed by lethal injection February 29. Newbury, 49, is set to be executed February 1.

Pennsylvania Prisoners Smuggled Drugs Under Postage Stamps: Matt Coughlin of phillyBurbs.com (PA) reports three current prisoners and one former prisoner of Bucks County Correctional Facility were charged for allegedly conspiring to smuggle drugs into the prison under postage stamps on letters mailed to the prison. The scheme unraveled when a letter leaving the prison was returned as undeliverable/return to sender. All incoming inmate mail is opened and checked for contraband. The returned letter written by an inmate to a man in Morrisville, PA stated he was getting Suboxone through the mail under large stamps, and said he could receive money orders straight from the prison. Suboxone is used to treat addiction to drugs derived from opium, and can come in the form of a film that dissolves on the tongue. The four men are charged with conspiracy, sending contraband to an inmate, possession of a controlled substance by an inmate, and related offenses.

Occupy Protests Continue to Escalate on West Coast: The Port of Oakland has reopened this morning after protesters blocked the entrances with dumpsters, illegally parked vehicles, and fencing Wednesday. Police say protesters threw metal pipes, chunks of concrete, and lit roman candles and molotov cocktails. Protester Monique Agnew, 40, said, "We go from having a peaceful movement to now just chaos." An empty building that formally housed a now closed homeless aid program was taken over by protesters, who set several fires that went as high as 15 ft. in the air. As stated in a New York Post editorial Thursday, "What began as a credible protest against bank bailouts, crony capitalism and the like has, in large measure, been hijacked by crazies and criminals." Terence Chea, Lisa Leff, and Terry Collins of The Associated Press have more on the story. In Sacramento, Andy Furillo of The Sacramento Bee reports most protesters who have been taken into custody are expected to demand jury trials, instead of paying their fines and going home. Darrell Parker, 52, a state IT worker, said Wednesday that "getting arrested was one way of showing the waste of police resources," and that now the goal of the movement is to stress the courts. Furillo nicknames this new movement "Occupy Sacramento Courtrooms."      

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