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News Scan

Appeals Court Orders Reconsideration of Inmate's Death Sentence: The Associated Press reports the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday ordered the reconsideration of California inmate Jesse Gonzales' death sentence. Gonzales was sentenced to death in 1981 for the 1979 shooting death of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy. The divided three-judge panel sends the case back to state court to review whether psychological reports which were not disclosed by prosecutors about a jailhouse informant, who testified during the guilt and penalty phases of Gonzales' trial, could have helped sway the jury against a death sentence. The opinion is here.

Thou Shalt Not Tweet:
Jeannie Nuss of the Associated Press reports the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday threw out a death row inmate's murder conviction and sent the case back to a lower court for a new trial. Attorneys for Erickson Dimas-Martinez, who was convicted for the shooting death of 17-year-old boy, appealed his 2010 murder conviction because a juror continued to tweet during the trial after being given specific instruction by the judge not to do so. Dimas-Martinez's lawyers also complained that another juror slept during court proceedings. An assistant attorney general argued before the state Supreme Court that the juror's tweets were about his feelings and not specifics about the trial. The opinion is here.

FBI to Change Definition of "Rape": Rheana Murray of New York Daily News reports the FBI's definition of "rape" will be updated for the first time since 1929. According to the FBI's website, the proposed new definition is "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim." The definition currently in use is: "Carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will." An agency panel voted on Tuesday to change the definition, and the new definition is still awaiting approval by FBI director Robert Mueller.

Cigarette Butt Leads to Arrest in 31-Year-Old Murder Case: Reuters reports DNA from a cigarette butt has led to an arrest in a 31-year-old Maine murder case. In 1980, 20-year-old Rita St. Pierre's partially nude body was found near a road. Her body had been bludgeoned and run over by a vehicle. Jay Mercier was identified as a person of interest, but during the initial investigation police did not find enough evidence to arrest him. A police detective collected one of Mercier's cigarette butts after police had questioned him outside his house last year. The DNA from the cigarette butt matched sperm found found on St. Pierre's body. The DNA match enabled police to obtain a warrant to swab Mercier's mouth for more DNA and other tests. On Monday Mercier, who was arrested in September and denied bail, entered a plea of not guilty to murder in state court in Somerset County, Maine.

Ohio Murderer Heads Back to Death Row 13 Years After Original Sentence: Kim Palmer of Reuters reports an Ohio jury Wednesday recommended the death penalty for convicted murderer Rayshawn Johnson after deliberating for a little over one day. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998 for the robbing and beating to death his neighbor with a baseball bat. He appealed his conviction, claiming his attorneys failed to adequately investigate his childhood and violated his right to effective assistance of counsel during the penalty phase of his trial, and was granted a new penalty phase trial three years ago. Johnson will be re-sentenced December 21, at which point a judge can accept or reject the jury's recommendation. 

Holder Says "Fast and Furious" Guns Will be Used in Crimes "For Years to Come":
Fox News reports Attorney General Eric Holder suggested Thursday in testimony on Capitol Hill that weapons lost during the failed "Fast and Furious" operation will continue to show up in crimes in the U.S. and Mexico "for years to come." Holder said such a program "must never happen again," and that, "...we must move forward and recommit ourselves to our shared public safety obligations." Holder used the occasion to incite Congress to support giving the Justice Department - specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms - broader legals tools to track firearms purchases.

Should a City Pay Employers to Hire Felons?: Joshua Sabatini of The Examiner reports the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted 6-5 against legislation that would offer a $10,000 tax break to companies for each ex-felon they hired. "It is a slap in the face to the tens of thousands of law-abiding San Franciscans that are waking up every day looking for work and can't find work," said Supervisor Mark Farrell. Watch this Fox News clip with a familiar face.

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