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News Scan

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Iowa May Reinstate Death Penalty:  William Petroski of the Press-Citizen reports that 65% of Iowa citizens favor reinstatement of capital punishment in certain cases according to a recent Des Moines Register poll. The poll surveyed 802 adults in the state from February 3-6. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points. In 1995, the Legislature voted down a bill to allow death sentences 39-11.  Curently, Senate File 167, filed by Republican Sen. Kent Sorenson and 14 other party members, is pending in the Iowa House. The bill would allow the death penalty to be used when a minor is murdered after the criminal commits sexual assault or kidnapping. It has been almost 50 years since the state's last execution. The bill discussed in this News Scan.

FL Killer's Execution Stayed:  Bill Kaczor of the Associated Press reports that an 11th Circuit panel in Florida temporarily stayed the execution of Paul Augustus Howell, 47, set for 6 p.m.today. In his appeal before the court Howell claims that his  trial lawyer had a conflict of interest and failed to discover or present mitigating evidence that may have helped Howell avoid a death sentence. Howell, a drug trafficker, was convicted of killing state highway patrol trooper Jimmy Fulford with a pipe bomb on February 1, 1992.

PA Inmate Kills Prison Guard:  Michael Rubinkam of the Associated Press reports that Correctional Officer Eric Williams, 34, was killed by an inmate Monday at Pennsylvania's Canaan Federal Penitentiary. The unnamed inmate stabbed him multiple times using a homemade weapon. Williams was pronounced dead at a hospital at 11:30 p.m. He was the first federal corrections officer killed on duty in almost five years.

AR Senate Backs Parole Reform:  The Associated Press reports that the Arkansas Senate voted to approve reforms to the state's parole laws Monday. SB 259, passed by a vote of 30-1, will make several offenses ineligible for mandatory parole. These include attempted capital murder, attempted first-degree murder, making a terrorist threat, and aggravated residential burglary and arson.

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to DNA Collection:  The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Maryland v. King on Tuesday. The issue is whether or not police can take DNA from arrestees without a warrant. Currently, 28 states and the federal government take samples from people arrested, regardless of proving guilt or innocence. A decision will be made later this year. The case is discussed by CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger here, and in this News Scan.

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Another day, another lawless stay from our federal courts. Though all of the recent stays are egregious (by the by, John Ferguson's stay is still in place), this one is particularly horrible and is yet another stain on the integrity of the federal judiciary.

Mr. Powell, a cop-killer, forfeited habeas review over a decade ago--let that sink in--over a decade ago. Thus, the federal courthouse should be closed to Mr. Powell, unless he has a powerful case of innocence that has been presented to state courts and rejected. Yet here we go again--the Florida governor sets a date with plenty of time to get these last minute appeals squared away, and the defendant (to say nothing of his failure to file anything in the decade that has gone by) files a last-minute successive habeas petition, and lo and behold, the lawless 11th Circuit stays the execution, and the equally lawless Supreme Court upholds it. And not only that, they don't even bother to explain. Lawlessness and arrogance--what a combination.

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