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New Criminal Laws Take Effect in North Carolina:  As of yesterday, several new laws in North Carolina took effect, including Kilah's Law, which calls for tougher penalties on child abusers.  Ashton Pellom of WBTV reports that in response to 3-year-old Kilah Davenport's 2012 beating by her stepfather, leaving her brain damaged, the new law will increase the maximum penalty for the most serious abuse charges from 15 years to 33 years.  The law does not apply retroactively to Davenport's abuser.  Davenport's family plan to meet with federal lawmakers to encourage harsher penalties of child abusers in all 50 states.  Other new laws include:  the prohibition of disorderly conduct at a funeral, memorial service, or processional route; making human traffickers register as sex offenders; and making the failure to report the disappearance of a child a crime.

Craigslist Killer Case Before FL Supreme Court:  Attorneys representing the "Craigslist Killer," a Florida man sentenced to death for the stabbing murder of a 21-year-old Navy wife, will argue tomorrow that his refusal to allow his trial counsel to present evidence on his mental-health and substance-abuse issues, renders his sentence unconstitutional. Larry Hannan of the Florida Times-Union reports that 22-year-old David Kelsey Sparre killed the pregnant woman after responding to her Craigslist ad.  The Florida Supreme Court must weigh Sparre's right to direct his own defense with the state's obligation to consider factors that would justify life in prison without parole rather than a death sentence when a murderer refuses to defend himself. 

Killing Witnesses Paying Off in New Jersey:  Concern is rising in Trenton, New Jersey, over a spike in witness murders, which are often orchestrated from inside the New Jersey State Prison.  Paul Mickle of the Trentonian reports that, in 2005, gang banger Anthony Kidd set up a hit on his ex-girlfriend Kendra DeGrasse from his prison cell because of testimony she provided against him at his 2001 trial for shooting at two police officers.  Since DeGrasse's murder, other witnesses have reported knowledge about homicides, but refuse to give statements out of fear for their lives, leaving many murders unsolved.  Kidd was sentenced to 29 years for killing DeGrasse after he plead guilty to a reduced charge of aggravated manslaughter.  The state says that without the death penalty, which was outlawed in 2007, witness killers are undeterred and authorities are left with little choice but to offer plea deals to avoid trials.

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