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News Scan

CA Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence: California's highest court denied the appeal of a man sentenced to death who claimed that the penalty was too harsh and a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.  Kenneth Ofgang of the Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports that California's Supreme Court ruled that George Lopez Contreras was indeed eligible for the death penalty based on the fact that he murdered his victim during the course of a robbery, rejecting a challenge of the state's felony-murder rule.  Attorneys for Contreras argued that he had no intent to kill anyone during the robbery, despite evidence that showed Contreras obtained a shotgun the night before the robbery and enlisted the help of armed accomplices.
21-year-old Now the Youngest on FL's Death Row:  The mastermind of the 2011 murder of a 15-year-old in Florida has at 21 become the youngest person on the state's death row.  Arelis R. Hernandez of the Orlando Sentinel reports that Michael Bargo, was 18 when he and four others lured teenager Seath Jackson to a house in Marion County where he was repeatedly beaten with piece of wood and shot several times.  Bargo and the other attackers then burned Jackson's body and attempted to conceal it in paint containers.  The four co-defendants received life sentences.  Bargo argued mental illness, but the jury recommended that the court impose the death penalty.

CO Stops Placing Mentally Ill in Solitary Confinement:  Prison officials in Colorado have been instructed to stop placing mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement by the interim Director of Prisons.  Ivan Moreno of the Associated Press reports that the alternative option for mentally ill inmates is to refer them to a 240-bed residential treatment program that is located inside the Centennial Correctional Facility.  The effort to place limits on solitary confinement was sparked by the murder of  state prison director Tom Clements last March by a former inmate who had spent most of his eight year sentence in solitary.  The state currently has only eight mentally ill inmates in solitary, compared to the 140 in 2012.  The ACLU now wants the definition for who is considered mentally ill should be broadened.

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