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US Supreme Court to Consider Mississippi Woman's Death Penalty Appeal: The US Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear an appeal from a Mississippi woman on death row seeking a new trial based on the claim that she murdered her husband after years of abuse.  Jack Elliot Jr. of the Associated Press reports that 56-year-old Michelle Byrom was sentenced to death in 2000 for the murder of her husband, and during the sentencing phase of her trial, made the rare request to have the sentencing judge determine her sentence rather than the jury.  Byrom claims that she was sentenced unfairly after her attorney failed to inform the judge of past physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband.  The case is Byrom v. Epps, No. 13-5998, on the January 10, 2014 conference list.

Santa Barbara Jails See Increase in Violence After Realignment: Inmate-on-inmate assaults have increased by 40 percent inside the Santa Barbara County Jail system since 2011, and according to Cmdr. Darin Fothingham, Realignment is to blame.  Giana Magnoli of Noozhawk reports that in addition to an increase of inmate-on-inmate attacks, assaults on staff have almost doubled since Realignment went into effect in October 2011.  Assaults range from minor offenses such as simple battery to more serious incidents including assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder.

CA Jury Recommends Death Sentence for Man Convicted in Double-Murder: A California jury has recommended that 29-year-old Iftekhar Murtaza be sentenced to death for his role in the murders of his ex-girlfriend's father and sister.  The Associated Press reports that Murtaza stabbed his former girlfriend's mother and left her unconscious on the neighbor's lawn before killing the woman's father and sister and setting their home on fire.  Prosecutors say Murtaza killed his former girlfriend's family because they disapproved of their relationship. 

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