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News Scan


CT Prosecutors Challenge Death Penalty Ban:  Connecticut prosecutors argued Thursday that the state's Supreme Court made a "critical mistake" when it ruled that a 2012 law ending capital punishment in the state applied retroactively to the 11 inmates already on death row.  Richard Weizel of Reuters reports that last August, in the case of Santiago v. State, the state's high court ruled 4-3 that a 2012 state law banning the issuance of new death sentences, but permitting the executions to be carried out for people previously condemned, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.  In another capital murder case before the court, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Harry Weller argued that "the court overreached its authority when it determined that legislators could not exempt people previously sentenced to death from the new ban on punishment."  The court is expected to make a ruling over the next few months.  Connecticut is one of 19 U.S. states that have banned the death penalty, their last prisoner executed in 2005.

German Vigilante Group to Protect Women From Migrants:  In the wake of hundreds of sexual assaults in the German city of Cologne on New Year's Eve by male migrants from the Middle East , a vigilante group in the neighboring city of Dusseldorf launched on Facebook Wednesday night, intent on providing protection and major events and in city centers to German women. Oliver Lane of Breitbart reports that the group, called "Dusseldorf is Watching," already has 2,300 members and quickly received criticism from local police, who voiced their stance against "self-proclaimed vigilantes."  The founder of the group, however, assures that they do not intend to employ vigilante justice or violence; rather, they simply plan to be "present and attentive" at major public events and on weekend evenings.  During New Year's Eve festivities in Cologne and other German cities, hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted by large groups of men described as Arab appearing, which overwhelmed police forces.  

Obama Hires 'Army' of Pardon Lawyers:  A "small army" of pardon lawyers is about to be hired by the Justice Department, suggesting that President Obama is expecting an active pardon period at the end of his term.  Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports that although it is typical for presidents to issue pardons to prisoners in their last months in office, the current plan to expand the Office of the Pardon Attorney by adding 16 new lawyers indicates President Obama's pardon period is likely to be "busier than normal."  The president has already granted 250 pardons and commutations during his term, more than former President George W. Bush doled out during his full eight years in office.  The move will potentially cost $2.26 million.

Officer Asks Court to Block Forced Testimony in Gray Case:  A Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray is fighting a ruling that would force him to testify against a colleague, arguing that it violates his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.  The AP reports that William Porter, whose trial ended in a mistrial last month, asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to block a Baltimore Circuit Judge's ruling compelling him to take the stand in Officer Caesar Goodman's trial or face jail time.  Porter's attorney, argues that prosecutors will be unable to differentiate what they heard in Porter's first trial as a defendant from his testimony as a witness.  Porter's Immunity from trial for his testimony. A longtime Baltimore defense attorney, not involved with the case, emphasizes the difficulty this decision presents to achieving fair trials in future cases involving multiple defendants, noting that "the judge is essentially saying there is no difference between a witness and a defendant, so long as immunity is granted."  Goodson, the driver of the police van, is the second officer to be tried in the April death of Freddie Gray and is facing charges ranging from manslaughter to second-degree murder.  Porter's retrial is scheduled for June 13.  Update:  The Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed Friday to stay Judge Williams' order compelling Porter to take the stand in Goodson's trial.

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