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FL Appeals Court Clears Way for 4 Death Penalty Cases:  A Florida appeals court Wednesday cleared the way for four death penalty cases to proceed with trials, countering rulings by lower courts that recent changes to state law only allow sentences of life in prison.  Arek Sarkissian of Naples Daily News reports that circuit judges in two Florida counties had used the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Hurst v. Florida to bar prosecutors from seeking capital punishment, but the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that "trial courts simply have no authority to determine the applicability of the death penalty to defendants who have not been convicted of capital felonies."  The court also states that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling "has no impact on the state's executive decision to prosecute capital offenses."  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that Florida's death penalty sentencing process violated the Sixth Amendment by giving too much power to judges rather than juries in deciding whether to issue a death sentence.  The Florida Legislature introduced an alternative policy that requires 10 of 12 jurors to agree on a death sentence.  The state high court has not yet ruled on how to apply to federal ruling.

New CA Bill Challenges Brown's Ballot Measure: 
A California bill on rape introduced recently conflicts with Gov. Jerry Brown's November ballot measure that would grant inmates convicted of a "nonviolent felony offense" parole eligibility after completion of the full term of his or her primary offense, as well as shaving time off their sentences for good behavior. In this Sac Bee piece, Dan Walters says that while Brown's measure, Proposition 57, does not define "nonviolent" crime, his campaign said it would apply to any felony not listed specifically in Penal Code Section 667.5.  That means that offenses such as assault with a deadly weapon, soliciting murder, intimidating a crime victim or witness, resisting arrest that injures a police officer, violent elder or child abuse, arson with injury, human trafficking and several forms of manslaughter and rape, including the rape of an unconscious person, will all be classified as a "nonviolent felony offense."  The bill, Assembly Bill 29, carried by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, for a bipartisan group of female legislators, would require any person convicted of raping an unconscious person or spouse to serve a full sentence with no time off for good behavior.  The bill came on the heels of widespread outrage after Standford University swimmer Brock Turner, who faced up to 14 years in prison, received a six-month jail sentence for three counts of sexual assault on an unconscious woman.  If the bill reaches Brown's desk, he will have to decide whether to sign itl, going against his own ballot measure, or vetoing the bill, essentially implying that raping an unconscious person in not a violent crime.

Colorado U Rape Case Echoes Stanford Case:  A rape case in Colorado strongly resembles the Brock Turner case at Stanford in both the crime and the light sentence the defendant received.  Rob Quinn of Newser reports that Austin James Wilkerson, 22, a former University of Colorado student, skirted a prison sentence on Wednesday after being found guilty of the 2014 sexual assault of an intoxicated female student.  Prosecutors sought a state prison sentence of four to 12 years, but the judge used his discretion to give Wilkerson a much lighter sentence consisting of probation for 20 years to life and two years in county jail under a work-release program that will allow him to leave jail daily for work or school.  The assault occurred after a St. Patrick's Day party two years ago when Wilkerson told a heavily intoxicated freshman student's friends that he was going to take care of her.

Marijuana to Remain Classified as Dangerous Drug:  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said it will not reclassify marijuana and remove it from the list of most dangerous drugs.  CBS New York reports that the DEA made the announcement in a notice in the Federal Register after consulting with the Heath and Human Services Department, stating that while marijuana will remain classified as a drug that has "no accepted medical use in the United States," the agency will pursue plans to make marijuana more available to researchers by expanding the number of agencies allowed to grow marijuana legally for the purpose of research.  Marijuana is classified as a "Schedule 1" drug, the same as heroin.

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