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Prosecutor Challenges Early Release of Inmates: An Ohio prosecutor has issued a court challenge against a policy that allows prison directors to recommend to judges the early release of certain offenders, calling it a violation of separation of powers.  Andrew Welsh-Huggins of the Associated Press reports that Prosecutor Mark Kuhn is challenging a law that allows the Ohio prisons chief to recommend early release for inmates that have served at least 80% of their sentence. The law was adopted in 2011 as an attempt to save money by reducing the number of 'low-level' offenders behind bars.  In the last two years, judges have granted early release to 94 of the 414 eligible offenders.

Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Believes Death Penalty is Needed: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski stands by his belief that the death penalty is a necessary form of punishment, and suggests that using a firing squad may be the best method.  Pat Morrison of the Los Angeles Times reports that Kozinski acknowledges the issues surrounding lethal injections, saying he never believed using lethal drugs was a good idea for executions.  Kozinski believes support for the death penalty in America is as strong as ever, however, he says the process needs to be fixed.  

Prisoner Convicted in Cellmate's Death: A California man with an extensive history of violent assaults behind bars has been convicted in the murder of his cellmate nearly ten years ago.  KION News reports that 48-year-old David Gomez strangled and beat his cellmate to death in 2005 while already serving a 91-year sentence for forcible rape and burglary.  Along with the murder conviction, Gomez was also convicted of two more attacks on inmates in 2009 and faces a maximum sentence of three consecutive life terms.


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Good Samaritans Attacked for Reporting Child Locked in Hot Car: A Colorado woman who alerted police about a child being locked in a hot car has been seriously injured after the child's mother ran the woman and her boyfriend over.  Tammy Vigil of Fox Denver reports that 27-year-old Kristina Riddell, angered about the couple calling police, physically attacked them before running them over and fleeing the scene.  This is not Riddell's first incident with police, she has prior arrests for assault, domestic violence and multiple driving violations.  She now faces charges of hit-and-run, assault and child abuse.

Murder Re-Trial May Result in Death Sentence: A California man behind bars for murder may be sent to death row if found guilty of two more killings at the conclusion of his re-trial.  KESQ News reports that 30-year-old Angel Esparza, a parolee, was tried for the three murders together and was convicted of one.  The jury deadlocked on the other two murder charges forcing a re-trial.  Two of Esparza's accomplices pled guilty to the murders and were sentenced to 15 years to life behind bars.

Teens Charged in Beating Death: Four California teenagers have been charged with the beating death of a University of Southern California graduate student in an attempted robbery.  The Associated Press reports that two of the suspects were juveniles but will be charged as adults after allegedly beating the student to death with a baseball bat and wrench.  The defendants will be arraigned in two weeks on charges of murder during an attempted robbery.

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Serial Killer Sentenced to Death: A Kentucky man released on parole after serving time for murder has been convicted and sentenced to death for the cold-case rape and murder of a mother of five in 1983. Claire Galofaro of The Courier-Journal reports that 56-year-old Larry White was sentenced to death in 1985 after being found guilty of murdering two young women, but two years later the state Supreme Court ruled that his confession was illegally obtained and reduced his sentence to  28 years. Since 1976, Kentucky has only executed three murderers, most recently in 2008.

Parolee Named Person of Interest in Recent Murder: A Colorado man with a lengthy criminal history has been arrested after  he fled his court-ordered halfway house.  Police believe that he may be responsible for his mother's disappearance and murder.  Jesse Paul of the Denver Post reports that 31-year-old Daniel Stetzel has been arrested more than a dozen times on a variety of charges including drug possession, robbery, assault and parole violations.  Stetzel is being held in county jail in lieu of $20,000 bond.

Teen Convicted in Cop Killing: A 19-year-old Texas man has been found guilty of beating to death an El Paso police officer in 2012.  The Associated Press reports that the off-duty officer confronted Juan Gonzalez and two of his friends after he caught them vandalizing his car.  When the officer identified himself, prosecutors say Gonzalez violently assaulted him causing critical injuries  that he died from nine days later.  Gonzalez now faces between five and 99 years in state prison.


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CA High Court Upholds Death Sentence: In a unanimous ruling, California's Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of murdering an off-duty Los Angeles County deputy sheriff in 1997.  Ann Anooshian of Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports that the officer and his fiancee, who was also a peace officer, were at a hair salon when two men entered the building in an attempt to steal the cash register, when the men found out he was a sheriff they shot him in the head and fled with his fiancee's debit card.  The gunman, Kevin Boyce was sentenced to death for the murder, his accomplice was also convicted of murder and sentenced to 75 years to life. 

TX Governor Seeks Help From National Guard to Deal with Immigration: Texas Governor Rick Perry is asking for the National Guard to be deployed along the state's border with Mexico in order to deter and detain criminals who have illegally entered the country.  Salena Zito of Newsmax reports that the governor is concerned with the number of criminals entering the state, and is requesting the National Guard's presence to assist Border Patrol and other agencies protecting the border.  Since 2008, 203,000 illegal immigrants have been arrested in the state and charged with more than 640,000 crimes including thousands of homicides and sexual assaults.

Parolee Found Guilty in Cop Killing: A New York man has been found guilty of killing a Long Island police officer and an innocent motorist in October 2012.  Joe Kemp of the New York Daily News reports that 34-year-old Darrell Fuller, who was out on parole at the time of the crime, shot the officer at point-blank range after being pulled over for a traffic stop, he then shot another man in attempt to steal his car and flee the scene.  Fuller faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.


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Northern California City Struggling Under Realignment: A California State Senator has dubbed Redding, CA as one of the cities hit hardest by Realignment after taking a tour of the Shasta County Jail earlier this week.  Vienna Montague of KRCR News reports that since Realignment went into effect in 2011, the city of Redding has seen higher rates of auto theft, robbery and drug use, and it has caused major problems throughout the community.  The senator mentioned additional funding that has been set aside to combat Realignment issues, but believes money is a simple fix to a problem that requires a long-term solution.

Man Sentenced in Cold Case Rape: A Chicago man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after DNA from a rape kit linked him to a cold case sexual assault committed more than ten years ago.  The Associated Press reports that the rape kit was one of dozens left untested and forgotten about in a suburban police station.  He became the 15th person to be either charged or convicted as a result of the discovery of the untested rape kits. 

CA High Court Denies Murderer's Appeal: A California man convicted of murdering five people will stay behind bars for the rest of his life after the state's Supreme Court denied to review his case.  Ivette Lopez of the Santa Monica Lookout reports that William Vasquez, a documented gang member, was found guilty in 2008 and linked to five murders that took place around Southern California between 2002 and 2005.  Two of Vasquez's accomplices in the murders are also serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.  


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Judge Asks Why Murder Suspect Wasn't Already Behind Bars: A Michigan judge has revealed that the man suspected of murdering a two-year-old girl earlier this month should have been in jail at the time of the killing, and is asking why he was released from custody early.  CBS Detroit reports that 25-year-old Raymone Jackson was sentenced to 11 months in prison last September, but was released just six months later. Police believe Jackson killed the girl as form of retaliation against her father.
   
Delaware High Court Upholds Death Sentence: The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the death sentence for a man convicted of murder nearly ten years ago.  Joe Jenkins of the Daily Voice reports that James Cooke was sentenced to death in 2012 for the rape and murder of a University of Delaware student in 2005.  Cooke was originally sentenced to death for the killing in 2007, but that conviction was ultimately thrown out by the state's high court in a divided ruling.  He was tried again and sentenced to death five years later.

Increase in Murders After Death Penalty Abolished: South Africa has experienced a sharp increase in murders and violent crimes in recent years, which some believe was caused by eliminating the death penalty. Laura Oneale of Guardian Liberty Voice reports that the murder rate has continued to increase since the death penalty was abolished in 1996.  South Africa, which has been rated the most murderous society in the world, averages more than 47,000 killings annually. 

 

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Colorado Residents Using EBT Cards to Buy Marijuana: According to an analysis conducted by National Review Online, welfare recipients in Colorado have been withdrawing thousands of dollars worth of their cash benefits at marijuana retailers and dispensaries since the state began selling recreational marijuana earlier this year.  Jillian Kay Melchior of National Review Online reports that in the last six months, more than $23,000 has been withdrawn at a variety of marijuana establishments across the state, however, officials have yet to determine how much was spent on marijuana exclusively because some of the stores sell groceries as well.  In order to combat the issue, the state has enacted an emergency rule restricting the use of EBT cards at marijuana shops, bars, liquor stores and gambling establishments.

Convicted Killer Released From Prison Early, Arrested for Murder Again: An Indiana man convicted of murdering his first wife more than 20 years ago has been arrested and charged with murder yet again after authorities say he killed his current wife over the weekend.  The Associated Press reports that 50-year-old Tony Degrafreed was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years behind bars in 1995, but was released early and paroled after spending just 12 years in prison.  Authorities arrested Degrafreed on Sunday, charging him with murder and separate assault charges for stabbing his wife's son in the chest, causing minor injuries.

Convicted Killer up For Parole Under New Law: A Massachusetts man convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison at the age of 17 is now eligible for parole after the state ruled that minors can not be sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.  Angie Angers of WPRI reports that Anthony Rolon was convicted of murder and sentenced to life after authorities say he stabbed another teen to death at a party, and so far, has spent just 17 years behind bars.  In 2013, a Massachusetts court ruled it is unconstitutional to sentence a minor to life without parole because their brains are "not fully developed."



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AZ Murderer Granted Stay of Execution: A federal appeals court has ruled to delay an Arizona man's execution until prison officials reveal details on the two-drug protocol to be used to put him to death.  Jacques Billeaud and Andrew Dalton of the Associated Press report that Joseph Wood's attorneys argued that the murderer's First Amendment rights were violated when officials refused to disclose the source of the drugs and how they would be administered.  Wood was sentenced to death for the 1989 murders of his estranged girlfriend and her father, he was originally scheduled to be executed Wednesday afternoon.

Thousands of Drug Felons set to be Released: The U.S. Sentencing Commission has unanimously voted in favor of retroactively reducing prison sentences for more than 46,000 drug offenders currently serving time behind bars.  Eric Tucker of the Associated Press reports that tens of thousands of these inmates may now be eligible for early release in what officials are calling a 'cost-cutting' proposal aimed at reducing the nation's prison population.  The releases would begin happening in November 2015 and continue on for a period of years.

FL High Court Debates New Juvenile Sentencing Law: Florida's Supreme Court is debating whether or not a new law changing the state's juvenile sentencing guidelines should apply retroactively.  Margie Menzel of The News Service of Florida reports that the new law, HB 7035, which went into effect July 1, requires a hearing in cases involving juvenile murderers facing a life sentence to determine if that sentence is appropriate.  If the life sentence is determined inappropriate, the murderer can  instead by sentenced to a minimum of 35 years in prison.


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Parolee Accused of Murder: An Arkansas man released from prison and placed on parole just two months ago has been arrested in connection with a Memphis murder that took place earlier this week.  Jason Pederson of KATV reports that 33-year-old Will Johnston has been in and out of prison for more than a decade, serving time for burglary, parole violations and drug offenses.  A study conducted by the Department of Justice shows that 38% of individuals on parole end up violating their release orders and are sent back to prison.

CA Family Outraged Over Death Penalty Ruling: A Northern California family fighting for justice for their murdered relative expressed outrage after a federal judge ruled the state's death penalty unconstitutional. Brian Chalk, who has been waiting since 1981 for the execution of his sister's murderer called the ruling a "slap in the face not only to families, but to every citizen."  Maria Medina of CBS Sacramento reports that murder victim Terri Winchell's family thought the the killer, Michael Morales, would finally pay for his crime in 2006, but two hours before his scheduled execution the state put all executions on hold.  The family fears that this ruling sends the message that California's worst murderers will never be executed.

High-Risk Sex Offender Released: A Canadian man with a lengthy history of violent and sexual offenses has been released from prison despite being a high-risk to the community.  Lara Schroeder of Global News reports that 41-year-old Rene James Everett was placed on a 10-year supervision order in 2009 and will be required to participate in a treatment program, police believe he is at high-risk level of re-offending; especially when it involves women or children.  Everett's criminal record includes convictions for sexual assault, robbery and weapons offenses.  

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Recently Released Immigrant Accused of Murder: A Guatemalan immigrant, released by immigration officials after entering the country illegally last month, has been arrested and charged with murder after authorities say he killed his girlfriend Sunday in Louisiana.  Alicia A. Caldwell of the Associated Press reports that 43-year-old Pedro Monterroso was released by immigration authorities on June 26 after it was determined that he had no criminal history or gang affiliation and was issued a notice to report back once he got settled in the U.S.  Monterroso's girlfriend had also entered the country illegally earlier this year, but had successfully followed up with immigration authorities after settling in Louisiana.

Families Outraged Over Juvenile Parole Bill
: Families of murder victims in Massachusetts are outraged after lawmakers announced plans to water down parole guidelines for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder.  Christian M. Wade of Newbury Port News reports that the new legislation would make juveniles convicted of first-degree murder eligible for parole after serving 20 to 30 years behind bars.  The law would only affect murderers convicted after the new legislation is enacted.

Gang Members Lead Police on Deadly Chase: Three men led Stockton, CA police officers on an hour-long chase after authorities say they robbed a bank, took three women hostage and fired shots at responding officers.  Sarah Heise of KCRA reports that by the end of the pursuit, two of the robbers and one hostage were killed.  The third robber was arrested and the two surviving hostages were hospitalized.  All three of the robbers were known gang members, two of which had prior convictions for narcotics, firearms and domestic violence.


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NJ Lawmaker Seeks to Restore Death Penalty: After this weekend's killing of a New Jersey police officer, a state lawmaker is pushing to restore the death penalty for individuals convicted of killing police.  The Associated Press reports that Assemblyman Ron Dancer is pushing lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty as punishment not only for police officer killings, but for those convicted in child murders and murders committed by terrorists as well.  New Jersey voted to abolish the death penalty in 2007.

TN Woman Convicted Under new Drug Law: A Tennessee woman was ordered to spend 12 years behind bars after being convicted under a new law that allows judges to send expectant mothers who use drugs while pregnant to prison.  News Channel 9 reports that 27-year-old Lacey Weld was sentenced to more than twelve years in prison and five years of probation after being convicted of both using and manufacturing methamphetamine while in her ninth month of pregnancy.  Weld also plead guilty in 2013 to federal charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

OK Lawmaker to Explore Other Methods of Execution: A study conducted by an Oklahoma lawmaker will examine different methods of execution, and possibly recommend that the state bring back the firing squad, hangings and the electric chair.  Brian Shlonsky of KOCO reports that Rep. Mike Christian will look at current execution protocols, procedures and alternatives as well as exploring the idea of allowing members of the victim's family to have a say on how the inmate is executed. Christian got involved with death penalty reform after this year's botched execution in Oklahoma.  He was quoted as saying; "People say that Clayton Lockett suffered, but people tend to forget about the victim."

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Update: Missouri Execution Delayed: A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for convicted triple-murderer John Middleton.  Carey Gillam of Reuters reports that Middleton, who was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m.. Wednesday, was granted the last minute stay in response to claims made that he is not competent enough to be executed.  Middleton has been granted a hearing in order to present evidence pertaining to his mental status. 

Wisconsin: Repeat DUI Offenders to Serve Time in Prison: In a ruling handed down by Wisconsin's state Supreme Court, judges will now be required to sentence chronic drunken drivers to at least three years behind bars.  The Associated Press reports that the law affects those convicted of their seventh, eighth or ninth DUI offense and mandates a minimum three-year sentence.  The sentencing structure mirrors the state's system of gradually increasing punishment for chronic offenders.

Judge Denies Convicted Murderer's Appeal: An Alabama man convicted of murdering his one-time friend and sentenced to life in prison will remain behind bars after the state's Court of Criminal Appeals denied his request to reverse his conviction.  Michael Dumas of AL.com reports that 27-year-old Brandon Estle beat his victim to death in October 2012 before stuffing his body in a toolbox and hiding the storage container on property owned by Estle's parents.  It is believed that Estle, a known drug user, owed the victim several hundred dollars and killed him over a loan.


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Alleged Cop Killer had Lengthy Criminal Past: Authorities in New Jersey say the suspect who shot and killed a 23-year-old rookie police officer Sunday afternoon did so in an effort to become famous. Jill Colvin of the Associated Press reports that  27-year-old Lawrence Campbell staged a fake armed robbery at a drugstore in order to lure officers to the area so he could ambush them when they arrived in the parking lot. Campbell had a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2011 and was released from prison in January 2014.  He was wanted by police at the time of the killing for his role in a previous homicide.

Missouri set to Execute Convicted Killer: A Missouri man sentenced to death for murdering three people is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday morning after spending more than 15 years on the state's death row.  Ed Pilkington of The Guardian reports that lawyers for Middleton claim their client is innocent based on the claim that he was incarcerated on the day one of his victims was murdered.  The Missouri Supreme Court rejected that claim.  Middleton is one of 42 inmates currently on the state's death row.

Holder Continues to Label Americans as Racists: Attorney General Eric Holder is once again citing racism as the reason why both he and President Obama have been criticized by the administration's opponents.  Justin Sink of The Hill reports that in a recent interview, Holder said he and Obama had been targets of a "racial animus", and that he stands by comments he made in 2009 where he called America a "nation of cowards."  This is not the first time Holder has accused administration critics as racist.  In April, Holder called Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert a racist during a congressional hearing, and a month later  cited  the "subtle racism" in American culture during a commencement speech at Morgan State University.  In a speech delivered this January to the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network annual convention, Holder said he and the president have dealt with "unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity", that no other president or attorney general has ever had to deal with.  In March 2011, Holder played the race card again,  saying that white people living in America couldn't possibly be victims of racial injustice because they simply haven't suffered enough.  There have also been a number of instances where the Attorney General has ignored racially-motivated crimes when the victims happened to be white. 

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Study: Plea Bargains May Increase Violent Crime: A study conducted by the University of California, Davis indicates that plea bargaining down felonies to misdemeanors is likely to increase violent crimes.  Sacramento Today reports that the study found nearly 25% of offenders who plead down a felony and subsequently purchased a gun were charged with a new firearm-related or violent crime within three years.  The law prohibits felons from purchasing guns but not for those convicted of misdemeanors.

Georgia Commutes Death Sentence for Convicted Killer: A Georgia man convicted of murder and sentenced to death more than 20 years ago was granted clemency and had his death sentence commuted just a day before he was scheduled to be executed.  David Beasley of Reuters reports that 68-year-old Tommy Lee Waldrip, who would have been the oldest person executed in Georgia since the death penalty was reinstated, lost an appeal earlier this week, but was ultimately granted clemency and given a life sentence instead.  This was the fifth death sentence commuted by the state's parole board since 2002.

Study: More Pot Related Fatal Accidents in Colorado: A study conducted by the University of Colorado has shown that more drivers involved in fatal car crashes are testing positive for marijuana.  John Ingold of the Denver Post reports that Colorado has a higher percentage of drivers testing positive for pot than other states.  When certain variables are controlled, however, the data is unable to specifically point to whether or not the drivers were impaired at the time of the crash or were at fault.  Another study also showed that perceptions of marijuana's risks have decreased across all age groups since the drug was legalized last year.  

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L.A. Violent Crime Rate up for the First Time in 11 Years: The violent crime rate in Los Angeles is up by 2.9% in the first half of 2014, a number that hasn't been on the rise since 2003.  Kate Mather and Ben Poston of the Los Angeles Times reports that aggravated assaults are up by 12% since 2013, which is alarming LA Police Chief Charlie Beck as he indicates that aggravated assaults are the precursors to shootings and homicides.  Beck also indicated that crime overall is down in the city of Los Angeles, citing a decrease in homicides, robberies and rapes.

Wyoming Bill Seeks to Allow Firing Squads: A bill set for consideration in a Wyoming legislative committee next week would  to add firing squads as an approved method of execution.  Laura Hancock of the Star-Tribune reports that lethal injection would still remain the primary method of execution, but if for some reason it is ruled unconstitutional or can't be performed within the designated amount of time, then the death row inmate may be executed by firing squad.  Wyoming law also allows for lethal gas to be an alternative execution method, however, the state does not have a working gas chamber.

FL High Court Orders Attorney to Represent Death Row Inmate: In a 4-3 ruling, the Florida Supreme Court has ordered a public defender to represent a death row inmate who says he wants to be executed.  The Associated Press reports that James Robertson was sentenced to death in 2012 for the murder of his prison cellmate.  Robertson's attorneys asked to withdraw from the case because he did not want to challenge his sentence and was ready for execution.  Florida's high court ruled that if the attorneys were able to withdraw. it would pose a "serious threat" to the state's death penalty process. 

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