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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court in 2002 barred the execution of mentally disabled inmates.

But until now, the court has left it up to the states to determine who is mentally disabled.

A new case is testing whether states can rely solely on the result of an intelligence test to conclude a death row inmate isn't mentally disabled — and therefore eligible to be executed — despite other evidence of mental deficits.

In arguments Monday, a Florida inmate is challenging that state's use of a rigid IQ cutoff to determine mental disability.

Florida is among the few states that use a threshold score of 70, as measured by IQ tests, to conclude an inmate is not mentally disabled, even if other evidence indicates he is.

Published in National News
Sunday, 23 February 2014 09:12

High court climate case looks at EPA's power

WASHINGTON (AP) — Industry groups and Republican-led states are leading an attack at the Supreme Court against the Obama administration's sole means of trying to limit power-plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.

The court is hearing arguments Monday about a small but important piece of the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. At issue is a requirement that companies expanding industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must also evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release.

As President Barack Obama is pledging to act on environmental and other matters when Congress doesn't, or won't, opponents of the regulation cast it as a power grab of historic proportions.

Published in National News
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court says the Archdiocese of St. Louis must release the names of  church employees accused of sexual abuse over the past 20 years.
 
The Wednesday ruling upholds a St. Louis judge's earlier decision. The names will be released only to an unnamed woman suing the diocese and her attorneys, not to the general public.
 
The archdiocese subsequently released a list of 240 complaints made against 115 priests and other employees since 1986. A court order keeps the names sealed to the public.
 
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by a 19-year--old woman who claimed the abuse began when she was 5 years old and attended St. Cronan's parish.
 
The priest had been convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy at a parish in University City decades earlier.
Published in Local News
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 17:08

UPDATE: Missouri executes Smulls

   Convicted killer Herbert Smulls is dead.  The Missouri man was executed Wednesday night at the state prison in Bonne Terre.  He was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m.  
   The U.S. Supreme Court had granted a temporary stay late Tuesday, which had halted Smull's scheduled midnight execution.  Smulls' attorneys had filed several appeals, mostly challenging the state's refusal to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy that supplies its execution drug.  The high court reviewed his case and eventually revoked the last remaining stay late Wednesday evening.  
   Smulls made no final statement, verbally or in writing.
   The 56 year old had been sentenced to death for killing Stephen Honickman and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery at the couple's St. Louis County jewelry store.
    He was the third person in as many months Missouri has executed by lethal injection.
 
   
 
Published in Local News

   It's unclear when or if Missouri death row inmate Herbert Smulls will be executed.  

   The U.S. Supreme Court has granted him a stay of execution.  Justice Samuel Alito signed the order and it was sent out Tuesday night, just hours before Smulls midnight execution date.  

   The 56 year old was convicted of killing a St. Louis County jeweler and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery.  His juvenile accomplice, now 37, is serving a life sentence.   

   Smulls' lawyer says the stay is temporary while the high court reviews the case.  She had made last-minute pleas to spare Smulls' life, focusing on Smulls "due process" rights, since he still has appeals pending that challenge Missouri's execution method.  Attorney Cheryl Pilate is arguing that Missouri's refusal to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy that makes the pentobarbitol used in executions makes it impossible for Smulls' advocates to know whether it could cause pain and suffering.

   Earlier on Tuesday, Pilate revealed the name of the company she believes is making the drug.  She told The Associated Press that her research indicates the drug is made by The Apothecary Shoppe, based in Tulsa, Okla. She says an Oklahoma City-based lab tested the drug.   

 

 

Published in Local News
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court will decide whether making nonunion home health care workers in Illinois pay "fair-share" union fees is an unconstitutional violation of their First Amendment rights. The case could have major implications for public service unions.
 
The justices heard arguments Tuesday from lawyers for Illinois homecare personal assistants who don't want to be affiliated with a union. In Illinois, nonunion home health care workers have to pay "fair share fees" to compensate the union for its work for all of the workers. Those workers sued, saying that the fees violate the First Amendment by compelling them to associate with the union.
 
Lower courts have thrown out the lawsuit. If the high court agrees it would make it more difficult for unions to collect money for their work.
Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled against a Highway Patrol trooper's same-sex partner who sought survivor benefits.

Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard died in December 2009 when he was struck by a vehicle while investigating an accident on Interstate 44 in Eureka.

Missouri law entitles surviving spouses of Highway Patrol officers killed in the line of duty to an annuity. Engelhard's partner, Kelly Glossip, did not receive the benefit.

In a 5-2 ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court said Glossip was denied benefits because he and Engelhard were not married - not because of his sexual orientation.

The court noted that Glossip had not challenged Missouri's prohibition of same-sex marriage.

 

Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court this week is considering taxes for baking doughnuts and cookies.

Ameren Missouri sought a tax refund on behalf of Schnuck Markets Inc. for energy used by the grocery store's bakeries. The company points to a tax exemption for energy used in manufacturing, processing, compounding, mining or producing, and a Department of Revenue regulation with examples of what is considered "processing" that deals with bakeries.

However, the state is not buying what they're cooking. The deputy solicitor says the tax exemption is aimed at producing products in industrial plants and facilities.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in a March 2012 decision a convenience store could not claim a tax exemption for energy used to prepare food. The court concluded food preparation for retail consumption is not "processing."

Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court again is considering a court challenge to a law permitting students to transfer from unaccredited school districts to other districts nearby.

The court upheld the law earlier in a case from the St. Louis area. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court's focus turned to Kansas City, which has been unaccredited since 2012.

Taxpayers from five surrounding districts filed suit and contend the transfer law is an unfunded mandate violating the Missouri Constitution.

A Jackson County judge ruled in favor of the Independence, Lee's Summit and North Kansas City plaintiffs but rejected the argument for Blue Springs and Raytown. The state and some plaintiffs appealed.

Transfers from Kansas City schools have been on hold, but student transfers have caused acrimony in the St. Louis area.

 

Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Gov. Jay Nixon in a budget battle with State Auditor Tom Schweich.

The court ruled Tuesday that Schweich did not have legal standing to challenge about $170 million of spending cuts announced by Nixon in June 2011.

The cuts to education and other services were based partly on the expectation that Missouri would incur millions of dollars of unbudgeted costs from a deadly tornado that hit Joplin a month earlier. As it turns out, the Joplin costs came in lower than expected.

The Supreme Court said Schweich's challenge to the governor's budget-cutting authority amounted to a pre-audit of state spending. The court says the auditor does not have such powers.

 

Published in Local News
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