Abortion conviction quashed, but woman who miscarried still faces time for "neglect"

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Purvi Patel was the first woman in America to be convicted of "feticide"—a euphemism for abortion—and jailed 20 years after suffering a miscarriage that prosecutors claim was induced by illegally-procured drugs. The feticide conviction was quashed today by an appeals court, but it affirmed the felony conviction for "neglect of a dependent."

The appeals court ruled that the state Legislature didn't intend for the feticide law "to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions."

As for the neglect conviction, we hold that the State presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Patel was subjectively aware that the baby was born alive and that she knowingly endangered the baby by failing to provide medical care, but that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the baby would not have died but for Patel’s failure to provide medical care. Therefore, we vacate Patel’s class A felony conviction and remand to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment of conviction for class D felony neglect of a dependent and resentence her accordingly.

The neglect charge (Patel claimed stillbirth, prosecutors argued that the fetus was alive for a period of seconds after birth) is still serious; the statute book allows for six months to three years, though news reports suggest lenience is not unheard of.

From the original story:

According to Sue Ellen Braunlin, doctor and co-president of the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Purvi was most likely 23-24 weeks pregnant, although prosecutors argued Patel was 25 weeks along in the state's opening argument.

Read the rest

Courtroom smackdown! Judge and defendant get nasty

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Dramatis personae: Denver Fenton Allen, a murder defendant. Bryan Durham, a Superior Court judge. And everyone watching in the peanut gallery-cum-courthouse in Rome, Ga., when things got fiery in Floyd County. Read the rest

Brexit is a victory for mass surveillance; EU rules Snoopers Charter is illegal

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Before Theresa May became Prime Minister of the UK, she was the Pry Minister of the UK, the principle proponent of the Snoopers Charter, a sweeping domestic surveillance bill that the European Court of Justice's Advocate General has just found to be excessive under EU law. Read the rest

More Perfect: Radiolab's genius podcast about the Supreme Court

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When I first heard that Radiolab (previously), the wonderful podcast that combines deep dives into technical subjects with masterful storytelling, was going to start a new podcast about the Supreme Court, it sounded like a weird fit. Read the rest

The ACLU has a roadmap for defeating President Donald Trump's signature initiatives

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In The Trump Memos, a new 27-page document published by the American Civil Liberties Union, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization lays out its constitutional analysis of Trump's signature campaign promises, from mass deportations to a religious test for passing America's borders to torture to mass surveillance to abortion to "opening up libel laws." Read the rest

North Carolina adopts the nation's worst police bodycam law

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House Bill 972, signed into law by NC governor Pat McCrory [R] on Tuesday, makes police dashcam and bodycam footage off-limits to public records requests, off-limits to anyone who isn't personally pictured in the footage, and then only by request, which can be turned down, forcing subjects to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Read the rest

For the first time, a federal judge has thrown out police surveillance evidence from a "Stingray" device

Stingrays -- the trade name for an "IMSI catcher," a fake cellphone tower that tricks cellphones into emitting their unique ID numbers and sometimes harvests SMSes, calls, and other data -- are the most controversial and secretive law-enforcement tools in modern American policing. Harris, the company that manufactures the devices, swears police departments to silence about their use, a situation that's led to cops lying to judges and even a federal raid on a Florida police department to steal stingray records before they could be introduced in open court. Read the rest

Road rage attacker could avoid jail by proving she is an "expert knitter"

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A road-raging Scotswoman who tailed her victim for miles before hauling open her door and punching her in the face could avoid imprisonment if she can prove she can knit.

Amanda McCabe told the judge that her apparent pursuit was "a simple coincidence, as she was a “keen knitter” and planned to visit a specialist wool shop," reports Mark Mackay of The Courier.

On hearing that, Sheriff Rafferty laid down a challenge – one that he said could be the difference between liberty and prison.

He told McCabe she would return to court on December 14 with “multiple knitted items” capable of being sold in a charity shop and raising money for good causes.

Put on the spot, she claimed she could knit a jumper in two-to-three-days at a cost of £6 to £7.

It seems odd that having a legitimate reason to be in the area would make any difference as to sentencing over boxing in and physically attacking another driver. But the Courier is quite clear: "sentence was deferred until December for her to be of good behaviour and to produce the knitted items requested by the court" and she will avoid prison if she can "prove she is an expert knitter." Read the rest

Famous artist says a painting isn't by him, gets sued for ruining its value

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This garage sale-worthy painting would be worth millions if it were by famed artist Peter Doig. But it isn't, says Doig. So its owners are suing him for interfering with their ability to sell it.

The owner, a former corrections officer who said he knew Doig while working in a Canadian detention facility, said the famous painter created the work as a youthful inmate there. His suit contends that Doig is either confused or lying and that his denials blew up a plan to sell the work for millions of dollars.

Doig says he was never anywhere near the detention facility in Thunder Bay, would have been only 16 at the time, and that his lawyers tracked down the real artist, Peter Doige ( with an 'e') who died recently. Doige signed the work—with an 'e'—and his family reports that he served time in Thunder Bay.

He died in 2012, but his sister said he had attended Lakehead University, served time in Thunder Bay and painted. “I believe that Mr. Fletcher is mistaken and that he actually met my brother, Peter, who I believe did this painting,” the sister, Marilyn Doige Bovard, said in a court declaration.

The prison’s former art teacher recognized a photograph of Bovard’s brother as a man who had been in his class and said he had watched him paint the painting, according to the teacher’s affidavit.

The plaintiff got the judge to bring it to trial, though, meaning it'll be very expensive for Doig (without an e) irrespective of who gets paid. Read the rest

A law prof responds to students who anonymously complained about #blacklivesmatter tee

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This redacted pair of letters surfaced two months ago: the first one is a letter from an anonymous law student (or group of students) who wrote to a prof to object to their choice to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt in class; the second, a devastating takedown from the prof, is a tiny masterclass in legal thinking, persuasive writing, and the nature and character of a legal education. Read the rest

One line in a federal law from 1866 makes it basically impossible to prosecute killer cops

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Title 18 U.S. Code, Section 242 sets out punishments for people who "willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Read the rest

One of the copyright's scummiest trolls loses his law license

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For more than four years, we've chronicled the sleazy story of Prenda Law, a copyright troll whose extortion racket included genuinely bizarre acts of identity theft, even weirder random homophobic dog-whistles, and uploading their own porn movies to entrap new victims, and, naturally, an FBI investigation into the firm's partners' illegal conduct. Read the rest

Low income US households get $0.08/month in Fed housing subsidy; 0.1%ers get $1,236

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America is in the grips of one of the worst housing crises in its history, with 1 in 3 households spending more than 30% of their income on mortgage or rent payments; the US government has two kinds of housing subsidy, one for poor renters and the other intended for middle-income mortgage payers, but guess who gets most of the money? Read the rest

Federal judge blocks Indiana abortion restriction

Protesters rally in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Stone

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the state lacks the authority to limit a woman's reasons for ending pregnancy.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted an injuction against an Indiana law that banned abortions sought because of fetal abnormalities, and which mandated funeral rituals for aborted fetuses.

Pratt said the Indiana law would go against U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have declared states may not prohibit a woman from seeking an abortion before a fetus is able to live outside the womb. She also said the state had not cited any exceptions to that standard.

"This is unsurprising given that it is a woman's right to choose an abortion that is protected, which, of course, leaves no room for the state to examine the basis or bases upon which a woman makes her choice," Pratt wrote. ... The lawsuit also challenges the law's provision requiring that aborted fetuses be buried or cremated. Planned Parenthood currently disposes of remains by incineration, as with other medical tissue. Pratt's ruling blocks the burial or cremation requirement from taking effect.

It's been a rough week for anti-abortion campaigners: the Supreme Court also struck down a Texas law requiring clinics to meet hospital criteria. Read the rest

ACLU files a lawsuit to repeal the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, used to prosecute Aaron Swartz

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The ACLU is suing to repeal parts of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 1980s-vintage hacking law that makes it a felony to "exceed authorization" on a remote computer, and which companies and the US government have used to prosecute researchers who violated websites' terms of service. Read the rest

How Houston's rich kids game the system (Spoiler: with their parents' money)

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The Supreme Court recently sided with UT Austin's use of affirmative action. That plaintiff Abigail Fishers simply lacked the grades for admission was part of the case's many numbing ironies. But it's not a joke, according to Jia Tolentino, who tutored Fisher in the art of gaming the system. It's a way of life for second-rate kids in first-class families. Read the rest

Gun-waving cop who attacked black teenaged girl in her bathing suit faces no charges

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Last July, McKinney, Texas police officer Eric Casebolt made headlines when video surfaced of him pulling his gun on a group of black children in their bathing suits at a pool party, tackling a young girl in her bikini. Read the rest

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