Strict Abortion Law Stricken
By: Pete Williams
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down one of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women’s groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics to shut down. Download DraStic DS Emulator For PC
The decision was 5-3.
Passed in 2013, the law said clinics providing abortion services must meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. And it required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Since the law was passed, the number of clinics providing abortion services in Texas dropped to 19 from 42. Opponents said that number would fall to ten if the Supreme Court upheld the law.
The Center for Reproductive Rights called the law “an absolute sham,” arguing that abortion patients rarely require hospitalization and that many patients simply take two pills.
- Abortion Rights Advocate: ‘Women Across America Constitutional Rights Vindicated’
Justice Stephen G. Breyer in writing the majority opinion said “neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”
Breyer was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Anthony M. Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas dissented.
In writing his dissent, Alito said “The Court favors petitioners with a victory that they did not have the audacity to seek.”
“If anything, when a case involves a controversial issue, we should be especially careful to be scrupulously neutral in applying such rules,” Alito wrote. “The Court has not done so here. On the contrary, determined to strike down two provisions of a new Texas abortion statute in all of their applications, the Court simply disregards basic rules that apply in all other cases.”
Thomas in his own strident dissent criticized what he sees as “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue’.”
Pro-choice advocates dance outside the Supreme Court where justices are weighing a case that imposes heavy restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas on June 26. JIM LO SCALZO / EPA
Surgical patients undergo a ten-minute procedure without general anesthesia in the outpatient setting of a doctor’s office or clinic, the group said, and complications from abortion are extremely rare.
Texas defended the restrictions, saying that states have wide discretion to pass laws in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty. The state said the law was passed “to ensure patient safety and raise standards of care.”
The court’s decision will affect similar laws in twelve other states, some now on hold because of court challenges. The restrictions in Texas represented a new front in efforts to restrict abortion by focusing on protecting the health and safety of the mother rather than the life of the fetus.
Wide-shot of courtroom on last day of opinions, 2015-16 Term. Art Lien
At the heart of the case was the standard for assessing abortion limits first announced by the Supreme Court in 1992. State laws cannot create an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus attains viability, it said then.
A law imposes such a burden, the court said in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, if its “purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path” of a woman seeking to exercise that right.
Planned Parenthood celebrated the ruling.
“We are thrilled that these dangerous provisions have been struck down,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement. “This is a win for women. Every person must have the right to make their own personal decisions about abortion, and we will fight like hell to ensure they do.”
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton weighed in on the ruling via Twitter saying the decision “is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right—not just on paper, but in reality.”
Another example of using Excessive Force
Pittsburgh police sergeant seen in controversial Heinz Field arrest video fired
The city has fired Pittsburgh police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, who was suspended after the violent arrest of an allegedly intoxicated man during the WPIAL football championships at Heinz Field. Wednesday, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich upheld an earlier decision by Police Chief Cameron McLay that Matakovich had appealed.
Matakovich is out of his job, but he has one last avenue to try to win it back.
VIDEO: Watch Bob Mayo’s report
“We have faith in both Sgt Matakovich’s criminal defense attorneys as well as the criminal justice system. The FOP will continue the internal process, which is arbitration at this point,” police union local President Howard McQuillan told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.
Attorney Bryan Campbell, who represents the FOP, believes the union can win back Matakovich’s job.
“He wants to remain on the department. He’s been on the department for a long time. He’s a very responsible supervisor, he’s well-liked by the officers,” Campbell said.
Matakovich also faces re-filed criminal charges for his conduct captured on Heinz Field security video. Charges of simple assault and official oppression were dismissedby a district judge at Matakovich’s preliminary hearing Feb. 1. The district attorney’s office later refiled those charges, along with a felony count of perjury. The charges were filed after Matakovich was seen on surveillance video striking Gabriel Despres, then 19, during an arrest on charges of trespass, public drunkenness and underage drinking Nov. 28.
Campbell says the union can argue the firing is not for just cause and is not warranted by Matakovich’s history.
“It’s the FOP’s position that, one, no discipline should have been given here, and secondly, even if there was to be discipline, it wouldn’t rise to the level of a termination.”
“It is solely related to an incident that he himself was involved in, and the choices he made in that encounter. This is the consequence of that choice,” said Elizabeth Pittinger,executive director of the city’s Citizens Police Review Board.
The CPRB is an independent watchdog agency that was created by voters in a referendum.
“That’s not the way Pittsburgh police officers are expected — or now, it’s been re-enforced, will not be permitted — to conduct themselves in the name of the city,” Pittinger said. “The situation reflected so poorly on all the rest of the officers that are out there doing their job properly with compassion every single day.”
Some Matakovich supporters have set up a GoFundMe webpage to raise money to help his family.
“I can understand why a lot of officers would want to contribute because Sgt. Matakovich is a popular person,” Campbell said.
The GoFundMe page claims “he was recently caught up in the mass hysteria that is the anti-police movement in this country.”
“Hardly. He got caught up in his own conduct.,” responded Pittinger. “A police officer conducting himself in an extremely unbecoming manner, so much so that it resulted in criminal charges. That’s not mass hysteria or anti-police. It’s anti-bullying and it’s anti-excessive force.
“He’s a very responsible supervisor, he’s well-liked by the officers, they feel that they feel safe working for him. They feel that he has very good judgment and that this is unwarranted,” Campbell said.
“At the direction of my legal counsel, I am not making any statements and will not give any interviews,” Matakovich told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.
Even with a request to expedite the appeal, it could be 45 days before an arbitration appeal hearing for Matakovich.
He faces a complicated path ahead, dealing with both the Police Bureau action and the criminal charges, noted Pittinger. “It’s an unfortunate situation all around. There are no winners here. Unfortunately, Stephen Matakovich made some decisions in November that have resulted in this outcome. He’s no longer a Pittsburgh police officer.”
By By SAM HANANEL
WASHINGTON (AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that the government can’t prevent a convicted felon who is barred from possessing firearms from trying to sell his guns after they are confiscated by authorities.
The justices sided with Tony Henderson, a former U.S. Border Patrol agent who agreed to turn over his collection of 19 firearms to the FBI as a condition of release after he was arrested and charged with distributing marijuana.
After he pleaded guilty, Henderson wanted to sell the weapons valued at more than $3,500 to a friend, or transfer them to his wife. But lower courts found that doing so would technically give Henderson possession of the weapons in violation of the law. Prosecutors also said they were concerned that Henderson’s friend or wife might give him access to the weapons.
Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan said letting a convicted felon sell or transfer guns is allowed as long as a court is satisfied that the person getting the weapons won’t give the felon control over them.
“A felon cannot evade the strictures of (the law) by arranging a sham transfer that leaves him in effective control of his guns,” Kagan said.
Kagan said the district court could have ordered the guns turned over to a federally-licensed firearms dealer, who would sell them with proceeds going to Henderson. She said the lower court also could allow Henderson to transfer the guns to another person who will not allow him “to exert any influence over their use.”
She said the government’s reading of the law goes too far in saying Henderson would illegally “possess” the weapons just by being allowed to sell them.
The case had drawn the attention of gun-rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, which argued that the government’s attempt to prohibit any sale or transfer prevents law-abiding citizens who want to buy the guns from doing so.
The Coraopolis police chief pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges connected with a crash on University Boulevard that left a woman seriously injured, and witnesses described what they saw moments before the crash.
Alan DeRusso is charged with aggravated assault by vehicle, recklessly endangering another person and a handful of driving violations after an August crash in neighboring Moon Township that sent him and another driver to the hospital.
Allegheny County police said in court papers that they could find no emergency that DeRusso would have been responding to that would have justified him running a red light on University Boulevard on the morning of Aug. 7.
The police chief was driving an unmarked police car toward Coraopolis when he crossed Thorn Run Road and T-boned a vehicle driven by Kristy Sue Grazier, who spent six days in the hospital with serious internal injuries and a concussion.
“Evidence will come out that 95 percent of calls that go through that borough are not by 911 or dispatch, they’re on personal observations,” DeRusso’s attorney, Steven Townsend, said. “The fact that they didn’t find evidence of that does not mean the evidence is absent.”
DeRusso is still the police chief, but he’s been on administrative leave since the charges were filed Jan. 14.
Police interviewed several drivers who were nearby at the time of the crash. Townsend said those witness accounts are not consistent with each other.
“We’re not disputing that there was an accident,” Townsend said. “We’re not disputing that both parties were severely injured. But the fact that this accident occurred and the way it occurred does not rise to the level of a felony.”
Grazier has returned to work, but she is still not completely recovered from the crash and has surgery scheduled for next month, said her attorney, Bob Behling.
“We’ve been waiting for the results of this investigation, and Kristy is glad it coincides with her recollections of the events that day, that she was not at fault or responsible for the accident itself,” Behling said.
Death Penalty —
[JURIST] Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams filed a legal challenge [petition; press release] on Wednesday against Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to place a moratorium on the death penalty. The challenge, filed in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, petitions the court to reject the reprieve as an unconstitutional intrusion of state executive power into the realm of the legislature and courts. In the press release, Williams stated, “[t]he people who are most grateful for this ‘moratorium’ on capital punishment are the guiltiest, cruelest, most vicious killers on death row.” The challenge comes in response to Wolf’s decision last Friday to stay all executions [JURIST report], calling the state justice system “error prone.” In issuing temporary reprieves for all death-row prisoners, Wolf’s decision has at least temporarily spared Terrance Williams from execution, a man whose case Seth Williams used in his challenge [AP report] as an explanation of the value of capital punishment. According to the DA’s petition, Williams bound and beat Amos Norwood, killing the man in 1984, a crime for which he was sentenced to death. Williams was scheduled by former governor Tom Corbett to be put to death on March 4.
Use of the death penalty [JURIST news archive] has been a controversial issue throughout the US and internationally. Earlier this week US Attorney General Eric Holder voiced his support [JURIST report] for a moratorium on the death penalty pending a decision by the Supreme Court in Glossip v. Gross [SCOTUSblog backgrounder]. The court granted certiorari [order, PDF] in late January to determine the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s three-drug execution protocol. Also in February the Utah House of Representatives narrowly approved House Bill 11 [JURIST report], which would allow for executions by firing squad. The goal of HB 11 is to provide an alternative execution method to lethal injection, as supplies of the traditional drugs have become scarce. Late last month a man with an IQ of 67 was executed [JURIST report] in Texas after the US Supreme Court denied two pleas for delay that same day. Earlier in January an Indiana senator proposed a bill to end the death penalty in the state, and the Washington state legislature proposed bills [JURIST reports] to eliminate the death penalty.
“I’m not so sure that they’ve proven this case,” said attorney Steve Townsend, who is not involved in Ferrante’s trial and is providing legal analysis for WTAE. “This is the sort of case where everyone feels like he did it, but can the commonwealth prove it? And do I think they’ve done enough in this case? That’s a tough call. It really is.instagram login online I think the defense has an uphill battle coming for them next week, but I’m not sure right now that the jury is convinced.”
Cyanide Poisoning Trial Day 7: Testimony includes husband-wife email, medical analysis
Dr. Robert Ferrante charged with homicide, accused of poisoning Dr. Autumn Klein; Follow #FerranteTrial on Twitter for updates
PITTSBURGH —A man with whom the prosecution says Dr. Robert Ferrante suspected his wife was cheating on him was called as a witness Friday in the seventh day of Ferrante’s homicide trial.
Also on Friday, an email was read in court about a trip that Ferrante’s wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, was scheduled to take.
In the email, which Ferrante sent to Klein on April 16, 2013 — the day before prosecutors claim he poisoned his wife — he wrote, “You seem to be in such a great mood up until last evening.” It went on to say, “I am obviously missing something here; it seems obvious to me now that you want to go to Boston alone.”
He told her he was sorry for inviting her parents to town and for suggesting the two of them get away together. The email went on to say, “My exuberance of going to Boston together and also having your mom celebrate Mother’s Day with us was perhaps too much. You know me. I think of the fun and not the work behind it.”
Prosecutors pointed out that “Boston” referred to a trip Klein was scheduled to make in May to visit her colleague, Dr. Thomas McElrath, who took the witness stand Friday morning.
Prosecutors say Ferrante was jealous of McElrath and did Internet searches on him.
McElrath told the jurors he and Klein attended a conference together a few months before she died, and that they had been colleagues who worked together for about eight years.
He told the jury he invited Klein and her husband to stay with him at his home, then told defense attorneys that he had never met Ferrante.
Prosecutors then called Jennifer Janssen, assistant chief toxicologist with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office, who discussed the blood samples that were taken after Klein was admitted to a hospital.
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Janssen testified that Klein’s blood tested positive for cyanide and that the ME’s office was not aware of the problems NMS Labs had until days later.
She went on to explain that because of a time lapse from when the blood was drawn to the knowledge of problems with the lab, the decision was made to not send the blood to the Mayo Clinic — a move that the defense says should have been made to get an accurate reading.
Dr. Todd Luckasevic, who conducted Klein’s autopsy, testified that his examination and information from Quest Diagnostics led him to conclude that “Dr. Autumn Marie Klein died as a result of cyanide poisoning” and that her death was a homicide.
Defense attorney Bill Difenderfer aggressively questioned Luckasevic about that on cross-examination, asking, “There are a number of ways human beings can get cyanide in their system, correct?” The doctor agreed. Then Difenderfer asked, “It all looks the same, correct?” The witness agreed once again. Then the defense questioned how cyanide in Klein’s system means that she was murdered, adding, “You don’t know how it was put there, right?” The doctor replied, “Right.”
Marla Priestley, a fingerprint expert for the ME’s Office, testified that Ferrante’s print was on a bottle of cyanide seized from his lab.
When the trial resumes Monday morning, the prosecution will call its final expert witness, who was unable to attend court Friday.
“I’m not so sure that they’ve proven this case,” said attorney Steve Townsend, who is not involved in Ferrante’s trial and is providing legal analysis for WTAE. “This is the sort of case where everyone feels like he did it, but can the commonwealth prove it? And do I think they’ve done enough in this case? That’s a tough call. It really is. I think the defense has an uphill battle coming for them next week, but I’m not sure right now that the jury is convinced.”
Townsend said the Ferrante case has been full of testimony that may be tough for the jury to follow.
“I’m not sure a lot of it they’re comprehending,” he said. “I’m not sure a lot of it I’m comprehending, with the medical and technical jargon that’s going on in there, because I don’t think either side is doing a very good job of explaining it to the jury. What I do believe they’ll come away with is the emotional testimony and the medical examiner testimony, especially since the commonwealth’s witness today saying the cause of death is consistent with cyanide.”
Allegheny County DA
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s office released the follow emails and fingerprint images from those entered in evidence today’s court proceedings against Dr. Robert Ferrante.
Read more: http://www.wtae.com/news/cyanide-poisoning-trial-day-7-begins-with-stunning-new-testimony/29456802#ixzz3IfTGlrxt
Doctor found not guilty of illegally prescribing medication
A doctor who was charged with illegally prescribing medication to a staff member out of an East Liberty women’s clinic was found not guilty on all counts Wednesday.
John P. Barrett, 42, of Mt. Lebanon was charged in March with three counts, including selling a controlled substance, illegally dispensing and illegally administering a controlled substance.
According to the criminal complaint, the Allegheny Women’s Center, at 121 N. Highland Ave., which has since closed, was receiving large quantities of Diethylpropion, an obesity medication. There were approximately 20,000 pills unaccounted for over a four-year period from the clinic.
Investigators said they found the medicine was being used by Mark Wagner, a lab tech, who took it to treat anxiety and depression.
But prosecutors said Mr. Wagner was not a patient of Dr. Barrett, the clinic’s director, or Dr. Alton Lawson, and that the man’s psychiatrist was not aware he was taking the medication.
In July, Dr. Lawson pleaded guilty to two count of sale of a controlled substance and entered the court’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which will clear his record after nine month of successful probation.
Mr. Wagner pleaded guilty in May to five misdemeanor counts and was sentenced to five years probation. He told investigators that he used the drug but also sold it to a friend to help her lose weight.
Dr. Barrett had a nonjury trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani on Wednesday.
Defense attorney Steven C. Townsend called no witnesses, but argued to the court that even though his client’s DEA number was used to order medications for the clinic, that did not mean he was aware Mr. Wagner was using it, abusing it or not an actual patient of Dr. Lawson.
DA’s decision on retrial of man shot by police overshadows civil lawsuit
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. will play a key role in whether Leon Ford gets a chance at millions of dollars from a civil lawsuit against Pittsburgh before a federal jury even hears the facts of the case, legal experts said on Tuesday.
An Allegheny County jury on Monday acquitted Ford, 21, of Shaler of aggravated assault and deadlocked on five other counts related to a November 2012 traffic stop in Highland Park. He remains charged with recklessly endangering another person, resisting arrest and escape.
Zappala has until Sept. 26 to tell Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen whether his office will retry Ford on those charges.
“If the DA decides not to pursue the charges, it’s a win for the defense,” Downtown lawyer Steven Townsend said. “The city might as well open its checkbook.”
If Zappala pursues and Ford is convicted of any of the remaining charges, that could be “detrimental” to the civil case, Townsend said, because “it makes the officers’ actions justified.”
Ford, who is black, was paralyzed on Nov. 11, 2012, when Pittsburgh police Officer David Derbish shot him five times in what the officer said was self-defense. Ford’s attorneys said the three white officers unnecessarily escalated the situation.
Ford will retain at least some of his claims in his federal lawsuit against the city regardless of whether prosecutors pursue the remaining charges against him, including that the officers used excessive force and unlawfully stopped him, Downtown attorney Joel Sansone said.
Ford’s civil case is “very strong,” Sansone said.
Exactly how much a jury could award Ford remains a guess. Local lawyers estimated a seven-figure pay day.
A gag order that remains in the criminal case prevented Ford’s civil lawyer, Monte Rabner, from commenting. Howard McQuillan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1, city public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler and Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney, all declined to comment.
Councilman Ricky Burgess said Ford’s case highlighted the city’s racial divide and a lack of diversity among the rank-and-file officers. It also furthered a “false narrative” that has caused a distrust between the community and police, which leaders are working to mend, Burgess said.
Court settlements and judgments are paid out of the city’s general fund. The city sets aside $1.6 million a year for that, said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.
Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, implored Zappala to dismiss the remaining charges against Ford. “We feel that the fact that Mr. Ford will never walk again is unto itself reason enough to not refile the charges in this unfortunate incident,” he said.
He added that it “will also provide an opportunity for some level of healing within our African-American communities between the community and the police.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412- 391-0927 or email@example.com.
Guard, John Carter, not guilty in Pittsburgh shooting
Three-day trial ends in mixed views about verdict
By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A Verona security guard charged with aggravated assault after shooting a man accused of stealing from a delivery truck in Homewood was found not guilty Wednesday.
John Carter, 54, testified on his own behalf during the three-day trial before Common Pleas Judge Joseph K. Williams III.
The jury only deliberated about 30 minutes before returning its verdict.
Defense attorney Steven Townsend said his client should never have been charged.
“I have no idea why they pursued a case like this,” he said. “It was clear from statements, witness accounts and the video — John Carter was defending himself after being robbed.”
But District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said if the same circumstances were presented to him again, charges would again be filed.
Mr. Carter was charged with shooting Edward Brown Jr. on Oct. 2 as he ran away.
According to Pittsburgh police, Brown took a jitney to Baker’s Dairy on Hamilton Avenue that day, knowing a truck for the Triangle Tobacco & Candy Co. regularly made deliveries.
Brown walked to the back of the truck, tugged on a bungee cord attached to a container holding money, grabbed more than $1,100 and ran.
Mr. Carter, who worked on the truck, told police when he was first questioned that he chased Brown, heard someone scream that there was another person and then saw Brown stop and reach toward his waistband. That’s when he fired, he said, to defend himself.
But prosecutors said a video taken from a Port Authority bus did not show Brown “stopping and turning around as Mr. Carter reported.”
“I think he was defending his employment,” Mr. Zappala said. “We’re a society of laws, and you can’t shoot somebody who tries to steal from you.”
But Mr. Townsend disagreed.
“John Carter’s actions were certainly justified.”
He said his client is looking forward to regaining his permit to carry a firearm, as well as getting his job back as a security guard.
Brown pleaded guilty to theft in May before Judge Anthony M. Mariani and was sentenced to serve two years’ probation and pay restitution.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/08/20/Verona-security-guard-not-guilty-aggravated-assault-Homewood/stories/201408200169#ixzz3B1YqKH8y
Finally, Hard Data on How a Fast the Suspct Can Be in the 11 Difference Shooting Scenarios
By: Bill Lewinski, Ph.D.
We have always known that generally action beats reaction. And, we’ve been able to demonstrate this in a variety of civilian and law enforcement situations. Since the invention of the shot timer, we’ve known how quickly officers can react in shooting situations. Now, for the first time, we have accurate, sophisticated measurements on how quickly the suspect in the street can actually do what they do in 11 different kinds of shooting scenarios. Some of you may find the results depressing, for this research proves that in the street, action really does beat reaction. For others, it will provide a clear explanation for problems, such as why so many suspects get shot in the back. Readers should find the results of this study truly amazing – the implications for law enforcement training are profound.