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Suspect in U Penn student's murder due in California court
Court News | 2018/02/02 10:06
A Southern California man charged in the killing of a University of Pennsylvania student is due in court Friday.

Authorities say Samuel Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach killed 19-year-old sophomore Blaze Bernstein and buried his body in a shallow grave at a neighborhood park not far from the Bernstein family's home in Lake Forest.

Bernstein, who grew up in Orange County and was visiting his family on winter break, was missing for a week after going out with Woodward the night of Jan. 2, according to authorities. Authorities searched for him with help from drone pilots and found his body at the park after rain partially exposed it.

Woodward is charged with murder and an enhancement for use of a knife. He is being held without bail. Bernstein was gay and Jewish and authorities are investigating the possibility of a hate crime.

Authorities say the two men both attended the Orange County School of the Arts but they did not know if they were friends at the time.

According to a court filing obtained by the Orange County Register, Woodward told investigators that he became angry after Bernstein kissed him the night they went to the park.

At college, Bernstein was studying psychology and was recently chosen to edit a campus culinary magazine. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for Bernstein and his funeral.

If convicted of the charge and enhancement, Woodward could face as much as 26 years to life in prison.


Court error unmasks person of interest in Las Vegas massacre
Court News | 2018/02/01 10:07
A court error publicly revealed the name of a man identified as a person of interest in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish acknowledged that a member of her court staff failed to black out the man’s name on one of 276 pages of documents released to news organizations including The Associated Press and Las Vegas Review-Journal.

After the error was recognized, lawyers for the news organizations were told to return the documents. The attorney representing AP and other media did so, but the other lawyer had already transmitted the documents and the Review-Journal published Douglas Haig’s name online.

Cadish later ordered the document not be published without redactions, but she acknowledged she couldn’t order the newspaper to retract the name.


Texas executes Dallas man for killing ex-girlfriend in 1999
Court News | 2018/01/30 10:07
A Dallas man was executed Tuesday for the 1999 slaying of his ex-girlfriend while he already was on parole for killing his estranged wife.

William Rayford, 64, became the nation's second inmate put to death this year, both in Texas, when he received lethal injection for beating, stabbing and strangling 44-year-old Carol Lynn Thomas Hall. Her body was found about 300 feet (91 meters) inside a drainage pipe behind her home in South Dallas' Oak Cliff area. Hall's 11-year-old son, Benjamin, also was stabbed in the attack but survived. He testified against Rayford.

Asked by the warden at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit if he had a final statement, Rayford apologized repeatedly to his victim's four children who watched through a window a few feet from him.

"Carol didn't deserve what I done," he said. "Please try to find it in your heart to forgive me. I am sorry. It has bothered me for a long time what I have done."

He said he has made mistakes and asked God to forgive him. "If this gives you closure and makes you feel better, I have no problem with this taking place," Rayford said.

As the lethal dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he lifted his head from the pillow on the death chamber gurney, repeated that he was sorry and then said he was "going home."

He began to snore. Within seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead at 8:48 p.m., 13 minutes after the powerful sedative was injected.

Among the four witnesses present was the victim's son who was also stabbed in the attack. He and three siblings showed no emotion as they watched Rayford die. They declined interviews afterward.


Analysis: Outside groups may factor in Arkansas court race
Court News | 2018/01/22 10:16
Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson lost her bid to run the state's highest court two years ago after coming under fire from conservative groups that spent big on mailers and TV ads targeting her. Two years earlier, David Sterling was defeated in the race for the Republican attorney general nomination despite outside groups going after his rival in that race.

Now, the two are about to face off in what could wind up being another costly and heated fight for a state high court seat that could overshadow other races on the ballot this year. It could also turn into a proxy fight over the state's resumption of executions and the court's role in scaling back what had been an unprecedented plan to put eight men to death over an 11-day period.

Goodson quietly launched her campaign last week, with an adviser confirming that she planned to seek another term on the state's high court in the May judicial election. The same day, Sterling said he planned to challenge the incumbent jurist.

Neither candidate has laid out campaign arguments, but the past two election cycles offer some guide of what to expect. Goodson launched her bid for the chief justice seat ago vowing to represent "conservative values" on the court.

"The Supreme Court is supposed to represent your common sense, conservative values, to uphold the rule of law and to look out for your rights," Goodson said in a campaign video she posted in the fall of 2015.

A year earlier, Sterling was touting his conservative credentials in his campaign for attorney general and promised to use the office to protect Arkansans from "an overreaching federal government." Sterling lost in the runoff for the Republican nomination against Leslie Rutledge, who is now seeking re-election as the state's top attorney.



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