Ipso Facto

20131206 guns photocom164459430 150The controversial self-defense law known as ‘Stand Your Ground’ is back in the news. Two tragic killings, one in a small north Georgia community near the Tennessee border and the other in Dearborn Heights a suburb of Detroit, have once again heightened awareness of the law.

In Georgia, 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook, suffering from Alzheimer’s had wondered away from his home in the frigid early morning hours the day before Thanksgiving.

Westbrook ended up nearly three miles from home with a handful of other people’s mail, jiggling the doorknob of a home owned by Joe Hendrix.

Hendrix, a 34-year-old Iraq war veteran, stepped onto his porch with a Glock pistol in his hand and his fiancée inside on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. He fired four shots. One hit Westbrook in the chest killing him

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201311129 brain photocom149148235 150The U.S. Supreme Court has helped spur a bevy of action focusing on the effect of adolescent brain development on criminal activity.

Starting with Roper v. Simmons, a 2005 case that abolished the death penalty for juveniles, and continued with Graham v. Florida, a 2010 decision finding juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to mandatory life-without-parole for non-homicide offenses and most recently in Miller v. Alabama, where the Court found that a state cannot impose a life-without-parole sentence for juvenile homicide offenders on a mandatory basis.   

Roper cited behavioral studies, while Graham and Miller cited adolescent brain research suggesting that juveniles may be less culpable than adults.

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20131121gov nsalogo150The US Supreme Court rejected without comment one of the first challenges to the National Security Agency's (NSA) broad spying activities. The petition made by the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) was something of a longshot, but only because the secretive nature of the court overseeing the NSA required an unusual legal request.

EPIC bypassed the lower courts and went directly to the Supreme Court, reasoning that only the justices could tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court what to do.

The order being challenged forced Verizon to turn over all records of calls originating in the United States to the NSA. According to a copy of the order published by The Guardian, Verizon was required to produce on a daily basis all details relating to calls — termed "telephony metadata" — that Verizon created both for international calls originating within the US and all local calls contained within the country. The metadata in question is listed as including a variety of different types of data, including IMEI numbers, time and duration of the exchanges, and the two phone numbers placing and receiving the calls as well.

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20131115wap josephpaulfranklin 150Joseph Paul Franklin is scheduled for execution next Wednesday in Missouri. Franklin is a rare racially-motivated serial killer.

Franklin drifted city-to-city and state-to-state in search of new hunting grounds in a quest, as he put it, to "cleanse the world.”

Franklin’s murderous acts can be traced back to his indoctrination by extremist groups he joined—the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the American Nazi Party and the National States Rights Party (NSRP). Uneducated and shiftless young men like Franklin were targeted by the KKK, the Nazi Party and the NSRP in their recruitment of members.

In total, Franklin has been linked to roughly 20 killings and numerous other crimes. Beginning in 1977 and running through 1980, Franklin has been implicated in, or convicted of, two killings in Madison, WI; and a killing, in St. Louis. He is also responsible for a couple killings each in Chattanooga, TN, Johnstown, PA, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City; single killings in Jackson, MI, Tomah, WI and Falls Church, VA, as well as multiple killings in Indianapolis.

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supremecourt 2013wap150This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burt v. Titlow that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did not apply the correct standard of review when it decided that advice given Vonlee Titlow about her plea bargain was inadequate.

Titlow had been living with her uncle Donald Rogers and his wife, Billie Rogers, in Troy, MI, at the time of his death in August 2000.

Titlow's boyfriend told police that Titlow and Billie had discovered Donald passed out, and then tried to pour vodka down his throat while holding his nose shut. Titlow allegedly stopped the vodka plan and left the room, at which point Billie apparently smothered Donald with the pillow.

The boyfriend had Titlow recount these details sometime later while wearing a wire.

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