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Entries in Judge (18)

Wednesday
May292013

Texas Judge Bans Gang Members from Houston Neighborhood

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Texas prosecutors say one Houston neighborhood that's been ravaged by drug dealing and violence will be a bit safer after a judge's ruling barred 16 members of the Bloods, Crips and Most Wanted gangs from entering the area.

Prosecutors in Houston's Harris County decided to take a civil approach to the criminal problem under Texas's public nuisance laws. They had to prove to a judge that the individuals were gang members, who had criminal records showing that they were nuisances, according to the Harris County Attorney's office.

The judge ruled in their favor Tuesday, granting an injunction against the 16 gang members.

"This enables us to get injunctions against gang members who are causing nuisances," said Laura Cahill, senior assistant county attorney, who handled the case.

"This is a way to clean up certain areas where there has been a lot of gang activity, particularly drug activity. It has gotten so bad the area was called no-man's land because of the drug dealers out there dealing all the time," Cahill said.

The county attorney's office presented testimony and evidence in a civil trial Tuesday, including testimony from five Houston police officers.

None of the 16 defendants showed up to court or were represented by attorneys. They have not actively participated in the suit, and four are currently in jail, Cahill said.

Filing civil actions against gang members proved difficult because they are often transient, she said.

"We had an original list of 28 (gang members), and there are probably more than that, but we had hard a time tracking them down to serve them with a lawsuit," she said.

The judge's ruling Wednesday means that the 16 individuals are prohibited from entering the "Safety Zone," created in the Brays Oaks neighborhood of Houston, about a mile-square area in the southwest part of the city. The neighborhood, which has two daycare centers and an elementary school, is heavily populated and has been inundated by gang violence, Cahill said.

The county also used public nuisance laws in order to sue two Brays Oaks convenience stores where gang members were hanging out during the day, Cahill said. The county then worked with the landowners of the properties to put in place more stringent security measures.

Cahill said that a civil injunction banning gang members has happened only once before in Harris County.

Lead county attorney Vince Ryan told ABC News station KTRK-TV in Houston that the injunction would help the community become a safer place for residents.

"These gangs are committing numerous criminal offenses in this area, close to a school, in residential areas and close to residential areas," Ryan told KTRK. "This is to create a safety zone so that people in the neighborhood can feel more comfortable and also give officers probable cause for stopping these gang members."

Following the judge's ruling, any of the 16 gang members found in the Brays Oaks Safety Zone could face one year of jail time and a $4,000 fine.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr212013

Judge Defies Victim's Family by Sending DUI Driver to Prison

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(FRESNO, Calif.) -- The judge who sentenced a Fresno, Calif., man to jail for his role in a deadly drunk driving accident, defied the wishes of the victim’s family who had asked that the driver not receive jail time.

Judge Alan Simpson sentenced 25-year-old Brian Cappelluti to a year in jail after Cappelluti pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI charges on Thursday.

In 2011, Cappelluti was arrested after driving drunk with a blood alcohol level of .21 and crashing into a traffic light. The accident took the life of passenger 23-year-old J.W. Pardini, a close friend of Cappelluti’s.

Before Cappelluti’s sentencing, the Pardini family wrote a letter to the judge asking that Cappelluti not be given jail time.

“JW is gone forever. Brian has to live with the thought of this accident every day for the rest of his life,” the family wrote in a statement. “We suggest that probation for Brian is the proper corrective action.”

Another passenger in the car, Marion Walker, was severely injured during the crash. But she also spoke out for Cappelluti and asked the judge for leniency in his sentencing.

“All of us will pay for this accident for the rest of our lives,” Walker said. “We all understood what could happen and it did. I ask you not to take away my surviving support.”

While Simpson’s sentence of one year in jail is more than the defense wanted, it is far less than the five years in prison the prosecutors had asked for.

“I think the outcome was fair and just and everybody can feel that justice was done,” defense attorney Rick Berman told ABC News affiliate KFSN-TV in Fresno after the sentencing.

An earlier plea bargain fell apart in February after Cappelluti refused a deal that could have resulted in his spending six years in prison. During that hearing, Judge Houry Sanderson chided Cappelluti for relying on the kindness of Pardini’s family.

“If he was not related at all to these victims at all, total strangers, I am very sure that the position of these families would have been very different,” Sanderson said.

Cappelluti could be released from jail after eight months.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

George Zimmerman’s Lawyer Gets Judge Removed

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel-Pool/Getty Images(DAYTONA, Fla.) -- A Florida appeals court Wednesday ordered Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to disqualify himself in George Zimmerman’s trial for the alleged murder of Trayvon Martin.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Daytona, Fla., voted 2-1 that Lester should be disqualified. Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, had appealed to the court in early July for Lester to be removed.

His motion to disqualify the judge came in response to Lester’s order setting Zimmerman’s bail at $1 million. In it Lester wrote that  Zimmerman had “flaunted the system” and practiced “deception upon the court” after it was revealed that Zimmerman and his wife Shellie had not told the court he had two passports and tried to hide the amount of money their defense fund had raised. They were also accused of speaking in code in reference to their assets.

In a 17-page document O’Mara accused Lester of having a bias against Zimmerman, writing that “the court made gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Mr. Zimmerman’s character, advocated for Mr. Zimmerman to be prosecuted for additional crimes; offers a personal opinion about the evidence for said prosecution; and continues to hold over Mr. Zimmerman’s head the threat of future contempt proceedings.”

Fifth District Court Judges C. Alan Lawson and Jay P. Cohen concurred that O’Mara’s motion was “legally sufficient” in describing his fear that Zimmerman could not get a fair and impartial trial. The third judge, Kerry I. Evander, dissented, writing that he “didn’t believe the order ‘crossed the line’ so as to require the granting of his motion.”

The Office of the Florida Attorney General argued that there was no evidence to suggest that Lester would not give a fair trial, writing that “the judge was simply giving Petitioner a well deserved tongue lashing for allowing others to mislead the court about his passport and his financial situation.”

A spokesman told ABC News that the Attorney General’s Office would not appeal the decision. The Office of Angela Corey, the special prosecutor on the case, had no comment.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin. He is out on bail awaiting trial, and will next appear in court in October for a regularly scheduled docket hearing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul132012

George Zimmerman Defense Moves to Disqualify Judge

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel-Pool/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- George Zimmerman, accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, filed a motion on Friday to disqualify the judge that will preside over his case, citing his fear that he will not be given a fair trial.

Zimmerman, via his attorney, Mark O'Mara, filed the 17-page document with the Seminole County Circuit Court. The motion is a response to Judge Kenneth Lester's July 5 order that set $1 million bail for Zimmerman and claimed that Zimmerman had "flaunted the system" and practiced "deception upon the court."

It was the second time Lester granted Zimmerman bail. Lester revoked a previous $150,000 bail in April after prosecutors presented evidence that Zimmerman and his wife misled the court about how much money they had available by speaking in code on phone calls. Prosecutors added that Zimmerman initially lied about the existence of a second passport.

O'Mara recently tried to appeal to the judge that Zimmerman was confused and fearful back in March when the alleged deception occurred. In a second bond hearing in June, O'Mara reiterated that Zimmerman had voluntarily turned himself in to the court and now was completely open regarding his financial ability.

Lester, however, in that July 5 bail order, remained skeptical of Zimmerman's motives and expressed irritation at being lied to. He accused Zimmerman of manipulating the court and even suggested that if Zimmerman had the opportunity he would have fled prosecution.

In Friday's motion, O'Mara wrote that Lester's order was indicative of a bias against Zimmerman, saying that the judge's statements were "disingenuous, self-serving manipulations."

"In said order, the court made gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Mr. Zimmerman's character, advocated for Mr. Zimmerman to be prosecuted for additional crimes; offers a personal opinion about the evidence for said prosecution; and continues to hold over Mr. Zimmerman's head the threat of future contempt proceedings," the motion read.

O'Mara asserted that the judge and court "departed from its role as an impartial, objective minister of justice" and should therefore be removed from the case.

The state's attorney's office prosecuting the case said it planned to release a formal statement next week, but "objects to the defendant trying to disqualify Judge Lester."

Zimmerman is currently out of jail on bail and will remain in a safe house in Seminole County, Fla., until the trial begins.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May302012

John Edwards Judge Lets Colorful Alternate Jurors Stay Home

Courtroom Sketch by Christine Cornell(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- The judge in the John Edwards campaign-finance trial Wednesday told a group of four alternate jurors known for wearing color-coordinated outfits that they no longer have to attend daily court sessions while the other 12 jurors deliberate.

Despite sitting through the entire month-long trial and being ordered to appear every day while the regular panel considers the evidence, the three women and one man who are alternates have had no input in those deliberations and are not permitted in the jury room.

The alternates last week began wearing matching clothes. They've appeared in court wearing matching yellow, red, black or gray, and purple outfits.

"We will miss your cheerful faces," Federal Judge Catherine Eagles told the alternates. "And we will regret not knowing the color for tomorrow."

Though they no longer have to attend the daily court sessions, the alternate jurors are still under orders not to discuss the case or give media interviews. They could also be called to take the place of a juror if one or more are unable to complete deliberations.

The panel has deliberated for 45 hours over eight days and through several delays.

Edwards, a two-time presidential candidate and former senator, is accused of using nearly $1 million in donations from wealthy political backers to hide his mistress Rielle Hunter and their love child during his 2008 campaign.

If convicted Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and could be fined as much as $1.5 million, although it is unlikely he would face the severest penalties.

Deliberations were briefly stalled Wednesday when the judge received a mysterious note from a juror, prompting a closed-door session to deal with the jury matter, the third such delay in as many days.

It is unknown what information was contained in the note.

Later in the day, the judge cleared the courtroom a second time to discuss the matter with lawyers for Edwards and the government.

The judge signaled Tuesday that potential scheduling conflicts could cause additional delays. Some jurors have requested time off for personal matters, like attending a child's high school graduation. The judge said she will soon have a meeting in her chambers to address those conflicts.

The regular panel of jurors ended their eighth day of deliberations Wednesday evening, adding to anxiety and anticipation surrounding the verdict.

Edwards and his legal team had, until Wednesday, waited out every day of deliberations from a second-floor room inside the courthouse. Early on, Edwards could sometimes be seen pacing the room and looking out the window at journalists assembled outside.

Edwards was not at the courthouse Wednesday morning, but came back following a lunch break.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr182012

George Zimmerman's Judge Is Disqualified and Replaced

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Florida judge tapped to preside over George Zimmerman's trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin was disqualified Wednesday and replaced by Judge Kenneth Lester Jr.

The judge who was originally assigned the case was Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, one of four possible judges to oversee what Zimmerman's attorneys and the state expect to be a trial process that could last well into 2013.

Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, asked that Recksiedler step aside because she is married to an attorney who works in the same law firm as Mark NeJame, a legal analyst for CNN, who has been outspoken about the case.

The second judge picked to preside over the controversial case also stepped aside because of a conflict of interest, sources told ABC News.

The court then named Judge Lester to handle the case.

It's the latest in a series of twists in the case which began with the original prosecutor, Norman Wolfinger, recusing himself.

Zimmerman, who is now represented by Mark O'Mara, is facing second-degree murder charges, which could carry a life sentence for the 28-year-old. O'Mara filed a motion on Monday for Judge Recksiedler's removal.

A bond hearing is scheduled on Friday for Zimmerman in Sanford. But legal analysts tell ABC News bail is seldom, if ever, granted in second-degree murder cases.

Called an Arthur Case in Florida, the prosecution will have to demonstrate that to some degree the defendant committed a crime and that the presumption of guilt is great. Many such hearings unfold as mini-trials in which witnesses are heard. Ultimately the judge makes a decision on whether the defendant should be released pending trial.

Zimmerman claims he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense. The death of the unarmed black teen has become an emotional and controversial case in Florida as well as the rest of the country.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr182012

George Zimmerman Judge Expected to Step Aside

Seminole County Sheriff`s Office(SANFORD, Fla.) -- The Florida judge tapped to preside over George Zimmerman's trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is set to recuse herself over her ties to a prominent television legal analyst, ABC News has learned.

Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, one of four possible judges to oversee what Zimmerman's attorneys and the state expect to be a trial process that could last well into 2013, is married to an attorney who works in the same law firm as Mark NeJame, a legal analyst for CNN who has been outspoken about the case.

It's the latest in a series of twists in the case, which began with the original prosecutor, Norman Wolfinger, recusing himself.  That was followed by weeks in which Zimmerman was in hiding, and an announcement from his legal team saying they would no longer be representing him.

Zimmerman, who is now represented by Mark O'Mara, is facing second degree murder charges, which could carry a life sentence for the 28-year-old.  O'Mara filed a motion on Monday for Judge Recksiedler's removal.

A bond hearing is scheduled on Friday for Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla.  But legal analysts tell ABC News bail is seldom, if ever, granted in second degree murder cases.

Called an Arthur Case in Florida, the prosecution will have to demonstrate that to some degree the defendant committed a crime and that the presumption of guilt is great.  Ultimately, the judge makes a decision on whether the defendant should be released pending trial.

Zimmerman claims he shot Martin, 17, in self defense.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar092012

Judge, Sheriff’s Deputy Shot, Stabbed in Wash. Courthouse

Comstock/Thinkstock(MONTESANO, Wash.) -- A judge was stabbed in the neck and a female sheriff’s deputy was shot and stabbed inside the Grays Harbor District Courthouse in the tiny town of Montesano,  about 100 miles southeast of Seattle.

The suspect fled the scene following the attack, temporarily sending local schools and many businesses into lockdown.  Police and a SWAT team quickly surrounded a house on the east side of town, where they believe the suspect is hiding.  Aerial footage supplied by KOMO-TV shows several snipers positioned around the house.

Court was not in session at the time of the attack, and exactly where the shooting and stabbing took place within the 100-year-old courthouse is not known.

Both the judge and the deputy are reported to be in stable condition at a nearby hospital.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb242012

Gay Texas Judge Refuses to Perform Marriage Ceremonies

File photo. (http://tonyaparkerforjudge.com)(DALLAS) -- Texas Judge Tonya Parker cannot legally marry a woman in her state, so she refuses to perform any marriage ceremonies until there is equality. She finds it "oxymoronic" to perform a ceremony that cannot be performed for her.

Parker, an openly gay judge, told a group at a Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meeting Tuesday that when she turns a couple away, she uses it as an opportunity to teach them a lesson about marriage equality.

"I don't perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality and until it does, I'm not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn't apply to another group of people," Parker said in a video of the Tuesday discussion. "And it's kind of oxymoronic for me to perform ceremonies that can't be performed for me, so I'm not going to do it."

A spokeswoman for the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct said the commission had no comment.

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Parker is the first LGBT person elected as a judge in Dallas County and she is believed to be the first openly LGBT African-American elected official in the state's history, according to the Dallas Voice.

Parker described examples of discrimination in the courtroom that she has seen and been able to stop.

She once heard a case involving a man who allegedly molested a young boy in which a participant used the terms "homosexual" and "child molester" interchangeably.

"When a man molests a little girl, people don't call him heterosexual," Parker said in the video. "So, when this man molests this little boy, assuming [the] allegations to be true, you are not going to stand in my courtroom and call him a homosexual."

Another example she gave was the Texas Supreme Court's jury instruction that dictates that jurors cannot discuss cases with their husbands or wives.

"Well, I might have modified it a little bit," Parker said to her audience. "And I said, 'Do not discuss this case with your husband, your wife or your partner.'"

She said these are small ways of making her point but she believes it is important to go out of her way to do things that others in the LGBT community might not be able to do because they are not in her position of power.

"I want to help those folks to have dignity, in that moment that they are with me, to know that I see you," she said. "I see you."

Parker did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News. A court clerk said she was in court day.

Parker's goal as a judge is to "make sure laws are applied equally to everyone who comes to court and that we take the opportunity to put issues on people's radar's that might not otherwise be there."

Seven states currently allow gay marriage. Maryland would become next one next week, if the governor signs into law a recently passed bill as promised.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan102012

Florida Drug Suspect Wore Crack Jacket to His Court Hearing

An accused drug dealer wore a jacket that depicts crack making to court for his hearing. (Michael D. Weinstein)(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- A Florida drug suspect who arrived at his court hearing wearing a jacket depicting a recipe for crack cocaine was "exercising his freedom of speech," his lawyer said Monday.

Christopher Patterson, 25, of Dania, Fla., showed up in court Friday wearing a jacket with pictures of a box of baking soda, a pot over a fire, and a spoon with a white substance, showing the end product a "rock," slang for the drug.

The jacket also contained the phrase "stack paper say nothing," slang meaning to make money and not talk about where it came from.

Florida Defense Attorney Michael D. Weinstein was also in the courtroom Friday and took a picture of Patterson's jacket with a cellphone as the suspect approached the judge.

"I was absolutely shocked," Weinstein said. "I see someone charged with trafficking walking up to a judge who's going to determine your fate wearing a jacket like that. I was just blown away."

Patterson's lawyer, Joshua Rydell, told ABC News Monday that Patterson did not appear before the judge wearing the jacket, but defended his behavior.

"He was expressing his freedom of speech, just like any of us are entitled to do. It was his freedom of expression," Rydell said.

The lawyer said he did not want to discuss his client, but added, "People that come from his background don't typically understand what's appropriate to wear before a judge."

The Broward County State Attorney's office said Patterson is no longer in state custody.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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