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Texas’ highest criminal court on Thursday delayed the scheduled execution of a second death row inmate as the state tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a 60-day delay of Tracy Beatty’s scheduled March 25 execution “in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address that emergency.”

Beatty was sentenced to death for the 2003 slaying of his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, near Tyler, in East Texas. The ruling noted that the court previously upheld Beatty’s conviction and sentence.

The court on Monday ordered a 60-day delay in the execution of John William Hummel, who had been scheduled to die on Wednesday for the 2009 stabbing of his pregnant wife, Joy Hummel, 45, and fatal bludgeoning of his father-in-law, Clyde Bedford, 57, with a baseball bat.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday declared a state of emergency, ordering schools closed until April 3, banning dine-in eating at restaurants, and ordering bars and gyms to close. Abbott said state government would remain open.

The order also banned public gatherings of 10 or more people, which could have affected the state’s ability to carry out executions, which involve a number of people, including correctional officers, attorneys, physicians, and family members or friends of the inmates and victims.



Australia’s highest court on Thursday said it will deliver a verdict at a later date on whether to overturn the convictions of the most senior Catholic to be found guilty of child sex abuse.

Cardinal George Pell’s lawyer, Bret Walker, told the High Court that if it found a lower court had made a mistake in upholding Pell’s convictions, he should be acquitted.

Prosecutor Kerri Judd told the seven judges that if there were a mistake, they should send the case back to the Victoria state Court of Appeal to hear it again.

Otherwise, the High Court should hear more evidence and decide itself whether the convictions against Pope Francis’ former finance minister should stand, Judd said.

Pell is one year into a six-year sentence after being convicted of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.

The 78-year-old cleric’s two-day hearing that ended on Thursday could be his last chance of clearing his name.

Pell was largely convicted on the testimony of one of the choirboys, now in his 30s with a young family.

He first went to police in 2015 after the second victim died of a heroin overdose at the age of 31. Neither can be identified under state law.

Judd told the court on Thursday that the surviving victim’s detailed knowledge of the layout of the priests’ sacristy supported his accusation that the boys were molested there.



A Spanish court has partially accepted Google's appeal against a ruling that ordered it to erase news articles about a man accused of sexual abuse, but the new judgement said the company had to display the man's acquittal at the top of any search results.

A National Court decision Friday said that freedom of expression took precedence over personal data protection in this case. However, given the case's special circumstances, the person's acquittal must appear in first place in internet searches, it ruled.

In 2017, Spain's Data Protection Agency ruled in favor of a psychologist who was tried and acquitted on three counts of sexual abuse for which he faced a possible 27 years in prison.

The man, whose name was not released, applied to have Google's search engine erase 10 news articles relating to the case that appeared when his name was keyed in. The agency ordered eight story links to be blocked, saying the news was obsolete.

Google appealed, arguing that the articles were of public interest and access to them should be protected by free speech laws. It also maintained they were of current interest and not outdated.

Spain's privacy agency has long defended people's “right to be forgotten.” Its efforts triggered a landmark ruling in 2014 by Europe's highest court that said search engines must listen, and sometimes comply, when people ask for the removal of links to newspaper articles or other sites containing outdated or otherwise objectionable information about themselves.



A Missouri man at the heart of a state Supreme Court case that overturned what critics called modern-day debtors’ prisons is back in jail and suing the local officials who put him there.

Warrensburg resident George Richey, 65, is one of two Missouri men who sued over boarding costs for time spent in county jails, which are commonly referred to as board bills.

Richey spent 65 days in jail in 2016 for not paying past board bills. Supreme Court judges last year unanimously sided with him, writing in an opinion that while inmates are responsible for those costs, “if such responsibilities fall delinquent, the debts cannot be taxed as court costs and the failure to pay that debt cannot result in another incarceration.”

The nonprofit legal defense organization ArchCity Defenders on Tuesday sued St. Clair County and Associate Circuit County Judge Jerry Rellihan on behalf of Richey for the harm caused by his unlawful imprisonment.

Richey’s lawyers wrote in a Tuesday court filing that the time he spent in jail meant he lost “his home, all of his personal belongings, and lived in constant fear of arrest for the past four years.”

“I have the clothes on my back, but that’s it. This has caused me to lose everything,” Richey said in a statement. “I’m not the only one these counties are picking on, and I’m taking a stand because these crooked practices can’t continue.”

Associated Press requests for comment to St. Clair County officials were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Richey’s lawyers also argued that the judge retaliated against him for taking his board bill case to the Supreme Court.

Three months after the high court’s ruling, Rellihan sentenced Richey to more than two years in county jail for probation violations and misdemeanor counts of assault, trespassing and disturbing the peace.



The state Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that drivers must use their signal every time they turn or change lanes on a roadway.

Thursday’s ruling reverses a Court of Appeals ruling that said a signal is required only when public safety is affected. The high court ruled that the plain language of the law requires drivers “to ensure turns and lane changes are done safely and with an appropriate turn signal."

The ruling was issued in the case of David Brown, who was arrested for driving under the influence in Kennewick in March 2015. State patrol officers pulled him over after he briefly turned on his left turn signal while approaching a light in a designated left turn lane but turned it off and did not reactivate it while at the light or making the turn. He was arrested after his breath test showed .26 breath alcohol content, more than triple the legal limit.

Brown had argued that the evidence of the breath test should be suppressed because the underlying traffic stop was without cause, and a lower court agreed and dismissed the case. The only issue before the Supreme Court was whether Brown violated traffic laws. The case now goes back to the lower courts to proceed in accordance with the high court's guidance on the initial stop.




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