By Dan Brillman
Is access to DNA evidence too restricted? The New York Times
reports on the case of Joseph Buffey, a West Virginia man who
was convicted of raping an 83-year-old woman in the course of a
2001 burglary. Buffey admitted to the rape in court the next
year, and soon after he began a 70-year sentence.
But Buffey's lawyers say new DNA tests, which took the state
18 months to conduct, exonerate their client. Their client's
case is proof that laws are needed to remove DNA databases from
the grip of prosecutors and law enforcement: The data, they
argue, also should be made available to defense lawyers who
could use it to prove their client's innocence. What's more,
opening the database to both sides could potentially lead
prosecutors to the real criminals, defense lawyers say.
Currently, only nine states allow defense teams access to the
FBI's national DNA database, known as Codis.
"Science doesn't belong to the government, but they act like
it does," Steven Benjamin of the National Association of
Criminal Defense Lawyers told the Times. "Unless the defense is
given access to this information, the playing field remains
uneven in criminal justice."
The Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that there is no
constitutional right to DNA testing.
Ban the bottle
By Ted Botha
Concord, Massachusetts, where Henry Thoreau was once jailed
for refusing to pay a poll tax, has become the first town in the
country to ban the sale of bottled water, says UPI. Not all
bottled water -- at least not yet -- but anything of one liter
or less. The bylaw, which came into effect this week, is
designed to reduce waste and introduce more environmentally
friendly practices, says UPI.
The battle against the water bottle got its start in 2010,
after local resident and octogenarian Jean Hill learned about
the so-called Pacific garbage patch, "a vortex of plastic and
other debris floating between California and Hawaii, thought to
be twice the size of Texas," according to The New York Times.
Hill had found her mission: "I'm going to work until I drop on
this," she said at the time.
Instead of appealing to federal agencies for help, Hill
asked her "affluent, erudite town to take a bolder step" and
lobbied for a local ban. "The bottled water companies are
draining our aquifers and selling it back to us," Hill told
voters at a town meeting in 2010. "We're trashing our planet,
all because of greed." Voters at the meeting approved the
measure, according to the Concord Journal, but because of
incorrect paperwork and then insufficient votes the following
year, it wasn't approved by the Massachusetts attorney general
until Sept. 5, 2012.
But there's only so much a law can do. As the Boston Globe
reports, bottled water addicts may just take their business to
nearby towns, where they legally can get their fix.
What's in a name?
By Caitlin Tremblay
Fifteen years ago a woman in Iceland named her new baby girl
Blaer, which means "light breeze" in Icelandic. Now that girl is
suing the Icelandic state for the right to use the name her
mother gave her, reports the Associated Press.
The girl, who is currently known in an official capacity as
Stulka, which means "girl," is challenging Iceland's official
rules about what children can be named. Iceland is one of a
handful of countries to have a Personal Name Register, which
lists 1,712 male and 1,853 female names that fit the country's
alphabet, grammar and punctuation.
The girl's mother, Bjork Eidadottir, claims she wasn't made
aware that the name Blaer wasn't on the list and was only told
by a priest after her daughter had already been baptized. She
also said she knew another Blaer whose name was accepted in
In Iceland, first names are most important, and, as the AP
reports, phone books are listed by first name and surnames are a
combination of the parents' first names.
When Eidadottir filed to have Blaer accepted as her
daughter's given name, the panel turned her down. Now they're
suing for the right to use it. This is the first time somone has
challenged a decision by the names panel in court. If the
decision doesn't go its way on Jan. 25,it plans to appeal to
Iceland's Supreme Court.
By Dan Brillman
CURES is a massive California database created for doctors
and pharmacists to check if patients are getting drugs from more
than one provider and for law enforcement to track down rogue
physicians who are overprescribing. The only problem: CURES sits
practically idle, reports the Los Angeles Times, in the fourth
of a series on prescription drug abuse in California.
The Times tells the story of Bob Pack, a Silicon Valley
entrepreneur whose two children were killed in 2003 by a driver
high on prescription drugs. Pack set out to improve CURES,
designing technological upgrades to the database to allow
doctors to view a patient's drug history and for police to
monitor both patients and doctors.
When Jerry Brown was still attorney general of California,
he expressed interest in the project, but once he became
governor, Brown cut funding from the Bureau of Narcotics
Enforcement due to the state's financial crisis.
Now the chief of staff for current AG Kamala Harris says
that CURES is on "life support" because of lack of funding.
Indeed, the enterprise has been whittled down to one full-time
staffer and struggles to run on $400,000 a year in fees
collected from the medical community.
Summary Judgments for January 3
Summary Judgments for January 2
Summary Judgments for December 31
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