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States brief ~ Colorado Supreme Court upholds juror questioning of witnesses

[JURIST] Leading Monday's states brief, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled [PDF text] today that allowing jurors to submit questions to witnesses is not a per se violation of a defendant's right to a fair trial in criminal cases. One defendant's attorney argued that the threat of unfair questions from the jurors should be reason to bar the practice of juror questioning, while the state's Assistant Attorney General argued in support of juror questioning as the questions are filtered through the judge, and the prosecuting and defense attorneys before being asked to the witness. Rule 24(g) of Colorado's Rules of Criminal Procedure [text] allows jurors to ask witnesses questions and became effective in July 2004. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • In Colorado again, the state supreme court Monday threw out the conviction of a Republican campaign aid who was convicted in 2003 of disrupting a lawful assembly in a case that demonstrated tensions between the right to free expression and the right to lawfully assemble. The opinion [PDF text] upheld state laws which limit political dissension, but found there was insufficient evidence to determine that the campaign aid had significantly disrupted the democratic candidate's rally. A spokesman for the state's Democratic party [official website] said the ruling gives activist a clear idea of the legal limits of political dissension, and a spokesman for the state's Republican Party [official website] said that the ruling enshrined the right to free speech. AP has more.

  • The Sierra Club [press release] and state and federal highway officials settled a lawsuit Monday that was holding up the widening of a freeway in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Sierra Club agreed to drop the lawsuit in exchange for the federal government's agreement to install air filtration systems at schools along the highway segment and to also pay for the relocation of portable classrooms and a playground at one of the campuses. The lawsuit was heard in January by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and a decision had yet to be issued. The settlement needs the approval of the appeals court and of a Las Vegas federal judge who placed the project on hold last year. AP has more.

  • Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevick has signed [press release] two hate crime laws that create civil penalties for housing discrimination and extend protection from hate crimes. The first bill [text] makes it a civil rights violation to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with an individual's right to fair housing. The second bill [text] makes it a hate crime to use electronic communication to harass or threaten someone because of race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability. The Chicago Tribune has more.

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