[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's states brief, a Kentucky circuit judge issued two stays of execution today to allow two prisoners to continue their challenge to the state's use of lethal injection as a form of execution. Last week, the same judge ruled that the use of lethal injection was constitutional [JURIST report]. While no death warrants are in effect for either defendant, Assistant Attorney General David Smith [KY Attorney General official website] said the stays amount to a "pre-emptive restraint" on the governor's ability to sign such warrants. The stays will be effective for 60 days. AP has more.
In other state legal news …
- New York Governor George E. Pataki has signed into law a bill that allows the State Ethics Commission [official website] to pursue cases and possible civil penalties against state employees after they have quit their state job. The bill was passed in response to a 1995 court decision, Flynn v. State Ethics Commission [Cornell LII text], in which the state's highest court ruled that the Ethics Commission did not have jurisdiction over former state officials and employees who violated ethics laws while working for the state. Governor Pataki stated, "By closing the 'Flynn' loophole, we are sending a message to the public that officials who violate their trust will be held accountable, regardless of whether or not they have left state service." The legislation becomes effective immediately. AP has more.
- The Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday threw out the conviction of a man serving a life sentence for a 1980 murder today. The court's opinion [text] found that a new trial was necessary after recent testing done by Ralph Armstrong's defense team showed hair and semen found at the murder scene was not his. At the time of the original trial, DNA technology was not developed enough to pinpoint the source of the hair and semen, though experts testified that two hairs found at the scene were consistent with the defendant. Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard said he planned to retry Armstrong. AP has more.
- The state of New Jersey and E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company [corporate website] have reached a settlement regarding polluted groundwater under eight of DuPont's facilities in the state. Under the agreement, DuPont has agreed to plant 3,000 trees, pay $500,000 for water restoration projects and help preserve 1,875 acres of land. Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Bradley Campbell said the settlement reflected his promise that he would go easier on companies if they paid their natural resource damages voluntarily. View the state's Department of Environmental Protection news release here. New Jersey's Star-Ledger has local coverage.