States brief ~ NJ appeals court says mental competency to be decided by jury News
States brief ~ NJ appeals court says mental competency to be decided by jury

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's states brief, a New Jersey court of appeals has ruled [PDF opinion] that a jury should decide whether Porfirio Jimenez is mentally competent and able to face the death penalty. A spokesman for the Office of the Public Defender said that, "Most states have gone with the ruling that the judge makes the decision. Now, New Jersey has said, 'No, we're going to say in New Jersey that if you want to execute someone, the burden of proof remains with the government.'" Morris County Prosecutor Michael M. Rubbinaccio criticized the decision, saying "Twenty-six other states have addressed this issue by way of statute or judicial decision; and have all placed the burden on the defendant to prove that he or she was mentally retarded." Rubbinaccio plans to appeal the decision. North Jersey Media Group has local coverage.

In other state legal news …

  • An Indiana appeals court has upheld [PDF opinion] parents' rights to share their religion with their children by removing part of a divorce decree that directed the plaintiff and his ex-wife to shelter their child from "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals." In making the decision, the court relied on state law, which prohibits courts from limiting parents' authority unless a child is at risk of physical danger or significant emotional impairment. Both of the child's parents are practicing Wiccans [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The Indianapolis Star has local coverage.
  • A New Jersey Appellate Court [official website] has ruled that Newark, Essex and Union counties may pursue their lawsuit against companies that manufactured lead paint, because they and other governmental bodies have "inherent police powers" to sue to stop a public nuisance. The decision overturned a lower court ruling that dismissed the lawsuit after finding municipalities do not have the power to sue manufacturers. 26 local governments will proceed with the lawsuit against Atlantic Richfield Co., NL Industries, Millenium Inorganic Chemicals, Sherwin-Williams, American Cyanamid, Cytec Industries, ConAgra and DuPont. New Jersey's Star-Ledger has local coverage.