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News in Brief

KS: The state legislature enacted a death penalty law that becomes effective July I, 1994. The law restored the death penalty in Kansas for the first time since 1972 when the US Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Kansas' death penalty statute. Governor Joan Finney allowed the bill to become law without signing it, claiming she opposes the death penalty but not enough to veto the law.

CA: The racketeering convictions of federal district court judge Robert Aguilar was overturned by the ninth circuit court of appeals. Aguilar was convicted in 1990 of racketeering for allegedly trying to influence other judges to be lenient in sentencing his friends. He was also convicted of disclosing wiretap testimony and obstructing a grand jury. Sentenced to six months in prison, Aguilar has remained free on bail during three years of appeals and kept his title and salary, presiding over settlement conferences in federal court, but not court sessions. The decision barred any retrial.

Australia: Gary Hayes was arrested and strangled unconscious by police in Wembley in 1989. In April, 1994, Hayes stole an M 113 armored personnel carrier (APC) from a military base, drove it to the offices of Wembley's Criminal Investigation Bureau, where he had been abused, and destroyed the offices, a shed and two police cars with the APC. He then drove to the East Perth police headquarters, wrecked six police cars then went on to ram the city's law courts. He then attacked another police station in the same city. While in the process of attacking the local parliament house he was tear gassed out of the tank. Now in police custody Hayes states he has been abused by police.

RI: The state's former top judge, justice Fay resigned his $128,500 a year job amidst impeachment threats. To avoid prison, he pleaded guilty to misusing court funds to buy, among other things: an $11,500 self portrait, a $38 fruit basket and expensive dinners and then trying to destroy records of the spending. He faced a 25 year prison sentence but received a suspended sentence.

PA: State supreme court justice Rolf Larsen was convicted on April 9, 1994, of two felony conspiracy counts. Witnesses testified that Larsen had an arrangement with his doctor who wrote prescriptions for tranquilizers, pain killers and antidepressants in the names of Larsen's staff members. Larsen said he needed the drugs to function and was just trying to preserve his privacy. He faces six years in prison but is unlikely to do a day in jail.

WA: On April 15, 1994, King County Court Commissioner Jack Richey announced his retirement from the $91,000 a year job after being spotted by courthouse window washers committing a sex act with a female courthouse employee in his chambers. Richey's retirement will be effective Feb. 15, 1995. No specific state law prohibits judges or commissioners from engaging in sexual activities in their chambers but judicial canons require judges and commissioners to "uphold the integrity of the judiciary" and adhere to "high standards of conduct."

UK: Over 450 locks at the high security Behmarsh Prison in London have had to be changed because the keys have been lost. Prior to this, the plans of the prison turned up in a London dump before the prison opened. An investigation is being launched to determine how the keys became "unaccounted for." The lock changing cost $200,000.

USA: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is the most secretive element of the US judiciary. Meeting in secret, twice a month, in a Justice Department building in Washington D.C., it is the "secret court" which authorizes wiretap and similar warrants for federal agencies such as the FBI and CIA engaging in "national security investigations." The ostensible purpose of the court is to serve as a protection against well publicized abuses by the FBI, CIA, etc. Since it was formed in 1979 the court has received 7,500 requests for wiretaps or other surveillance: and granted every single one! No warrant application has ever been turned down. The only information made public by the court in its annual report is the number of warrant applications received and the number granted.

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