Archive for the ‘News’ Category

A federal judge in Pennsylvania granted Bill Cosby’s motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit pending against him.  Renita Hill, one of more than 50 women who have publicly accused the comedian of sexual assault filed a lawsuit in October of last year alleging that the actor and his lawyer defamed her.  Judge Arthur J. Schwab dismissed the claims against Cosby ruling that the statements “do not support a claim for defamation as defined by Pennsylvania law.”

Hill’s claims of defamation stemmed from three instances:

  1. When Cosby and his lawyer said that the accusers needed to be “fact-checked.”
  2. In November of 2014, following Hill’s public accusation against Cosby, his lawyer said to the Washington Post that the women had “unsubstantiated, fantastical stories.”  Cosby declined to respond to the “innuendos” made against him when asked for comment by Florida Today.
  3. When the comedian’s wife, Camille, then wrote a letter to the Washington Post claiming that the news organization failed to “vet” the accusers.

In the ruling, Judge Schwab found no grounds for defamation, writing that the three instances were “pure opinion” and a “far cry from labeling [Hill] as liars or extortionists.”

“None of the facts alleged by [Hill] supported her claims for defamation, false light, or intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania law,” Cosby’s lawyers said in a statement after the ruling. “It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions with similar matters will respond in like manner.”

Hill intends to appeal.  “We are disappointed, but remain committed to seeking justice in this matter. We strongly disagree with the judge’s reasoning that Cosby’s statements are constitutionally protected opinions,” George Kontos, Renita Hill’s lawyer, told CNN.

Amongst all of the lawsuits and public accusations against Cosby of sexual assault, including drugging women to rape them, he is also facing aggravated indecent assault for an alleged 2004 attack on Andrea Constand in Pennsylvania.

Sources:  CNN

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Richard Masterson, 43, was pronounced dead at 6:53 p.m. on Jan. 20th, 25 minutes after being administered lethal injection drugs.

“I’m all right with this,” he said. “Sometimes you have to live and die by the choices you make. I made mine and I’m paying for it.”  He said he was being sent “to a better place.”

He told his loved ones that he loved them and mouthed them a kiss.  His relatives and friends watched the execution at the prison.  The victim’s friends and family did not attend the execution.  Masterson had claimed that the January 2001 strangulation death of Darin Shane Honeycutt was an accident and he had several appeals pending before courts including 4 with the U.S. Supreme Court, but efforts to get him a stay failed.

Texas is the nation’s busiest death penalty state carrying out 28% of last year’s executions.

Masterson testified that the death of Honeycutt, 35, was part of a sex act and was an accident.  The two had met in a bar earlier that evening.  Honeycutt was an entertainer who dressed as a woman for his performances and used the stage name Brandi Houston.

Masterson’s case is full of contradictions.  Court records show that Masterson confessed to police and also in a letter to the Texas Attorney General in 2012, “I meant to kill him.  It was no accident,” he wrote to Greg Abbott.  After the death, Masterson stole Honeycutt’s car and dumped it in Georgia. He was apprehended in Florida a week later with a different stolen car.  That car belonged to a Tampa man who testified that Masterson robbed him after a similar sex episode choking.

Masterson’s attorneys revealed that Harris County’s medical examiner had questionable credentials (more…)

Florida’s death row would be about three-quarters smaller if the state followed the practice of the majority of death penalty states and required the jury to unanimously decide a death sentence instead of by simple majority.  Alabama and Delaware also permit judges to impose death sentences following a non-unanimous jury decision.

After an 18-month investigation into Florida’s 390 death row inmates, the Villages Daily Sun found that judges had imposed death sentences 287 times or 74% of the cases after jurors could not agree on the sentencing.  If Florida had just changed their sentencing to supermajority instead of unanimous, 43% of the state’s death row prisoners would have received life sentences, as in Alabama which requires 10 or more jurors agree.

Although Delaware, like Florida, allows a recommendation for death by a simple majority of the jury (7 out of 12), it first requires the jury to unanimously find the aggravating factors that justify a death sentence.

Florida’s high-rate of death sentences now costs the state an estimated $9 million a year. (more…)