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Across the Region: March 9

WISCONSIN

Court considers closing John Doe arguments

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrives to deliver his state budget address Feb. 3 at the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison. (AP photo: Wisconsin State Journal)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrives to deliver his state budget address Feb. 3 at the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison. (AP photo: Wisconsin State Journal)

MADISON, Wis. — The state Supreme Court is considering shutting the public out of oral arguments into three cases involving Gov. Scott Walker.

The court on Wednesday asked attorneys whether the arguments on April 17 and April 20 should be open to the public and broadcast live, closed in part or closed entirely. The court also asked attorneys to meet and reach agreement on a number of other procedural issues, including how to handle documents that have yet to be publicly released.

The cases before the Supreme Court all relate to a John Doe investigation into whether Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups.

Unnamed parties have filed two lawsuits challenging the probe’s validity. Prosecutors have filed another action seeking to reinstate quashed subpoenas in the probe.

 

Supreme Court upholds conviction in ice pick slaying

The evidence against a Milwaukee man convicted of killing his girlfriend with an ice pick was overwhelming, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said last week, rejecting his argument that he deserves a new trial because he wasn’t allowed to testify.

In a 6-1 ruling, the court affirmed the 2010 conviction of Eddie Lee Anthony in the stabbing death of Sabrina R. Junior. Anthony never denied killing Junior, but wanted to testify that the killing was done in self-defense.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson dissented, saying Anthony was denied his constitutional right to testify on his own behalf.

IOWA

Judge kills religious bias suit against church school system

A religious discrimination lawsuit filed against Sioux City’s Bishop Heelan Catholic school system has been dismissed.

The Sioux City Journal that in a recent ruling U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles said David Newbrough couldn’t proceed on his claim that the system fired him because he wasn’t Roman Catholic. Newbrough was the system’s chief financial officer.

The lawsuit also said he was relieved of his duties as a volunteer basketball scorekeeper at Heelan High School in retaliation for filing a claim with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

The judge says the system’s actions were protected under a federal law exemption that lets religious organizations discriminate on religious grounds in their employment practices.

 

Judge dismisses sex case against former school worker

DES MOINES, Iowa — A judge has dismissed charges filed against a former Des Moines school district employee accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.

Judge Carla Schemmel said in her dismissal order Monday that 33-year-old Dena Konrad was not a school employee as defined by state statute. Konrad had been charged with two felony counts of sexual exploitation by a school employee.

Authorities have said Konrad had the relationship with a male student over the summer. Konrad’s lawyer has said Konrad never worked with the student as part of her job duties. Konrad was a case manager who was assigned to build relationships with students and families in order to provide various services. She no longer works for the district.

Prosecutors say they’re mulling an appeal of the judge’s ruling.

 NEBRASKA

Murder victims’ families urge end to death penalty

Family members of murder victims called on Nebraska lawmakers last week to abolish the death penalty in the state, saying it prolongs the suffering of the relatives of those who died and wastes tax dollars on endless appeals.

Several dozen people rallied at the Capitol in advance of a legislative hearing on a bill that would end capital punishment. Death-penalty opponents circulated a letter signed by 25 relatives of murder victims.

 

ACLU threatens to sue Bellevue over conduct code

BELLEVUE, Neb. — Bellevue has been threatened with a lawsuit by the Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union if it passes and enforces a citizen code of conduct.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the “Bellevue Nebraska Citizen Code of Conduct” says that individuals who enter city buildings must show respect for the facilities and use common courtesy with others. The code also says that they should not use lewd or offensive behavior and cause disturbances.

Amy Miller of the civil liberties group said in a letter to the city that the policy is unconstitutionally vague and covers speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Miller said that several residents had contacted the group about the policy.

City administrators want the policy in place to deal with citizens who could harass city staff.

The city council will vote on the policy Monday.

NORTH DAKOTA

Traffic stop in Williston area leads to major drug bust

The North Dakota Highway Patrol says a trooper who stopped an erratic driver on U.S. Highway 2 in the Williston area made a large drug bust.

Authorities say a search of the suspect car on Saturday yielded more than half a pound of methamphetamine as well as drug paraphernalia. The street value was estimated at $45,000.

 

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

School boundary dispute heads to state Supreme Court

A school dispute in southeastern South Dakota is headed to the state Supreme Court.

The Argus Leader newspaper reports that three families in the Tea Area School District have appealed to the state’s highest court as part of their legal battle to join the Sioux Falls School District.

Tea school officials denied the families’ petition last year and a judge upheld the decision, saying the request would have turned school district lines into a checkerboard.

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