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Death penalty slowly disappearing from the US, end-of-year report suggests

Death penalty, executions disappearing in USJudging by all the indicators, capital punishment in America is gasping for its last breath, according to the end-of-year report from the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-partisan authority on the subject.

This year, 20 prisoners have been judicially killed. That’s down from 28 in 2015, and vastly below the peak of 98 executions in 1999 at the height of the panic over urban crime and the crack epidemic.


‘Scientology’ accuses church leader David Miscavige of physical abuse

Lee ReminiScientology adversaries, Leah Remini and Mike Rinder headed to Seattle, Wash. and Los Angeles, Calif. in Tuesday’s episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, which focused on founder L. Ron Hubbard’s successor, David Miscavige.

Former parishioners Remini and Rinder met with ex-Scientologists Jeff Hawkins, Tom DeVocht and Ron Miscavige, father of the current leader, in part four of the A&E docu-series.

Hawkins and DeVocht discussed weighty allegations of physical abuse in Seattle, while Ron described his experiences at the Church’s international headquarters, dubbed “Gold Base” near Hemet, Calif.


Former Flint officials criminally charged in water crisis

Flint officials chargedMichigan prosecutors on Tuesday charged four former government officials with criminal conspiracy to violate safety rules in connection with the Flint water crisis, which exposed residents to dangerous levels of lead, the state's attorney general said.

Former state-appointed emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose and former city employees Howard Croft, a public works superintendent, and Daugherty Johnson, a utilities manager, were the latest to be charged in the case, Attorney General Bill Schuette said.

He told a news conference in Flint that the defendants conspired to operate the city's water treatment plant when it was not safe to do so.


Obama pardons another 78 federal inmates, shortens the sentence for 153

Pres. Pbama grants more pardonsPresident Obama has pardoned 78 people and shortened the sentence of 153 others convicted of federal crimes, the greatest number of individual clemencies in a single day by any president, the White House said Monday.

Obama has been granting commutations at rapid-fire pace in his final months in office, but he has focused primarily on shortening sentences of those convicted of drug offenses rather than pardons. Pardons amount to forgiveness of a crime that removes restrictions on the right to vote, hold state or local office, or sit on a jury. The pardon also lessens the stigma arising from the conviction.


U.S. chief justice refuses to force vote on Obama high court pick

Chief Justice RobertsU.S. Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday rejected a New Mexico lawyer's long-shot bid to force a Senate confirmation vote on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, after Republican senators refused to act on his nomination.

Steven Michel, a Santa Fe environmental attorney, filed suit in U.S. federal court in August, arguing that the Republican-led Senate's failure to act on Garland's nomination deprived Michel of his rights as a voter under the U.S. Constitution's 17th Amendment, which outlines how senators are elected.


Gov-elect: North Carolina will repeal LGBT law on Tuesday

Roy CooperNorth Carolina legislators will repeal the contentious HB2 law that limited protections for LGBT people and led to an economic backlash, the state's incoming governor said Monday.

Gov.-elect Roy Cooper made the announcement shortly after the Charlotte City Council voted to repeal its own local ordinance enacted in early 2016. It was that ordinance that Republicans blamed for the statewide law.


Former Fort Worth cop exonerated on 1994 rape conviction

Forth Worth cop exonerated after 1994 year rape convictionA former police officer in Texas was acquitted of rape charges at retrial after spending 21 years in prison following his initial conviction in 1994.

Brian Franklin, who was a member of the Fort Worth, Texas, police department, was exonerated Friday after a jury deliberated for only a few hours, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Franklin was granted a second trial after relatives of the then-13-year-old girl came forward to say she confided in them days after Franklin's arrest that she had made up the story. He was released from prison pending the outcome.

The accuser, who was the child of Franklin's friend, admitted in a hearing in 2014 that part of what she said at trial in 1994 was untrue. Still, she remained adamant Franklin raped her as a young girl.


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