News Roundup

Weekly Briefs: SCOTUS will hear inmate's appeal of DNA testing; prosecutor accidentally shoots himself

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Supreme Court will hear death row inmate’s DNA test bid

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear the case of a Texas death row inmate who said DNA testing would establish his innocence. After inmate Rodney Reed lost a bid in state court to obtain the test, he challenged the Texas law governing post-conviction DNA testing under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. At issue is whether he filed the suit too late under the statute of limitations. Does the clock begin to run when a state court denies the DNA test? Or does the clock start when all state court DNA litigation, including appeals, have ended? Reed was convicted of the rape and murder of a woman married to a former police officer. He said he was having an affair with the murder victim, and that is why his DNA was found on her body. Reed’s lawyers have pointed to the woman’s fiance, a former police officer, as a possible suspect. He pleaded guilty in 2008 for kidnapping and improper sexual conduct with a woman while on duty. The case is Reed v. Goertz. (The New York Times, SCOTUSblog, Bloomberg Law, the Texas Tribune, SCOTUSblog case page)

Prosecutor accidentally shoots himself at courthouse

A Georgia prosecutor accidentally shot himself in the leg in an office at the Effingham County Courthouse earlier this month. Assistant District Attorney Matthew Breedon said his gun fired when he drew it from his holster to show to a co-worker who wanted to buy the same type of firearm. (The Associated Press, WJCL)

Supreme Court will review law requiring companies to accept court jurisdiction

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania law that requires companies to consent to state court jurisdiction if they do business in the state. At issue is whether such laws violate the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. The case was brought by a railroad employee who wants to sue his employer in Pennsylvania state court for exposure to asbestos and chemicals that allegedly caused his cancer. The case is Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co. (SCOTUSblog,, Reuters, SCOTUSblog case page)

Ex-lawyer who fought Chevron leaves prison

Disbarred environmental lawyer Steven Donziger has completed his six-month sentence for refusing to surrender his electronic devices and disobeying other court orders in a RICO lawsuit against him by the Chevron Corp. Donziger only served about a month and a half in prison before he was released to home confinement to serve out the rest of the sentence, according to a previous New York Law Journal story. He also spent time in home detention awaiting trial. In all, he said, he was confined for 993 days. The RICO suit claimed that Donziger had fraudulently obtained a $9.5 billion pollution judgment against the Chevron Corp. in Ecuador. A judge awarded the Chevron Corp. $800,000 and then appointed a special prosecutor after the Chevron Corp. alleged that Donziger was stonewalling efforts to collect. A judge convicted Donziger of contempt and imposed the sentence. (Gizmodo, Salon)

Biden issues first pardons and commutations

President Joe Biden used his clemency powers for the first time Tuesday, when he pardoned three people and commuted the sentences of 75 nonviolent drug offenders. One of those pardoned is Abraham Bolden, 86, who was the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. He has claimed that his prosecution for trying to sell a copy of a Secret Service file was retaliation for exposing racism in the Secret Service in the 1960s. Bolden’s first trial ended in a mistrial because of a hung jury. He was convicted in the second trial, even though key witnesses admitted to lying at the request of the prosecutor. (The New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, White House press release)

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