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American Scene: Miami judge rules for ‘stand your ground’

- - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

FLORIDA

MIAMI A judge has dismissed a murder charge against a man who chased and fatally stabbed a theft suspect, citing the same self-defense law at the center of the Trayvon Martin case.

The "stand your ground" law gives a lot of leeway to use deadly force instead of retreating during a confrontation.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beth Bloom ruled Tuesday that a bag of stolen car radios Pedro Roteta swung at Greyston Garcia amounted to a lethal threat. Judge Bloom said Mr. Garcia "was well within his rights to pursue the victim and demand the return of his property."

Mr. Garcia went home instead of calling 911 after the confrontation in January and later hid the knife and sold two of the radios.

A prosecutor told the Miami Herald they would appeal the ruling.

NEW YORK

Partially paralyzed woman kidnapped; couple accused

NEW YORK A New York City couple is accused of kidnapping a partially paralyzed woman and controlling her finances for more than a year.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Tuesday that the 58-year-old victim was found in a locked room that could only be opened from the outside. He says she was malnourished and bleeding from the head.

Mr. Brown says police found her after the woman's niece called 911 after being unable to contact her aunt for several months.

She was taken to a hospital with broken ribs, a broken arm and dislocated shoulder.

Patrick Donovan and Mae Washington, of Queens, pleaded not guilty to charges including kidnapping, assault and unlawful imprisonment. The victim had been renting a room at the couple's home.

Mr. Brown said the victim turned over all her income from Social Security and other sources to Ms. Washington because she feared the couple.

He said the victim was held against her will since January 2011.

CALIFORNIA

Woman, 65, charged with assisting suicide

SANTA ANA A 65-year-old woman was arrested Wednesday on a felony charge contending she helped a friend kill himself last year by mixing a lethal drug dose in his yogurt.

Elizabeth Barrett was taken into custody at her home in a Laguna Hills retirement community and remained jailed on $25,000 bail. It was not immediately clear whether she had obtained a lawyer.

Prosecutors charged her with illegally assisting in the suicide of 86-year-old Jack Koency. She could face three years in prison if convicted.

Koency, who also lived in the retirement community, died on Sept. 30.

The motive for Koency's suicide was not immediately released.

"He was not terminally ill, bedridden or immobile," the district attorney's office said in a news release.

Prosecutors contend that on the morning of Koency's death, Ms. Barrett drove Koency to make arrangements at an office of the Neptune Society, which performs cremations, then went to a store to buy yogurt, a bottle of brandy and a heartburn medication.

"Heartburn medication is used to prevent acid reflux, which is common when a person takes a large dosage of medication or pills," the district attorney's office statement said.

Ms. Barrett then drove Koency back to his apartment, where she crushed a lethal amount of the powerful painkiller OxyContin and mixed it in the yogurt, authorities claim.

She gave it to the World War II veteran, who ate it, went into his bedroom, laid down and died, prosecutors said.

After his death, Ms. Barrett removed his war medals from his wall and put them in her car, then later called 911 to report that she had found him dead, prosecutors said.

Investigators later found a motion-activated camera in Koency's apartment that showed Ms. Barrett preparing and giving Koency the lethal yogurt mixture, authorities said.

The defendant first met Koency a few years ago and the two occasionally met socially at Starbucks.

OKLAHOMA

Court strikes down ultrasound abortion law

OKLAHOMA CITY An Oklahoma judge has struck down a state law that requires women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before having an abortion.

District Judge Brian Dixon handed down an order Wednesday ruling that the law is unconstitutional and unenforceable. The order says the statute passed in 2010 is an unconstitutional special law because it relates only to patients and physicians dealing with abortions and not other medical care.

Enforcement of the law has been blocked since shortly after Nova Health Systems, operator of Reproductive Services of Tulsa, challenged it in May 2010. It would have forced a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, have the image placed in front of her and then hear it described in detail.

CALIFORNIA

Pepper-spray report OK without names

SAN FRANCISCO A judge has ruled the University of California can release a report on the pepper-spraying of student demonstrators by UC Davis police but must first remove most officers' names.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled Wednesday the report does not contain confidential personnel records and can be released.

But Judge Grillo says he wants the university to redact the names of officers other than Police Chief Annette Spicuzza and Lt. John Pike, who became known after online videos of the incident went viral.

Judge Grillo says the report cannot be released for at least 21 days to give officers a chance to appeal.

The report was produced by a task force created to investigate the Nov. 18 crackdown on Occupy protesters.

TEXAS

Boy missing 8 years to stay in foster care

HOUSTON A Houston boy who disappeared as an infant eight years ago and who was recently found will remain in foster care while therapists determine when he can be reunited with his parents, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

State District Judge Mike Schneider agreed with a Child Protective Services recommendation that 8-year-old Miguel Morin should remain in the state's care at least until a May 16 hearing. The judge also signed off on a child-services recommendation that Miguel and his parents, Auboni Champion-Morin and Fernando Morin, undergo therapy separately to see when the boy might be ready for a reunion.

The parents, who live in Houston and are both 29. They have four other children, ages 7 to 14, who are living with another couple under an agreement between the two couples. Child welfare officials can't discuss the reasons the children aren't living with their parents owing to confidentiality issues.

CALIFORNIA

Debris blamed for deadly Marine chopper crash

CAMP PENDLETON An internal investigation says a deadly Marine helicopter crash in Southern California last year was likely caused by debris that hit the tail rotor, along with a design flaw and pilot error.

A San Diego newspaper obtained documents on the investigation into the July crash at Camp Pendleton that killed one Marine and injured five others.

The Marines found that debris such as a stray bolt damaged the tail rotor and the chopper's drive train was destroyed, causing a loss of tail-rotor thrust. The pilot aggravated the situation by trying to move forward instead of reducing the throttle.

The investigation says that was a training problem and that no administration action was recommended against the crew. It says the helicopter lacked protective barriers that might have prevented the debris damage.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports