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Civil rights advocates sued a Maryland county on Wednesday to seek the court-ordered removal of a Confederate monument from a courthouse lawn on the state’s Eastern Shore, calling it a racist symbol of oppression.

In their federal lawsuit, an NAACP branch leader and a defense lawyer say the “Talbot Boys” statue in Talbot County is the last Confederate monument remaining on public property in Maryland besides cemeteries and battlefields.

The lawsuit claims that a statue glorifying the Confederacy on the lawn outside the county courthouse in Easton, Maryland, is both unconstitutional and illegal under federal and state laws. Keeping it there “sends a message that the community does not value Black people, that justice is not blind, and that Black people are not equal in the eyes of the county,” the suit says.

“For Black employees and litigants entering the courthouse, the statue is, in its least damaging capacity, intimidating and demoralizing,” it adds.

In August 2020, Talbot County Council members voted 3-2 to keep the memorial on the courthouse lawn.

Council President Chuck Callahan was among the three members who voted to keep the memorial. He did not immediately respond Wednesday to an email and phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The memorial, dedicated in 1916, commemorates more than 80 soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. A website advocating for it to stay on the courthouse lawn calls it “a piece of history and a splendid work of art that tells the story of brother vs. brother where North and South came together, the border state of Maryland.”

The lawsuit says the statute, erected 50 years after the Civil War ended and during the Jim Crow era, was funded primarily by a prominent white lawyer who “embraced ideals of slavery.”

“It is also telling that no monument was erected to honor the sacrifices of those from Talbot County who fought for the Union ? particularly since Maryland was not part of the Confederacy,” the suit adds.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include Richard Potter, president of the Talbot County branch of the NAACP, and Kisha Petticolas, a Black lawyer who works in Talbot County for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers, including from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, filed the federal lawsuit in Baltimore.

It asks the court to order the statute’s permanent removal from the courthouse area and bar its display at any other county property. It also seeks unspecified monetary damages for the plaintiffs.



Kansas’ highest court on Friday upheld a law barring so-called wrongful birth lawsuits against doctors, in a case in which a couple sued because they weren’t told of serious fetal defects until after an abortion could have been obtained.

The state Supreme Court ruled against the parents of a girl born with a severe brain abnormality who said they would have opted for an abortion had they known of their daughter’s medical problems months before her May 2014 birth.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and then-GOP Gov. Sam Brownback passed the law  against wrongful birth lawsuits in 2013 at the urging of abortion opponents. It overturned a 1990 state Supreme Court ruling saying Kansas law allowed such lawsuits, and current Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, then a state senator, voted against it.

The parents’ attorneys argued that the law violated provisions of the state’s bill of rights declaring the right to a jury trial “inviolate” and providing a right to “remedy by due course of law” for injuries. But four of the seven state Supreme Court justices concluded that the state’s 1850s founders didn’t recognize wrongful birth as a legal concept, making it an “innovation” that isn’t covered by those constitutional provisions.

“It is a new species of malpractice action first recognized in 1990,” Justice Dan Biles wrote in their opinion.

The decision upholds a policy favored by anti-abortion groups, who’ve long criticized the court as too liberal. The state Supreme Court declared in 2019 that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution, meaning it would be protected in Kansas if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But Friday’s ruling did not cite the 2019 decision or frame the issues in terms of abortion rights.

“The birth of a child should be cause for celebration, not for the law to award damages because the child was ‘wrongfully’ born,” said Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, who defended the law and is running for governor in 2022.

The four justices were joined in upholding the law by Justice Caleb Stegall, Brownback’s only appointee on the court. He was the lone dissenter in the 2019 ruling protecting abortion rights.

Stegall argued that the majority should have simply overturned the 1990 ruling, calling it “one of the worst decisions in our court’s history” and a “black mark” on par with a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right to inter Japanese Americans during World War II.




A Texas court is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on overturning the conviction of a former Dallas police officer who was sentenced to prison for fatally shooting her neighbor in his home.

An attorney for Amber Guyger and prosecutors are set to clash before an appeals court over whether the evidence was sufficient to prove that her 2018 shooting of Botham Jean was murder.

The hearing before a panel of judges will examine a Dallas County jury’s  2019 decision to sentence Guyger to 10 years in prison for murder. It follows the recent conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, again focusing national attention on police killings and racial injustice.

Guyger is not expected to appear in court Tuesday and the appeals panel will hand down a decision at an unspecified later date.

More than two years before Floyd’s death set off protests across the country, Guyger’s killing of Jean drew national attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of Black men by white police officers.

The basic facts of the case were not in dispute. Guyger, returning home from a long shift, mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was on the floor directly below his. Finding the door ajar, she entered and shot him, later testifying that she through he was a burglar.

Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had been eating a bowl of ice cream before Guyger shot him. She was later fired from the Dallas Police Department.

The appeal from Guyger, now 32, hangs on the contention that her mistaking Jean’s apartment for her own was reasonable and, therefore, so too was the shooting. Her lawyers have asked the appeals court  to acquit her of murder or to substitute in a conviction for criminally negligent homicide, which carries a lesser sentence.

In court filings, Dallas County prosecutors countered  that Guyger’s error doesn’t negate “her culpable mental state.” They wrote, “murder is a result-oriented offense.”

Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, told the Dallas Morning News that the appeal has delayed her family’s healing.

”I know everyone has a right of appeal, and I believe she’s utilizing that right,” Jean said. “But on the other hand, there is one person who cannot utilize any more rights because she took him away.

“So having gotten 10 years, only 10, for killing someone who was in the prime of his life and doing no wrong in the comfort of his home, I believe that she ought to accept, take accountability for it and move on,” she said.

Guyger could have been sentenced to up to life in prison or as little as two years. Prosecutors had requested a 28-year sentence ? Botham Jean would have been 28 if he were still alive during the trial.

Under her current sentence, Guyger will become eligible for parole in 2024, according to state prison records.

Following the trial, two members of the jury said the diverse panel tried to consider what the victim would have wanted when they settled on a 10-year prison sentence.

Jean ? who went by “Bo” ? sang in a church choir in Dallas and grew up in a devout family on the island nation of St. Lucia. After sentencing, Brandt Jean embraced Guyger in court and told her his older brother would have wanted her to turn her life over to Christ. He said if she asked God for forgiveness, she would get it.



Attorneys for a St. Louis man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, her mom and his baby boy are asking the Missouri Supreme Court to delay his capital murder trial for two weeks after two potential jurors tested positive for COVID-19.

Jury selection began last week in the trial of Eric Lawson, who is accused of fatally shooting 22-year-old Breiana Ray and 50-year-old Gwendolyn Ray before setting an apartment fire that killed his 10-month-old son, Aiden. Lawson, 32, has been in pretrial detention since his arrest nearly nine years ago. The case is being prosecuted by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

Attorneys for Lawson sought a continuance in January and again in March, citing concerns about COVID-19 each time. Circuit Judge Michael Noble denied both requests.

Lawson’s attorneys asked Noble for a continuance a third time on Wednesday, this time citing the two positive cases among potential jurors. When Noble again refused to pause the case, defense attorneys asked the Missouri Supreme Court to intervene.

“Mr. Lawson and his attorneys have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 10 days,” the court motion states. “So have the judge, the prosecutors, courthouse staff, and prospective jurors.”

St. Louis Circuit Court spokesman Thom Gross said a potential juror appeared in court on April 14. She tested positive for COVID-19 two days later and notified the jury supervisor on April 19, saying she didn’t know when or where she was exposed.

Seven of the 39 prospective jurors from the April 14 session had originally been asked to return later, but Jury Supervisor Joanne Martin called each of them and told them they were dismissed, Gross said. Martin mailed letters to the others who attended that session to inform them of the positive test.

Gross said a second prospective juror told Martin on April 16 that they had just learned that a COVID-19 test taken earlier was positive. All 40 prospective jurors from that session were dismissed.

The court filing from Lawson’s lawyers said one of the lawyers, Julie Clark, is pregnant and thus considered vulnerable. An expert witness for the defense also “has several preexisting health conditions putting him at the greatest risk of contracting COVID,” the court filing said.



Civil liberties groups are asking the Supreme Court to give the public access to opinions of the secretive court that reviews bulk email collection, warrantless internet searches and other government surveillance programs.

The groups say in an appeal filed with the high court Monday that the public has a constitutional right to see significant opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They also argue that federal courts, not the executive branch, should decide when opinions that potentially affect the privacy of millions of Americans should be made public.

The appeal was filed by Theodore Olson on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Olson is on the Knight institute’s board and was the Bush administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer as the FISA court’s role was expanded after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“You’re talking about judicial decisions here that may affect millions of people. The public needs to know the outlines of what those decisions are and how far they go,” Olson said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Because of my experience with it, I know that government, with the best of intentions, will tend to err on the side of keeping everything secret.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established in 1978 to receive applications from the FBI to eavesdrop on people it suspects of being agents of a foreign power, such as potential spies or terrorists. After Sept. 11, Congress expanded the court’s role to consider broad surveillance programs.

In recent decisions, judges ruled that opinions sought by the groups couldn’t be made public, even in censored form, and that they didn’t even have the authority to consider releasing the opinions.

Legislation adopted in 2015 includes a provision that requires the government to consider releasing significant FISA court opinions. But the law doesn’t apply to opinions written before it was enacted and leaves the review process entirely to the executive branch.

The ACLU and Knight institute say the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press demands greater access.


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