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Life sentence for killer of retired St. Louis police captain

Life sentence for killer of retired St. Louis police captain

ST. LOUIS — A 26-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for killing a retired St. Louis police captain as he tried to stop a pawn shop from being looted during racial injustice protests two years ago.The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the life term was mandatory after Stephan Cannon, of Glasgow Village, was convicted in July of first-degree murder in the death of 77-year-old David Dorn. Cannon also was sentenced to an additional 30 years for robbery, burglary and three counts of armed criminal action. Dorn, who was Black, was a friend of the pawn shop’s owner. He showed up at the north St. Louis business as it was being ransacked on June 2, 2020.His death drew attention nationwide because it occurred amid protests across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.Across St. Louis that night, Dorn and four officers were shot, authorities were pelted with rocks and fireworks, and 55 businesses were burglarized or damaged. “Our father was a good cop, but more importantly, he was a good man,” his daughter, Lisa Dorn, said to the court.Cannon told the family he was “sorry for their loss” but denied being the shooter. His attorneys said they planned to appeal.

Ian deals blow to Florida's teetering insurance sector

Ian deals blow to Florida's teetering insurance sector

Daniel Kelly and his wife bought a 1977 doublewide mobile home in May for about $83,000 at Tropicana Sands, a community for people 55 and older in Fort Myers, Florida. But he ran into roadblocks when he tried to insure it.Managers at Tropicana Sands told him he likely wouldn’t be able to find a carrier who would offer a policy because the home was too old. He said he checked with a Florida-based insurance agent who searched and couldn’t find anything. “I can insure a 1940s car, why can’t I insure this?” Kelly said. Kelly was lucky that his trailer was largely spared by Hurricane Ian aside from some flood damage. But for many Floridians whose homes were destroyed, they now face the arduous task of rebuilding without insurance or paying even steeper prices in an insurance market that was already struggling. Wind and storm-surge losses from the hurricane could reach between $28 billion and $47 billion, making it Florida’s costliest storm since Hurricane Andrew made landfall in 1992, according to the property analytics firm CoreLogic. Even before Ian, Florida’s home insurance market was dealing with billions of dollars in losses from a string of natural disasters, rampant litigation and increasing fraud. The difficult environment has put many insurers out of business and caused others to raise their prices or tighten their restrictions, making it harder for Floridians to obtain insurance. Those who do manage to insure their homes are seeing costs increase exponentially. Even before Hurricane Ian, the annual cost of an average Florida homeowners insurance policy was expected to reach $4,231 in 2022, nearly three times the U.S. average of $1,544.“They are paying more for less coverage,” said Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter. “It puts consumers in dire circumstances.”The costs have gotten so high that some homeowners have forgone coverage altogether. About 12% of Florida homeowners don’t have property insurance — or more than double the U.S. average of 5% — according to the Insurance Information Institute, a research organization funded by the insurance industry. Florida’s insurance industry has seen two straight years of net underwriting losses exceeding $1 billion each year. A string of property insurers, including six so far this year, have become insolvent, while others are leaving the state. As of July, 27 Florida insurers were on a state watchlist for their precarious financial situation; Mark Friedlander, the head of communications for the Insurance Information Institute, expects Hurricane Ian will cause at least some of those to tip into insolvency.The insurance industry says overzealous litigation is partly to blame. Loopholes in Florida law, including fee multipliers that allow attorneys to collect higher fees for property insurance cases, have made Florida an excessively litigious state, Friedlander said.Florida currently averages about 100,000 lawsuits over homeowners’ insurance claims per year, he said. That compares to just 3,600 in California, which has almost double Florida’s population. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said the state accounts for 76% of the nation’s homeowners’ insurance claims lawsuits but just 9% of all homeowners insurance claims.“Plaintiff attorneys in Florida have historically found ways of circumventing any efforts at reining in legal system abuses, making it likely that ongoing reforms will be needed to further stabilize the insurance marketplace,” said Logan McFaddin of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.But Amy Boggs, the property section chair for the Florida Justice Association — a group that represents attorneys — said the insurance industry is also at fault for refusing to pay out claims. Boggs said homeowners are driven to attorneys “as a last resort.”“No policyholder wants to be embroiled in years of litigation just to get their homes rebuilt,” she said. “They come to attorneys when their insurance company underpays their claim and they can’t rebuild.”Rampant fraud — particularly among roofing contractors — has also added to costs. Regulators say it’s common for contractors to go door-to-door offering to cover homeowners’ insurance deductible in exchange for submitting a full roof replacement claim to their property insurance company, claiming damage from storms. Things have gotten so bad with insurance that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called a special session in May to address the issues. New laws limit the rates attorneys can charge for some property insurance claims and require insurers to insure homes with older roofs — something they had stopped doing because of rising fraud claims.The legislation also includes a $150 million fund that will offer grants to homeowners to make improvements to protect against hurricanes. But that program has yet to be launched, and experts say it will take years to reverse the damage to Florida’s insurance market.In the meantime, the crisis has pushed more homeowners to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-backed insurer that sells home insurance for those who can’t get coverage through private insurers.Citizens had more than 1 million active policies as of Sept. 23, before Ian hit, according to Michael Peltier, a spokesman at Citizens. In 2019, that number was roughly 420,000. He said the company had been writing 8,000 to 9,000 new policies per week, double compared with a few years ago. Citizens has $13.4 billion in reserves and predicts it will pay 225,000 claims from Ian worth a total of $3.7 billion. Even if they have homeowners’ insurance, many Floridians could still be facing financial ruin because of flooding. Flood damage isn’t typically covered by homeowners’ insurance but can be costly; Florida’s Division of Emergency Management says 1 inch of floodwater can do $25,000 in damage.Friedlander said just 18% of Florida homeowners carry flood insurance, either through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program or private insurers. In some coastal areas, more than half of homeowners have flood insurance, but in inland areas — where flood waters continued to rise even after the storm had passed — it’s closer to 5%.Kelly, whose trailer in Fort Myers was saturated in 4 feet of salt water and sewage after Hurricane Ian, could have benefitted from flood insurance. He thought he might not be able to get it because he didn’t have homeowners insurance, but that’s not the case — flood insurance is completely separate and can even be purchased by renters, experts say.“I kinda let it lie when I originally couldn’t find someone to insure it,” he said. “It’s a costly oversight on my part.” ————Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.————For more coverage of Hurricane Ian, go to: https://apnews.com/hub/hurricanes

Texas inmate who fought prayer, touch rules to be executed

Texas inmate who fought prayer, touch rules to be executed

HOUSTON — A Texas death row inmate whose case clarified the role of spiritual advisers in death chambers nationwide is scheduled for execution Wednesday, despite efforts by a district attorney to stop his lethal injection.John Henry Ramirez, 38, was sentenced to death for killing 46-year-old Pablo Castro, a convenience store clerk, in 2004. Prosecutors said Castro was taking the trash out from the store in Corpus Christi when Ramirez robbed him of $1.25 and stabbed him 29 times.Castro’s killing took place during a series of robberies; Ramirez and two women had been stealing money following a three-day drug binge. Ramirez fled to Mexico but was arrested 3½ years later.Ramirez challenged state prison rules that prevented his pastor from touching him and praying aloud during his execution, saying his religious freedom was being violated. That challenge led to his execution being delayed as well as the executions of others. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Ramirez, saying states must accommodate the wishes of death row inmates who want to have their faith leaders pray and touch them during their executions.On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously declined to commute Ramirez’s death sentence to a lesser penalty. According to his attorney, Ramirez has exhausted all possible appeals and no final request to the U.S. Supreme Court is planned.The lead prosecutor at Ramirez’s trial in 2008, Mark Skurka, said it was unfair that Ramirez would have someone praying over him as he dies when Castro didn’t have the same opportunity.“It has been a long time coming, but Pablo Castro will probably finally get the justice that his family has sought for so long, despite the legal delays,” said Skurka, who later served as Nueces County district attorney before retiring. Ramirez’s attorney, Seth Kretzer, said while he feels empathy for Castro’s family, his client’s challenge was about protecting religious freedoms for all. Ramirez was not asking for something new but something that has been part of jurisprudence throughout history, Kretzer said. He said even Nazi war criminals were provided ministers before their executions after World War II.“That was not a reflection on some favor we were doing for the Nazis,” Kretzer said. “Providing religious administration at the time of death is a reflection of the relative moral strength of the captors.”Kretzer said Ramirez’s spiritual adviser, Dana Moore, will also be able to hold a Bible in the death chamber, which hadn’t been allowed before.Ramirez’s case took another turn in April when current Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez asked a judge to withdraw the death warrant and delay the execution, saying it had been requested by mistake. Gonzalez said he considers the death penalty “unethical.”During a nearly 20-minute Facebook live video, Gonzalez said he believes the death penalty is one of the “many things wrong with our justice system.” Gonzalez said he would not seek the death penalty while he remains in office. He did not return a phone call or email seeking comment.Also in April, four of Castro’s children filed a motion asking that Ramirez’s execution order be left in place.“I want my father to finally have his justice as well as the peace to finally move on with my life and let this nightmare be over,” Fernando Castro, one of his sons, said in the motion. In June, a judge declined Gonzalez’ request to withdraw Wednesday’s execution date. Last month, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declined to even consider the request. If Ramirez is executed, he would be the third inmate put to death this year in Texas and the 11th in the U.S. ———Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Today in History: October 5, Truman speaks on TV

Today in History: October 5, Truman speaks on TV

Today in History Today is Wednesday, Oct. 5, the 278th day of 2022. There are 87 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Oct. 5, 1953, Earl Warren was sworn in as the 14th chief justice of the United States, succeeding Fred M. Vinson. On this date: In 1892, the Dalton Gang, notorious for its train robberies, was practically wiped out while attempting to rob a pair of banks in Coffeyville, Kansas.In 1947, President Harry S. Truman delivered the first televised White House address as he spoke on the world food crisis. In 1958, racially-desegregated Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee, was mostly leveled by an early morning bombing. In 1983, Solidarity founder Lech Walesa (lek vah-WEN’-sah) was named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1989, a jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, convicted former P-T-L evangelist Jim Bakker (BAY’-kur) of using his television show to defraud followers. (Although initially sentenced to 45 years in prison, Bakker was freed in December 1994 after serving 4 1/2 years.)In 1994, 48 people were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide carried out simultaneously in two Swiss villages by members of a secret religious doomsday cult known as the Order of the Solar Temple; five other bodies were found the same week in a building owned by the sect near Montreal, Canada.In 2001, tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens died from inhaled anthrax, the first of a series of anthrax cases in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Washington. In 2005, defying the White House, senators voted 90-9 to approve an amendment sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain that would prohibit the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” against anyone in U.S. government custody. (A reluctant President George W. Bush later signed off on the amendment.) In 2011, Steve Jobs, 56, the Apple founder and former chief executive who’d invented and master-marketed ever sleeker gadgets that transformed everyday technology from the personal computer to the iPod and iPhone, died in Palo Alto, California. In 2015, the United States, Japan and 10 other nations in Asia and the Americas reached agreement on the landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. In 2018, a jury in Chicago convicted white police officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of Black teenager Laquan McDonald. (Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months in state prison.) In 2020, President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House after leaving the military hospital where he was receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19; Trump immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness, the nation should not fear the virus. Ten years ago: A month before the presidential election, the Labor Department reported that unemployment fell in Sept. 2012 to its lowest level, 7.8 percent, since President Barack Obama took office; some Republicans questioned whether the numbers had been manipulated.Five years ago: Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein announced that he was taking a leave of absence from his company after a New York Times article detailed decades of alleged sexual harassment against women including actor Ashley Judd. The National Rifle Association and the White House expressed support for controls on “bump stock” devices like those that apparently aided the gunman behind the Las Vegas attack; the NRA later said it was opposed to an outright ban on the devices. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation extending protections for immigrants living in the United States illegally; police in California would be barred from asking people about their immigration status or taking part in federal immigration enforcement activities.One year ago: A former Facebook employee, data scientist Frances Haugen, told a Senate panel that the company knew that its platform spread misinformation and content that harmed children, but that it refused to make changes that could hurt its profits. Work at all of the Kellogg Company’s U.S. cereal plants came to a halt as roughly 1,400 workers went on strike. (The strike would end in December after workers voted to ratify a new contract.) A Russian actor and a film director rocketed into space on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to make the world’s first movie in orbit during a 12-day stay on the International Space Station. Today’s Birthdays: Actor Glynis Johns is 99. College Football Hall of Fame coach Barry Switzer is 85. R

W.Va. Supreme Court hears arguments in school voucher case

W.Va. Supreme Court hears arguments in school voucher case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A voucher program that would provide West Virginia parents state money to pull their children out of K-12 public schools is blatantly unconstitutional and would disproportionately impact poor children and those with disabilities, a lawyer representing parents who sued the state argued Tuesday in West Virginia’s Supreme Court.The Hope Scholarship Program, which was passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature last year and would have been one of the most far-reaching school choice programs in the country, “negatively and intentionally” impacts West Virginia’s system of free schools, lawyer Tamerlin Godley told justices during oral arguments.“It decreases enrollment, and thus funding,” said Godley, who is representing two parents of children who receive special education supports in West Virginia public schools. “It utilizes public funding for subsidizing more affluent families that have chosen private and homeschooling and it silos the poor and special needs children who cannot use the vouchers.”Signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice last year, the program was set to go into effect this school year but was blocked by Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit in July. In a lawsuit supported by the West Virginia Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools, three parents of special education students said the scholarship program takes money away from already underfunded public schools and is prohibitive because there aren’t local private schools that could meet their children’s needs. One family has since withdrawn from the case. The state immediately appealed the ruling. It’s unclear when justices will make a decision on the program, although the court’s current term ends in November. The law that created the Hope Scholarship Program allows families to apply for state funding to support private school tuition, homeschooling fees and a wide range of other expenses. More than 3,000 students had been approved to receive around $4,300 each during the program’s inaugural cycle, according to the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office.Families could not receive the money if their children were already homeschooled or attending private school. To qualify, students had to have been enrolled in a West Virginia public school last year or set to begin kindergarten this school year.Supporters of the scholarship say the program would actually help low-income families that want an alternative to public education but couldn’t otherwise afford to make the change. The Hope Scholarship Program gives West Virginians “the same choice that wealthier families have always enjoyed—the right to choose the best education for their children,” Institute for Justice Attorney Joe Gay argued in January when parents first filed their lawsuit against the state. The Institute for Justice, which has defended educational choice programs in courts across the U.S., is representing at least one parent who intervened in the case in support of the program.Solicitor General Lindsay See argued Tuesday in court that state legislatures have discretion in making laws, unlike a state agency, which “can only do the things the Constitution or statute specifically says it can.” “Public schools are critically important, but the Legislature was not out of bounds for concluding that West Virginia families should have access to other options to based on their children’s individual needs,” she said. See said the program would result in a loss of funding for public schools — but not enough of a decrease that school districts will not be able to “perform their constitutionally mandated functions.” “That’s for the simple reason that decreased revenue from one year to another is not enough on its own to prove that a company or state or a school district is going to run a deficit,” she said. “Certainly, some costs are going to go down as students leave a particular public school. That decrease may not be one to one, but it’s not zero to one.”

Oklahoma judge rules man competent to be executed this month

Oklahoma judge rules man competent to be executed this month

McALESTER, Okla. — An Oklahoma judge ruled Tuesday that a man on death row for killing his 9-month-old daughter is competent to be executed, paving the way for his lethal injection next month. Judge Mike Hogan in Pittsburg County, where the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is located, issued his decision in the case of Benjamin Cole, 57, who is scheduled to die on Oct. 20. Cole’s attorneys said they plan to appeal. His attorneys have argued that Cole suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and that a lesion on his brain has worsened in recent years, affecting the part of his brain that deals with problem solving and movement. They told the state’s Pardon and Parole Board last month that Cole has refused medical attention and ignored his personal hygiene, hoarding food and living in a darkened cell with little to no communication with staff or fellow prisoners.Cole’s execution would be the sixth since Oklahoma resumed carrying them out in October 2021.

Lawyer: Trump 'eager' for deposition in rape accuser case

Lawyer: Trump 'eager' for deposition in rape accuser case

NEW YORK — A lawyer for ex-President Donald Trump said Tuesday that her client is “ready and eager” to sit for a deposition in the defamation case of a woman who says he raped her in the 1990s, but she’s nevertheless asking that it be postponed.Attorney Alina Habba wrote to a Manhattan federal judge to ask that the Oct. 19 deposition of Trump in the case brought by columnist E. Jean Carroll be delayed because the appeals process hasn’t been completed to decide whether Trump will remain the defendant or be replaced by the United States.The Justice Department says the United States should be the defendant because Trump’s comments occurred while he was president. If the substitution occurs, the case would be moot since the U.S. government is immune from defamation lawsuits.Carroll sued Trump in 2019, saying he raped her in the mid-1990s in an upscale Manhattan department store’s dressing room and then defamed her in public comments after she released a book during his presidency in which she described her chance encounter with him.Her defamation lawsuit was slowed by a pre-trial appeal in which the Justice Department asserted that Trump was protected from liability because his comments fell within his duties as president.A lower court judge disagreed, but a federal appeals court negated that ruling and asked the highest court in the District of Columbia to decide whether Trump’s statements were job-related.In her letter, Habba said numerous depositions are scheduled between Tuesday and Oct. 19. Habba has asked a judge to suspend proceedings until the appeal is finished. An electronic conference to discuss the issue is set for Friday.Habba wrote that while Trump “remains ready and eager to sit for his deposition, we believe that it would be a waste of the parties’ time and resources to engage in such intensive discovery proceedings while a motion to stay is pending and a dispositive issue is yet to be resolved.”In a letter opposing Habba’s request, attorney Roberta Kaplan wrote Friday that Trump “should not be permitted to assert at the last minute that he is entitled to avoid a deposition.”Kaplan noted the case was three years old and said Trump hopes to run out the clock “until he is elected president again.”She compared his defamation lawsuit comments in which he said Carroll was “not my type” to his response to an investigation into classified documents found in a raid of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.“To hear Defendant tell it, he acted as an employee of the government in retaliating against Plaintiff for revealing that he had raped her decades earlier, and in declaring that she was too ugly to rape, but he could not possibly have been an employee of the government when he absconded from the White House with national security secrets,” the lawyer said.Habba responded to Kaplan by saying meritless arguments led her to offer “gratuitous … arguments that are not only inflammatory and inaccurate but, more importantly, wholly unrelated to the issue at hand.”

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