Senator Menendez Trial Begins

In Newark yesterday for opening statements in the bribery trial of senator Bob Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen.

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Conclusion Of Penn State Frat Death Hearing

Magistrate District Judge Allen Sinclair yesterday dismissed most of the more serious charges against eighteen members of the Penn State Beta Theta Pi fraternity related to the hazing death of pledge Timothy Piazza. Fourteen still face trial on the remaining charges. District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said she would refile manslaughter and assault charges.

 

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Continuing Beta Theta Pi Preliminary Hearing

Back in Bellefonte last week for two more days of preliminary hearing into the death of Penn State frat house pledge Timothy Piazza. Not an easy assignment. Not because of the challenge of drawing the ornate courtroom crowded with multiple defendants – eighteen charged, I think, though not all were present – and their lawyers, rather because of the anguish, and anger, and grief that were not just present but displayed and expressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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June End Of Term Sketches

June is when the Supreme Court releases the last of its opinions in cases argued earlier during the term, especially the harder to decide cases. This term big news on the last day was about a case yet to be argued, when the Court agreed to hear Trump’s travel ban in the next term.

In other Supreme Court news, after announcing the disposition of the remaining cases, and other housekeeping matters, the Chief Justice noted the retirement of Lyle Denniston, a veteran of nearly 60 years covering the Court and known as the dean of the Supreme Court press.

Here are some sketches from the Court’s June opinions. More June sketches are on my online archives.

Chief Justice Roberts announcing disposition of the term’s remaining cases, as well as the travel ban.

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Gorsuch Investiture

My sketch of Justice Gorsuch’s investiture ceremony at the Supreme Court yesterday. President Trump and first lady Melania attended, seated between Justice Kennedy’s wife, Mary, and retired Justice Stevens (not shown). Also present but not shown in my sketch were several former Attorney Generals, members of the Senate Judiciary (but not Grassley), and the new justice’s wife and daughters.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is shown at the lectern holding a scroll, really a prop onto which were pasted the words of Gorsuch’s formal commission.

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The Last Hours Of Timothy Piazza

 

A preliminary hearing began yesterday for members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State charged in the death Timothy Piazza. Piazza was one of the pledges made to run a gantlet of drinking stations on the night of February 2. He suffered serious injuries while falling-down drunk, including a skull fracture and ruptured spleen.

Piazza’s parents were in the Bellefonte courtroom as the hearing got underway. Timothy’s father visibly struggled with grief, his fingers shaking, when a photo of his unconscious son, intubated in the ICU was exhibited on a screen.

Difficult to watch closed-circuit video of Timothy Piazza’s dying hours showed him alone through the night, still inebriated and in pain, stumbling and thrashing about on the frat house ground floor. 

By morning, as the house wakes up, Piazza is found in the basement and brought upstairs. His skin is gray, his legs and arms rigid . . . he appears dead. Yet no one calls 911. The frat brothers move him to a couch, put a blanket on him, try to put a t-shirt on him, and start cleaning up the house. Some just stand around, cell phones in hand.

District attorney Stacy Parks Miller repeatedly asks the witness, Detective Scicchitano, “Has anyone called 911 yet?” For the longest time the answer is “No”.

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Still Waiting For The Big Ones . . .

The Supreme Court announced opinions in four argued cases yesterday: Los Angeles v. MendezBNSF Railway v. TyrrellEsquivel-Quintana v. Sessionsand Impression Products v. Lexmark International. On a gray, rainy day the general feeling was . . . meh.

 

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Opinion On North Carolina Redistricting

A little late posting this sketch from Monday of Justice Kagan announcing the opinion in Cooper v. Harris. Note that Justices Alito and Breyer were absent from the bench though they did take part in the decision. Justice Gorsuch (spell check keeps insisting on “Grouch”), who was on the bench, took no part.

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Fourth Circuit En Banc

The full Fourth Circuit – less two recused – sat in Richmond yesterday for the first appellate review of Trump’s travel ban. Next Monday the Ninth Circuit will also hear arguments on a Hawaiian judge’s order blocking parts of the “Muslim ban”. The Ninth Circuit allows cameras, so don’t expect sketches.

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Two Opinions, One Sketch

Justice Breyer had the opinions in both cases announced today, Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne International and Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami ( note, Justice Sotomayor was absent from the bench ).

And although one courtroom sketch covered both opinions, I also did my usual SCOTUSblog banner sketch.

 

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