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Many states have victim's advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched across the nation for signs of success.

There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut — seven lawyers and a UConn law professor, working with her students. It's up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases.

"Every state has the problem of overburdened courts that understandably prioritize human cases over animal cases in allocating resources," said University of Connecticut professor Jessica Rubin, a specialist in animal law. "Here's a way to help."

The American Kennel Club, though, opposed the legislation, saying it could result in confusion over who is responsible for an animal and limit the rights of animal owners, including in cases in which someone else is charged with the abuse.




A suspect in the poisoning death of the North Korean leader's half brother wrote to her parents from jail, asking them to pray for her but saying "don't think about me too much."

Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian mother who worked in Malaysia, appeared in court Tuesday along with a second suspect, Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam. Their trial was formally transferred to the High Court as the lower court had no jurisdiction to hear a murder case.

They are the only people who have been arrested in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam at the Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13.
Kim Jong Nam murder suspect asks her parents to pray for her

The suspects are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim's face in the crowded airport terminal; he died soon afterward. The women have said they were duped into thinking they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera show.

Yusron Ambary, counsellor at the Indonesian Embassy, said Siti wrote a letter to her parents recently, asking them not to worry about her.

"I am in good health. Just pray. Don't think about me too much. Keep healthy and pray at night. I have a lot of people helping me. The embassy officials always come to see me, my lawyers also. Don't worry. Pray for me so that the case will be over soon and I can go back home. Send my love to my son Rio," he read from the letter to reporters outside the courtroom.

Armed escorts accompanied the women, who smiled at their embassy representatives as they were brought to the dock.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said the date for their first appearance in the High Court would usually be within a month. The suspects would then enter pleas and the trial would have to start within 90 days, Iskandar said.

The court was also informed that lawyer Jagjit Singh was appointed by the North Korean Embassy to monitor the case for them. Singh told reporters later that he was engaged to "protect the interest" of the North Korean government. He didn't elaborate.

Police have said four North Korean suspects fled Malaysia the day of the attack. Defense lawyers fear the women will be scapegoats because other people believed to have knowledge of the case left the country.



An East Timor court on Thursday dismissed a criminal defamation case brought by the country's prime minister against two journalists due to lack of evidence.

Rights groups and press advocates had urged that the case be dropped, fearing it would further undermine press freedom in one of the world's youngest democracies.

Accused journalist Raimundo Oki said there was "big applause" when Dili District Court judge Patrocino Antonino Goncalves issued his ruling. The trial was observed by the International Federation of Journalists, USAID and other groups.

"I am happy with the final decision because since the beginning I have always believed that the judge will do his job freely and independently," Oki said.

Oki and his former editor at the Timor Post, Lourenco Vicente Martins, would have faced up to three years in prison if found guilty of slanderous denunciation.

The defamation accusation stemmed from an error in a story published two years ago about Prime Minister Rui Aria de Araujo's involvement in a state contract for information technology services when he was an adviser to East Timor's finance minister in 2014.

The story, which said Araujo had recommended a particular company for the contract before bids opened, misidentified that company as the eventual winner of the contract.

The newspaper apologized for that error, published a front-page story on Araujo's denial and Martins resigned. But Araujo has insisted on prosecuting. East Timor's fragile press freedom has come under attack with the passing of a restrictive media law in 2014 that can be used to stifle investigative journalism.

A former colony of Portugal, it was occupied by Indonesia for a quarter century until a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in 1999 sparked violent reprisals by the Indonesian military that killed many and destroyed its economy.




The tip received by police was vague, but potentially dire: a Pennsylvania physician was on his way to the nation's capital with a carload of weapons, planning to visit the president.

As a result, Bryan Moles, 43, of Edinboro, Pennsylvania, was arrested on weapons charges after checking in to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, a few blocks from the White House.

He is expected to make an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon.

While the Secret Service interviewed Moles and determined he posed no threat to the president or anyone else they protect, D.C.'s police chief said the tip averted a potential disaster.

"I was very concerned about this circumstance," Chief Peter Newsham said. When people come to the District "armed with those types of weapons, it's a serious concern. ... He doesn't have a really good reason for being here."

Moles was charged with carrying a pistol without a license and having unregistered ammunition. A police report said authorities seized a Glock 23 pistol, a Bushmaster assault-style rifle and 90 rounds of ammunition from Moles' vehicle.

Newsham added that the department does not presently have enough evidence to charge Moles with making threats.

Newsham declined to comment on what may have motivated Moles. He said he did not have a license to carry firearms in the District, which has strict gun laws. He did not know whether he was licensed to carry in Pennsylvania.



A mother who drowned three of her children and attempted to kill a fourth by driving the family car into an Australian lake was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years and six months in prison.

Akon Guode, 37, drove a SUV carrying four of her seven children into the lake in Melbourne in April 2015. Her 5-year-old daughter Alual survived after passersby pulled her from the partially submerged car.

But Guodes' 16-month-old son Bol and 4-year-old twins, Hanger and her brother Madit, died.

Victoria state Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry said he would have sentenced Goude to life in prison if she had not pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder.

"People don't understand why you did what you did," the judge said. "In my opinion, your actions were the product of extreme desperation," he added.

Goude wept and wailed through her sentencing hearing as the judge outlined her crimes and her troubled life that led to it.

Born one of 16 children in 1979, she fled Sudan's civil war in which her husband died and arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2006.

The judge set a non-parole period of 20 years and said she will likely be deported on release. Her hometown, the city of Wau, is now in South Sudan, which became an independent country in 2011. It's not clear to which country she will be deported.




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