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The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday rejected the postconviction appeal of a man serving life in prison for the brutal stabbing death of his girlfriend in 2017.

Lucio Munoz, 69, had argued in his postconviction motion that his trial and direct appeal attorneys were so ineffective that it violated his right to fair trial. When a lower court rejected his motion without an evidentiary hearing, Munoz appealed.

On Friday, the state’s high court ruled that the lower court was right to dismiss the appeal without a hearing, saying Munoz failed to show he had any new evidence or information that would have changed the outcome of his conviction.

Munoz was found guilty of killing 48-year-old Melissa May, whose body was found in her Scottsbluff apartment Jan. 3, 2017, after officers went to check on her. Authorities said she had been stabbed 37 times, most likely on Dec. 31, 2016.

By the time May’s body was found, Munoz had already left town. He was arrested several days later in Bradley, Illinois.



Brazil’s Federal Police on Wednesday carried out searches to investigate whether Environment Minister Ricardo Salles and other key figures within the ministry facilitated illegal timber exports to the U.S. and Europe.
The Supreme Court authorized the search of nearly three dozen locations in Sao Paulo state, the Amazonian state of Para and Brazil’s federal district, according to a police statement.

The operation stems from a decision of the court’s Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who ordered the investigation of 10 officials at the ministry and the regulatory agency.

Nine of them were preventatively suspended from working, including agency President Eduardo Bim — but not Salles — according to a copy of de Moraes’ May 13 decision made public on Wednesday. He wrote that there appeared to be a contraband scheme with Salles’ involvement.

Local media G1 reported Salles told reporters in capital Brasilia that he understood the police operation to be overblown and unnecessary, and said his ministry always acts in accordance with laws. The ministry and regulator didn’t respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

The justice’s decision alleged that officials issued several certificates retroactively authorizing specific timber shipments after their seizure abroad and that subsequently, in February 2020, Salles and Bim met with lumber companies and lawmakers about exports from Para state.

Bim soon issued an order retroactively loosening requirements for “thousands of loads exported between 2019 and 2020 without respective documentaion,” de Moraes wrote. The judge’s decision also suspended Bim’s order.




Kentucky’s Supreme Court has ended most coronavirus-related restrictions for the state’s court system effective immediately, Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said Tuesday.

The high court entered administrative orders eliminating most health and safety requirements related to COVID-19 and expanding in-person court operations, Minton said.

“After the most challenging year in the history of the modern court system, I am pleased to announce that the Supreme Court has lifted most of the COVID-19 restrictions for employees, elected officials and those entering court facilities across the commonwealth,” Minton said.
The court’s action “allows us to begin transitioning back to normal operations,” he added.

The changes include allowing in-person access to court facilities for anyone with court business, except for those who have symptoms, tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19.

The mask mandate is eliminated for fully vaccinated people entering court facilities and for fully vaccinated court officials and employees, but those not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to continue using masks. Judges will be permitted to require people in their courtrooms to wear masks.

The court lifted most restrictions on jury trials but requires continuances, postponements and recusals for attorneys, parties and jurors who are ill or at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.




Robert Collier says that during the seven years he worked as an operating room aide at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, white nurses called him and other Black employees “boy.” Management ignored two large swastikas painted on a storage room wall. And for six months, he regularly rode an elevator with the N-word carved into a wall.

Collier ultimately sued the hospital, but lower courts dismissed his case. Now, however, beginning with a private conference that was scheduled for Thursday, the Supreme Court is considering for the first time whether to hear the case. (Although the court did not comment, the case remained on its calendar, which likely means it was discussed Thursday.)

Focusing on the elevator graffiti, Collier is asking the justices to decide whether a single use of the N-word in the workplace can create a hostile work environment, giving an employee the ability to pursue a case under Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Already, the court’s two newest members, both appointed by President Donald Trump, are on record with seemingly different views. The case is also a test of whether the justices are willing to wade into the ongoing, complex conversations about race happening nationwide. The public could learn as soon as Monday whether the court will take Collier’s case.

Jennifer A. Holmes, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has urged the court to take the case, says she hopes the conversations taking place nationally will push the justices in that direction.

Doing so gives the court an “opportunity to show that they’re not insensitive to issues of race,” Holmes said. And courts are “all the time” confronting workplace discrimination claims involving use of the N-word, she said. The question for the justices, she said, is just whether someone who experiences an isolated instance of the N-word can “advance their case beyond the beginning stage.” Two of the court’s nine justices have experience with similar cases.



A British lawyer and climate campaigner was fined 5,000 pounds ($7,070) on Monday after being convicted of contempt of court for a tweet which broke an embargo on a U.K. Supreme Court judgment over Heathrow Airport’s expansion.

Tim Crosland, a director of an environmental campaign group, revealed on social media the court ruling on Heathrow Airport’s proposed third runway a day before it was made public in December. He was among involved parties to receive a draft of the appeal judgment, and has said that he broke the embargo deliberately as “an act of civil disobedience” to protest the “deep immorality of the court’s ruling.”

The court had ruled that a planned third runway at Heathrow was legal. The case was at the center of a long-running controversy and environmentalists had argued for years that the climate impact far outweighed the economic benefits of expanding the airport.

Crosland said the proposed 14 billion-pound ($19.8 billion) expansion of Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest, would breach Britain’s commitments to the Paris climate agreement.

He argued that the government “deliberately suppressed” information about the effect that the airport’s expansion would have on the climate crisis, and said the publicity gained over breaking the embargo would act as an “antidote” to that.

Addressing the court, Crosland said: “If complicity in the mass loss of life that makes the planet uninhabitable is not a crime, then nothing is a crime.”

Three Supreme Court justices found Crosland in contempt of court for his “deliberate and calculated breaches of the embargo” and fined him 5,000 pounds.

The judges said he “wanted to demonstrate his deliberate defiance of the prohibition and to bring this to the attention of as large an audience as possible.”

Crosland had brought a small suitcase to Monday’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in case he was given immediate jail time. The maximum sentence had been up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine.




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