05 24 2016
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  • The judge concluded Officer Edward Nero played little role in the arrest and wasn't responsible for the failure by police to buckle Gray in  
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  • Bill Cosby faces a preliminary hearing Tuesday to determine if his criminal sex-assault case in suburban Philadelphia goes to trial.Prosecutors had declined to charge the comedian-actor over the 2005 complaint, but arrested him in December after his explosive deposition in the woman's lawsuit became public. In the testimony given in that deposition, Cosby is grilled about giving drugs and alcohol to women before sex; making secret payments to ex-lovers; and hosting Andrea Constand at his home. They knew each other through Temple University, where he was a trustee and she managed the women's basketball team. Bill Cosby's wife refused to answer dozens of questions during a combative deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by seven women who say the comedian branded them liars after they accused him of sexually assaulting them, according to a transcript released Friday. Camille Cosby was subjected to intense questioning by the women's lawyer, who repeatedly pressed her to say whether she believes her husband "acted with a lack of integrity" during their 52-year marriage. The lawyer also asked if her husband used his position and power "to manipulate young women." Camille Cosby didn't answer those questions and many others after her lawyer cited marital privilege, the legal protection given to communications between spouses. She repeatedly said she had "no opinion" when pressed on whether she viewed her husband's behavior as dishonest and a violation of their marriage vows. About 50 women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of forcing unwanted sexual contact on them decades ago. Cosby has denied the allegations. He faces a criminal case in Pennsylvania, where prosecutors have charged him with sexually violating a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand. He has pleaded not guilty. Camille Cosby answered questions in the deposition Feb. 22 and again April 19 after her lawyers argued unsuccessfully to stop it. A judge ruled she would have to give a deposition but said she could refuse to answer questions about private communications between her and her husband. Camille Cosby's lawyer, Monique Pressley, repeatedly cited that privilege and advised her not to answer many questions asked by the women's lawyer, Joseph Cammarata. The exchanges between Cammarata and Cosby became testy at times, and she admonished him: "Don't lecture me. Just keep going with the questions." Using a transcript of a deposition Bill Cosby gave in a civil lawsuit filed by Constand in 2005 and a transcript of an interview she gave to Oprah Winfrey in 2000, Cammarata asked Camille Cosby about extramarital affairs her husband had. "Were you aware of your husband setting up trusts for the benefit of women that he had a sexual relationship with?" Cammarata asked. She didn't answer after her lawyer cited marital privilege. Cammarata asked her about Shawn Thompson, a woman who said Bill Cosby fathered her daughter, Autumn Jackson, in the 1970s. Jackson was convicted in 1997 of attempting to extort money from Bill Cosby to prevent her from telling a tabloid she's his daughter. He acknowledged he had an affair with her mother and had given her money. "Was it a big deal when this came up in the 1970s that your husband had — big deal to you that your husband had an extramarital affair and potentially had a daughter from that extramarital affair?" Cammarata asked. "It was a big deal then, yes," Camille Cosby replied. She said she had "no opinion" on whether her husband's admission he obtained quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex violated their marriage vows. Her lawyer objected and instructed her not to answer when Cammarata asked her if she ever suspected she had been given any type of drug to alter her state of consciousness when she had sex with her husband. A spokesman for the Cosbys declined to comment on her deposition. The Cosbys have a home in Shelburne Falls, an hour's drive from Springfield, where the lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed. An attorney handling a separate lawsuit against Bill Cosby revealed Friday that Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner provided sworn testimony Wednesday. In the sexual battery lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, Judy Huth says Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him at the Playboy Mansion around 1974, when she was 15. Bill Cosby's former lawyers have accused Huth of attempting to extort him before filing the case and have tried unsuccessfully to have it dismissed. Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, said Hefner's testimony will remain under seal for now. Hefner also was named as a defendant in a case filed Monday by former model Chloe Goins, who accuses Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008.   The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who say they're victims of sexual abuse, but the women accusing Cosby have come forward to tell their stories.___AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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  • Some hope killing will bring peace in Afghanistan     
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Don Merrill

There are millions of websites out there with gazillions of political points of view fighting for voters’ attention every day of the week.

But how many of them are actually useful tools for understanding your own political environment -- whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Green or Libertarian?

Don Merrill of Oregon City just launched a website for everyday people to dig deep into state Constitutions, using e-book-inspired audio uploads, breaking news updates and more – and he hopes that people from coast to coast will use it to become active in making their state the best it can be.

Along the way his work offers fascinating insight into each state’s “personality,” and a deeper understanding of the different roles played by state and federal governments in our daily lives.

Originally from Ohio, Merrill is a retired soldier; a former federal government public affairs specialist; a radio, video and print journalist; and now self-employed media expert with experience across many platforms.

The Skanner News sat down with him to talk about his stunning new website, http://www.stateconstitutions.us, and why state constitutions are key factors shaping our everyday lives.

The Skanner News: What inspired you to build this web resource?

Don Merrill: I wanted people to have more access to their state government. I wanted them to have more access to the founding documents of their state, the Constitutions. I’ve just been really disappointed in the way the federal government has been behaving. Whether we’re talking about court decisions, whether we’re talking about our president who either didn’t follow the good advice he had to got bad advice; to our legislators who can’t seem to legislate, let alone cooperate, let alone communicate.

And so I started thinking, well there must be another way that people can get access to their government. Fortunately we have a Federalist system so there are levels – federal, state and municipal -- and the level that I think affects most people on the day to day level is the state. So I thought everyone puts so much emphasis on the federal constitution, but as I did this project I realized that the federal constitution, when it was created it really was meant to give just the most basic of protections, it’s at the states where the day to day work of governing our lives takes place, but people don’t really pay attention to the state constitution.

And so I thought that if they had more access to it, they would access it more. Because these people – when legislators make a decision they don’t go someplace else when they’re done; they live here. So we have more effect on them, as opposed to the federal legislators who go through a Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing when they get elected and they go away.

TSN: Where there any surprises for you?

Merrill: I learned that Alabama has the longest constitution on Earth. I turned all of these Constitutions into audio files, so they could be downloaded as an audio book. So people could listen to them. It’s really a long process, I could tell you but it’s really long.

The Alabama constitution is longer than India’s and when I turned it into an audio file it was 44 hours long.

The shortest constitution is Vermont; it’s an hour. The US constitution is shorter than Vermont’s constitution and that was also something that I was thinking about: How is it that a document that governs 300 million people is shorter than the shortest constitution in the states? And it’s because, again, the federal constitution was not designed to govern our day to day lives; the states were.

Another thing I learned was, almost every state’s constitution begins with a promise to its people, and that promise is called a preamble. Almost every state has a preamble; our state has a preamble. Preambles are promises that the founding fathers made to the people who are going to live in that state of what they promise to do on behalf of the state and what they plan to do on behalf of the people who live in that state.

Preambles are very different fro state to state. Some states focus on their relationship to the land; other states focus on their relationship to God. Other preambles focus on their aspirations for industry or commerce. Some states are really particular about their location, in their preamble they’ll say beginning at Missouri River, transversing the border of so and so.

So you can see through the preambles, states have very different characters and personalities. I try to address a lot of things on this website to have people become familiar not just with the constitutions but for people to get familiar with the personalities of the states those constitutions govern.

TSN: You’ve got a lot more going on here than it seems. You have audiofiles of the constitutions as well as written copies; you also have a news feed.

Merrill: I have a news feed about challenges to the constitutions across the country. So if people want to read about how state constitutions can be challenged in court, they can read the news feed and then if you scroll back up to the top of the page, if readers see a term they want to investigate they can type it in and find where that term appears in the state constitution. They can look through all constitutions or they can select the state and see where that term appears in their state constitution.

So, just to take that one example, if someone wanted to investigate issues of race and racial language in the Oregon constitution, they could just come over here and start searching around.

TSN: What do you want people to do with it?
Merrill: I want people to become more aware one, of the effect government has on them, and two, the effect they can have on government. I don’t think people can do that as easily at the federal level as they can at the state level.

TSN: What are you working on next?
Merrill: This has got me thinking about the federal government, and I’m thinking that I might want to at some point start working on a look at the efficiency and efficacy of federal agencies. I look at the way they operate and I’m not sure – for instance the whole public comment process. I worked for a federal agency for 12 years and I was in the military for 12 years, so I have a lot of experience with the federal government. The way the federal government deals with the public is really, really interesting. I’m not sure the agencies operate in the bests interests of the public. And because I have the experience that I have, I think there are some ways I might be able to bring to the table, some kind of book or something.

For more information go to www.stateconstitutions.us

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