02-19-2017  8:47 am      •     

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The head of the Louisiana NAACP is calling on the state Supreme Court's chief justice to intervene in the case of rap artist Corey "C-Murder" Miller, who was sentenced earlier this month to life in prison for killing a youth in a nightclub.
In a letter delivered late Tuesday to Chief Justice Catherine Kimball, NAACP state president Ernest Johnson questioned whether the jury's 10-2 vote to convict Miller was legitimate.
On Tuesday, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported that juror Mary Jacob twice cast the deciding vote, even though she said she did not believe prosecutors had proven their case. Jacob said she voted as she did just to end the "brutal" pressure that jurors who favored conviction were placing on another jury member -- a disabled 20-year-old college student -- who favored a not-guilty vote.
Miller was first convicted in 2003 of the shooting death of Steve Thomas during a brawl in a now-closed Harvey, La., nightclub, on Jan. 12, 2002. But the conviction was overturned because prosecutors withheld criminal background information on three key witnesses.
Miller was tried again and convicted Aug. 11.
After jurors in the second trial initially reported a conviction verdict, State District Judge Hans Liljeberg ordered the panel back to the jury room for more deliberation. Jacob said that was because she had written "under duress, to get the hell out of here" on her polling slip, The Times-Picayune reported.
After about three hours, Jacob said she again cast the deciding vote to convict. Liljeberg denied a defense motion for a mistrial.
Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that allow non-unanimous verdicts in some criminal cases.
In his letter to the chief justice, Johnson called for a full investigation of the case, and for Liljeberg to be replaced by another judge from outside of suburban Jefferson Parish where the case was tried.
In the interim, Miller should be released from prison "because justice delayed is justice denied," the letter said.
"While understanding the normal legal delays involved in a case of this nature, we believe that your supervisory intervention in this matter is greatly required in order to ensure that justice is afforded all concerned parties during any post-trial hearings," Johnson wrote.
But Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said that although the Supreme Court has administrative authority over all Louisiana courts, Miller will have to go through the normal appeals process, including review by a state circuit court of appeal and then the Supreme Court.
"Under these circumstances, it would be manifestly inappropriate for the Supreme Court to step in rather than allow the case to go through the normal appellate process," Ciolino said.
Valerie Willard, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, said Kimball could not comment on specific cases. Willard said the chief justice was answering Johnson in a letter to be mailed to him. Johnson would have the right to release that response to the public, Willard said.
Citing judicial ethics regulations, Liljeberg's office said he could not comment.
A message was left with Ron Rakosky, Miller's former defense attorney, although he has refused comment since leaving the case after the trial. It was not immediately clear Thursday whether Miller had yet hired an attorney or if one had been appointed for possible appeals.
Normally, a second-degree murder conviction would first be appealed to a state circuit court of appeal. That decision could be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Miller, who has been transferred to the state prison system, also is serving a 10-year sentence following no contest plea to two counts of attempted murder in a separate altercation at a nightclub in Baton Rouge in 2001. Authorities said Miller attempted to shoot the club owner and a bouncer after he refused to be searched.
Miller and his brothers -- Percy "Master P" Miller and Vyshonn "Silkk The Shocker" Miller -- used to rap on the now-defunct No Limit Records, a popular label for Southern rap through the 1990s that was founded by Percy Miller.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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