Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on reality TV star and aspiring attorney Kim Kardashian looking into Corey “C-Murder” Miller's split-jury conviction:
Sometimes it pays to have prominent friends with worldwide fame.
Corey “C-Murder” Miller may be getting excited about his chances for a turn of fortune since Kim Kardashian says she’s going to take up his cause.
In a Sunday tweet, Kardashian, who is preparing to be an attorney, said she’s aware of Miller’s cases and she’s lining up support to challenge his conviction for a fatal shooting of a teenager at a Harvey nightclub in 2002. Miller, 49, is serving a life prison sentence after a Jefferson Parish jury found him guilty of shooting Steve Thomas, 16, during a fight. Though his initial 2003 conviction was overturned, a jury in a 2009 retrial found him guilty of second-degree murder.
Kardashian, using the hashtag #FreeCoreyMiller, noted that Miller was convicted with a nonunanimous 10-2 verdict, a verdict that would not be acceptable today. The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed split jury verdicts earlier this year. The problem is that the court did not decide whether its decision should be applied retroactively to all inmates who were convicted by split juries.
There’s the rub.
Miller is the younger brother of Louisiana rap guru Master P. He and about 1,800 less famous inmates are serving time in our state based on split-jury convictions. In 2018, Louisiana voters approved a constitutional amendment to end split-jury verdicts in felony cases. But that only applied to crimes committed after that year.
Kardashian clearly is placing her foot in our state’s arena with the bet that she can influence the high court’s decision as it considers the case of life prisoner Thedrick Edwards. Edwards was convicted by a divided jury of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and five counts of armed robbery during a 2006 crime spree in Baton Rouge. He seeks retrial.
Oral arguments are likely this fall, and criminal justice reform advocates are lining up to fight to invalidate old split-jury verdicts now that they are no longer a part of our future.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision noted that retrials would be expensive. They certainly will be. Miller’s situation makes it clear, once again, that it is important that Louisiana deal with the anticipated costs and consider the complications as a critical part of ensuring foundational constitutional rights.
If someone is wrongly accused and convicted, that’s wrong. If an entire jury isn’t certain, there shouldn’t be a conviction.
Kardashian and advocates like her with less fame are right that the split-jury’s time has come and gone.
The American Press on helping businesses during the pandemic:
As of last week, nearly 9,000 businesses have submitted their application to the Louisiana Main Street Recovery Grant Program, an initiative offered by the state’s Department of Treasury to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The funding comes from the more than $1.8 billion in funds Louisiana received from the national CARES Act. About $275 million of those funds have been allocated to Louisiana’s small businesses through the Main Street Recovery Program for economic support.
Through the program, businesses can apply for up to $15,000 to cover eligible expenses. In the first 21 days of the program — which began taking applications July 28 — grants will be given to businesses that didn’t receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan, insurance payment or an Economic Injury Disaster loan.
In the first 60 days, $40 million will go to businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans, the treasury said.
If a business has already received assistance from other government programs, that business can still be eligible for this grant program. Assistance previously received from other sources will be subtracted from the claimed amount on the grant.
“Main Street is a life line for small businesses who are going under because of the pandemic,” Treasurer John Schroder said in a news release. “As a business owner, you put your blood, sweat and tears into your business. You shouldn’t see your life investment collapse overnight.”
Schroder said the program will “deliver grants to businesses who need them the most.”
Eligible businesses are those that were domiciled in Louisiana as of March 1; suffered an interruption of business; are at least 50 percent owned by a Louisiana resident; have no more than 50 full-time employees; have customers or employees who visit a physical location; and those that filed Louisiana taxes in 2018, 2019 or will file in 2020.
Those businesses deemed eligible will receive a check in the mail. Grant funds will not have to be repaid unless it is determined that the information contained within the application was false, fraudulent or materially misleading.
There is also a “QuickRelief” option that allows eligible applicants to receive grants up to $5,000 on an expedited basis.
Applications can be submitted online at www.louisianamainstreet.com. A business can also determine eligibility by visiting www.louisianamainstreet.com/business-eligibility-quiz/.
If your business is eligible, consider applying.
The Houma Courier on exempting law school graduates from passing the bar exam:
State Supreme Court Justice John Weimer’s vote last month to exempt Louisiana law school graduates from passing the state bar exam amid the coronavirus pandemic raises ethics concerns.
Weimer, of Thibodaux, voted with the majority in the 4-3 decision, which benefits hundreds of aspiring lawyers who can now practice, under specific guidelines, without passing the normally required test. The concern arises because his daughter, a recent graduate of LSU’s law school, is among those who will benefit.
It’s the subject of a Times-Picayune-New Orleans Advocate story that appears today at houmatoday.com and dailycomet.com.
In the story, several experts say it’s not clear-cut whether ethics rules or anything else would compel Weimer to step aside, or recuse himself, from the vote. They say the biggest problem is his failure to disclose the conflict in the public record or give reasons for his decision to cast a vote.
Weimer, in a response to questions from the Picayune and Advocate, said he would have voted the same had his daughter not been involved “because that was the most prudent decision during the escalating pandemic.”
One of the things a law professor says in the story stands out amid the complexity.
“The overarching provision is, what does the public think about this?” Indiana University law professor Charles Gardner Geyh, who specializes in judicial ethics, is quoted as saying. “Not what does he think about this?’ ”
That makes a lot of sense, and the public’s perception of whether its judicial system is fair and impartial is at the core of Louisiana’s Code of Judicial Conduct. At least a couple of the code’s provisions apply:
-- “A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”
-- “A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment.”
It’s easy to understand how a reasonable person, a standard judges sometimes apply in court cases, could perceive Weimer’s actions as improper since they benefit his daughter.
It’s not definitive that Weimer committed an ethical violation, but judges can run afoul of the code for even giving the “appearance of impropriety.”
That’s why the most prudent thing Weimer could have done in this case was recuse himself.