Editor’s Choice: Top Five Legal News Stories of the Day

Posted January 9, 2012 in Jury Awards by David Baarlaer

fetchHere are some news items we thought would interest you.

  • Child sex abuser back in jail, and hopefully for good! For 10 years, Robert Eugene Frost ran a day care center in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, a small city near Birmingham. That was until the center closed down last year after Frost was arrested on charges he sexually abused two 5-year-old girls at the center. Frost, who’s now 75 years old, was released on bond last February, and was required to stay on electronic monitoring and have no contact with parents, children or anyone else connected to the center.

    The other day, Frost was arrested after police executed search warrants at his home. Police officials didn’t release any details other than that Frost somehow violated the terms of his bond. It’s possible Frost will remain in jail until his trial.

    On top of that, the parents of one of the alleged victims Frost assaulted in 2010 recently filed a lawsuit (PDF) against Frost and others connected to the center. We can only hope that, if the allegations against Frost are true, he stays in jail for a very long time and that he and the center are held financially responsible for the physical and emotional injuries suffered by his victims.

    Learn more about child abuse and neglect and protecting your children at day care.

  • Not-so-sterile alcohol swabs cost lives – and maybe $millions for the manufacturer. Alcohol swabs are a staple in medicine cabinets, first aid kits and hospitals everywhere. Just make sure you don’t use any made by Wisconsin-based Triad Group or its sister company, H&P Industries. You may be risking serious illness, and possibly death, if you do.

    So far, at least eight federal law suits have been filed, and several others have been filed in state courts against the companies. Most of the suits claim the alcohol swaps are contaminated with bacteria and caused illnesses in those who used them. A few suits claim the contaminated swabs caused deaths, including a two-year old Texas boy. Triad recalled (PDF) the swabs last January.

    Sadly, these and other injuries may have been avoided. According to some investigative reporters, the FDA knew for over 10 years that there were health- or hazard-related problems with Triad’s operations, but the feds did nothing about it. Over the past few years, the FDA and other federal agencies have been criticized for acting too slowly, or not at all, in the face of threats posed by food, drugs and other consumer items in our homes and on the supermarket shelves. You’d think they would have, could have and should have learned a lesson by now.

    Learn more about product recalls and drug recalls.

  • “You have the right to remain silent.” Fans of crime novels and TV shows know this line just as well as most law enforcement officials. It’s the first line of the Miranda warnings advising those arrested for crimes about their legal rights. Once you clearly tell the police you don’t want to talk, they have to stop questioning you, unless you waive your right to remain silent.

    Normally, you have to clearly waive your right to remain silent. A recent federal case in Illinois muddles the meaning of “clear,” though. Jimmy Brown was arrested on suspicion of illegal gun possession. After being given his Miranda rights, he nodded his head, said “Pshh,” explained he was carrying the gun because someone was out to kill him and then asked for a “deal” to stay out of jail. He was convicted at trial, the court refusing to suppress or throw out his statements to police. On appeal, a federal court agreed, ruling that Brown’s extensive knowledge of the criminal process (he had several prior arrests) and his attempt to make a deal, showed that he knew his Miranda rights and waived them.

    Do you think Brown waived his right to remain silent? No one can predict the future, but don’t be surprised when he asks the US Supreme Court to take a look at his case.

  • New FBI definition of rape now covers males as victims. Typically, when you hear the word “rape,” you immediately think that a male assaulted a female. In fact, for decades, in the eyes of the FBI, only females could be victims of rape. The definition says that rape is “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Not anymore.

    The FBI just changed its definition of rape so that males are included as rape victims. The new definition, in part, defines rape as any kind of penetration of another person, regardless of gender, without the victim’s consent. Case in point: Under the old definition, the alleged victims of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky wouldn’t be considered rape victims.

    Read more about sex-related crimes and the criminal process in your state.

  • Legal immigrants wrongfully barred from benefits of “Romney-Care.” A few years ago, when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he passed “Romney-Care,” a comprehensive health care reform law. The law requires most residents to buy insurance and provides subsidized benefits for certain low-income residents. It also covered legal immigrants – foreign nationals in the US legally, such as those with a visa seeking legal permanent residency (a “green card”).

    That changed in 2009 when the state looked to save about $130 million by stripping away those benefits for legal immigrants and giving them fewer benefits under a new plan. In a lawsuit filed by Health Law Advocates on behalf of several immigrants who lost benefits, the state’s highest court recently ruled that barring the immigrants from the low-cost health benefits provided by Romney-Care violated their rights under the state constitution. They are, the court ruled, entitled to the same rights and privileges as other state residents. It’s called equal protection of the laws.

    What do you think? Should non-US citizens be entitled to the same state-funded benefits as US-citizens? It’s one of the many questions that fuel the immigration reform debate. Learn more about immigrant and non-immigrant visas, as well as many other immigration topics.

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