Statutes of Limitations News

Senate tightens sex abuse penalties

The Texas Senate on Tuesday passed its version of "Jessica's Law," a get-tough measure on sexual predators that includes a possible death penalty for those who are twice convicted of raping children under 14. "I can think of no more solemn duty than the protection of our most innocent and vulnerable citizens," said Sen. Bob Deuell, the Greenville Republican who sponsored the measure, HB 8. The bill creates new categories of sexually violent offenses against children under 14, breaking out new categories for crimes committed involving kidnapping, date rape drugs or deadly weapons and causing serious bodily injury. Such crimes, or any aggravated sexual assault on a child under 6, automatically carry a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. A second offense carries life in prison or the death penalty. The bill also enhances punishments for most sex crimes against children and extends the statute of limitations for prosecution. "We want to deter people. We don't want victims. But if a crime happens, we want to give our prosecutors the tools to make convictions," Deuell said. The bill is named Jessica's Law after Jessica Lunsford, a Florida girl who was abducted and killed. More than a dozen states have passed versions of Jessica's Law to crack down on sex offenders, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry deemed passage of a child sex offender bill a legislative emergency. Texas' version would make it the sixth state to allow some child sex offenders to be sentenced to death. Critics have questioned whether the death penalty is constitutional in cases where the victim does not die. In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the death penalty in a Georgia rape case. Louisiana has one inmate on death row in a child sex crime, but the case is still subject to appeals in state and federal courts. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, the only dissenter in the 30-1 vote, questioned whether the state should expand death row at a time when post-conviction DNA testing has exonerated people who went to prison for crimes they did not commit. Just two weeks ago, the Senate hosted two men who served 27 years in prison for sexual assault but were later cleared by DNA testing. "All of us have to make tough choices, but at some point we have to decide, where do we draw the line on something that's politically right but morally wrong," Ellis said. "I'm for the death penalty, but I think it would be nice if we had a system where we got the right one." The Texas House passed a different version of Jessica's Law last month that also includes the death penalty in some child sex cases. The House bill allows broader use of the death penalty for two convictions of a newly classified crime, "continuous sexual abuse of a young child," defined as more than one sex act committed against a victim younger than 14 over a period of 30 days or more. The Senate bill creates the same crime but would carry a sentence of up to life in prison after a second offense. Victim advocates have warned that the death penalty could do more harm than good if it leads perpetrators to kill victims who may be the only witness to the crime. They also warn that long minimum sentences could make it harder for prosecutors to get victims to cooperate if the perpetrator is a family member. Most sex crimes against children are committed by family members or friends, victim advocates say. A statement issued by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault said the longer sentences are unlikely to serve as a deterrent against sex crimes. "In reality, sex offenders are some of the most manipulative, intelligent and predatory of all violent criminals. Harsher punishments will not prevent Texas children, men or women from falling victim to sexual violence," the group said, adding that lawmakers should spend more money on victims services. "The Legislature's work on sexual violence is not complete."

Senate tightens sex abuse penalties

The Texas Senate on Tuesday passed its version of "Jessica's Law," a get-tough measure on sexual predators that includes a possible death penalty for those who are twice convicted of raping children under 14. "I can think of no more solemn duty than the protection of our most innocent and vulnerable citizens," said Sen. Bob Deuell, the Greenville Republican who sponsored the measure, HB 8. The bill creates new categories of...

Race riot lawsuit to be subject of bill, hearing

A published report says a 2003 lawsuit filed by survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riot will be the subject of legislation and a hearing in Congress next week. Michigan Congressman John Conyers Junior plans to introduce on Monday a bill that would extend the statute of limitations on the lawsuit filed against the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma. Conyers chairs the House Judiciary Committee. A federal judge dismissed the survivors' lawsuit in 2004, stating the statute of limitations had expired 80 years earlier. According to the Tulsa World's Washington bureau, a House subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday on the proposed Tulsa-Greenwood Riot and Accountability Act of 2007. Conyers and subcommittee chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York say the riot is worthy of congressional attention because evidence suggests governmental officials deputized and armed the mob and that the National Guard joined in the destruction. Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor's couldn't be reached for comment. A spokesman for Governor Brad Henry declined comment, saying the office hadn't been notified about the legislation.

Race riot lawsuit to be subject of bill, hearing

A published report says a 2003 lawsuit filed by survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riot will be the subject of legislation and a hearing in Congress next week. Michigan Congressman John Conyers Junior plans to introduce on Monday a bill that would extend the statute of limitations on the lawsuit filed against the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma. Conyers chairs the House Judiciary Committee. A federal judge dismissed the survivors'...

Court: Employees must be paid for denied lunch breaks

The Supreme Court of California handed employees a major legal victory, allowing workers who were denied lunch breaks to seek compensation for three years and also enjoy a three-year statute of limitations. The unanimous ruling in a San Francisco case answered a much-debated issue: should employers be fined for unpaid lunches or compensate employees? The closely watched ruling, considered one of the most important cases this year by Cal Chamber, will affect several class-action lawsuits in the state and expand the period for employees to file complaints.   With the ruling Monday, employees who were forced to work during their lunch breaks can seek compensation over a maximum three-year period and have three years to file a complaint against their employer. Companies that deny employees a 30-minute lunch break after five hours of work must pay one hour's wage to workers, according to state labor laws established in 2000. Employers must also allow employees a 10-minute break after four hours of work. John Paul Murphy, a store manager for Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. in San Francisco, was awarded $64,000 in damages for being forced to work during his lunch and rest breaks, and work without overtime from 2000 to 2002.

Court: Employees must be paid for denied lunch breaks

The Supreme Court of California handed employees a major legal victory, allowing workers who were denied lunch breaks to seek compensation for three years and also enjoy a three-year statute of limitations. The unanimous ruling in a San Francisco case answered a much-debated issue: should employers be fined for unpaid lunches or compensate employees? The closely watched ruling, considered one of the most important cases this year by Cal...

Malpractice limit overturned

A decision Wednesday by the Ohio Supreme Court gives parents more time to file lawsuits against doctors for anguish they suffer when their children are victims of medical malpractice. The ruling extends the window in which parents can file lawsuits from one year up to the child's 19th birthday.

The unanimous decision was based on claims brought by the parents of 17-year-old Tara Fehrenbach of Loveland. For parents of a child injured by medical negligence, the decision means they will not be put in position of filing a lawsuit within a year of the injury when the impact of the injury is not fully known. Under the old system, parents had one year from the time of injury to file a suit, while the child had until his or her 19th birthday to sue.

For doctors, the decision means they are exposed longer to potential lawsuits, but it might lessen litigation because both the parents' and child's claims likely will come at the same time. "Rarely do we get the opportunity to change Ohio law for the better, but the Fehrenbach v. O'Malley case released today ... finally recognizes how goofy it was that a parent had to bring suit before the child's statute of limitations had run (out)," said First District Court of Appeals Judge Sylvia Hendon, who wrote the original decision.


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Malpractice limit overturned

A decision Wednesday by the Ohio Supreme Court gives parents more time to file lawsuits against doctors for anguish they suffer when their children are victims of medical malpractice. The ruling extends the window in which parents can file lawsuits from one year up to the child's 19th birthday. The unanimous decision was based on claims brought by the parents of 17-year-old Tara Fehrenbach of Loveland. For parents of a child injured by...

False arrest lawsuit may be too late

Andre Wallace faces the distinct possibility that the legal system that wrongly kept him in jail for a third of his life will now tell him he waited too long to seek compensation. Several Supreme Court justices indicated Monday they are inclined to agree with lower court rulings that Wallace missed a deadline by waiting until 2003 to sue the Chicago police officers who arrested him illegally in 1994.

Wallace was freed from prison in 2002, after Illinois courts ruled his arrest was illegal, reversed his murder conviction and caused prosecutors to drop charges against him. He had been in custody since shortly after John Handy was shot to death in 1994, when Wallace was 15. He had two years in which to file his civil rights lawsuit.

The question before the justices is whether the two-year clock began running when Wallace was arrested in 1994, when he was released from custody in 2002, or at some point in between. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wallace should have taken some action in the two years after his arrest. In similar cases in other parts of the country, appeals courts have said false arrest claims can't be filed until convictions are nullified. Wallace's attorney, said the court would compound his client's injury by telling him the deadline, or statute of limitations, had expired. "It's just tough. You're seized for 8 1/2 years and you can't go to state court and you can't go to federal court," Flaxman said. But the Supreme Court is a stickler for deadlines, and several justices said the claim should have been filed closer to the arrest.

The deadline serves several interests, including peace of mind of the police officers who otherwise would not know for years whether they would be sued, Chief Justice John Roberts said. A ruling is expected before July.

False arrest lawsuit may be too late

Andre Wallace faces the distinct possibility that the legal system that wrongly kept him in jail for a third of his life will now tell him he waited too long to seek compensation. Several Supreme Court justices indicated Monday they are inclined to agree with lower court rulings that Wallace missed a deadline by waiting until 2003 to sue the Chicago police officers who arrested him illegally in 1994. Wallace was freed from prison in 2002,...

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