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New York’s high court voids state death penalty The New York Court of Appeals last week effectively shot down New York’s death penalty law. The 4-3 decision by the state’s highest court found unconstitutional the statutory requirement that jurors in the penalty phase be told that a deadlock will make the defendant eligible for parole someday. To restore capital punishment, the state Legislature will have to amend the statute. The decision in People v. LaValle, though a landmark in New York’s long history of death penalty jurisprudence, was not unexpected. Two judges on the court had indicated in an earlier case that the deadlock provision would not endure constitutional scrutiny. Ted Olson resigns Solicitor general Theodore Olson confirmed late last week that he is leaving his post as the government’s top appellate lawyer in July. Olson said he informed Attorney General John Ashcroft and Vice President Dick Cheney of his plans on Wednesday and told members of his staff on Thursday morning. Olson said it was time to return to “a slightly higher paycheck” at a private law firm, but said he has not focused specifically on what firm that might be. “I love the job . . . .It’s good to go when you’re happy,” Olson said. Stewart trial kicks off Attorney Lynne Stewart and her co-defendants allegedly provided a direct line from the imprisoned terrorist Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman to his followers abroad and knew they were setting the stage for attacks on Americans, a federal prosecutor asserted last week. Christopher Morvillo, launching the government’s marathon trial against Stewart, Ahmed Abdul Sattar and Mohamed Yousry, claimed they knew that in passing messages to and from the sheikh at a federal prison in Minnesota, Stewart and their interpreter, Yousry, provided and concealed material support for the government-designated terror organization Islamic Group. Stewart’s attorney, Michael Tigar, said in his opening statement that she released the statement as “a lawyer sworn to advance her client’s interest in accordance with the law and only the law” and “it was the right thing to do.” The trial before Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl is expected to last four to six months. Firm expands to Israel Miami-based Steel Hector & Davis is opening a representative office in Israel. The firm has hired Tel Aviv attorney Bill Weisel to represent Steel Hector clients in Israel. Joseph P. Klock Jr., Steel Hector’s managing partner, said, “Israeli businesses and individuals are deeply involved in Latin America and South Florida, and that is our market. We will continue to expand our presence to meet our client and market-servicing needs.” Weisel, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, will leave Gilat Satellite Networks, a multinational, publicly traded satellite telecommunications equipment company based in Israel. N.Y. jurors catch a break New York Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye recently announced several changes to the state’s jury system, including increasing the number of years jurors will have off before they can be recalled to service. The current period of four years will be increased to six, and jurors who sit at a trial for more than 10 days will receive an eight-year break before their next appearance, Kaye said. Her announcement came as the state Office of Court Administration released an interim report by the Commission on the Jury, which she created more than a year ago. The commission’s report called for numerous small changes to improve communication between judges and jurors, and to provide jurors with perks, such as Internet access, as they wait to be called. New antitrust law gives judges greater authority President Bush last week signed an antitrust reform bill that includes a measure giving judges greater authority to scrutinize consent decrees between the Department of Justice and merging companies. The broader legislation enjoyed bi-partisan support and includes provisions sought by the Bush administration, including an increase in the criminal penalties for antitrust infractions such as price-fixing. It almost got derailed, however, by language amending the Tunney Act, a 1974 law that requires a federal judge to clear consent decrees between the antitrust division and merging companies. A federal appeals court has interpreted the law as permitting judicial intervention only if the decree makes a “mockery of justice.” Senator Herb Kohl, D-Wis., led a campaign to overturn that interpretation by clarifying that judges should review all consent decrees. Republicans balked at his original proposal, fearing it would force judicial intervention in most merger matters. � The Deal

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