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Even though defense attorney Robert Koppelman snoozed on occasion during the trial of an Albanian gang member, he still provided effective assistance of counsel, according to a federal judge. In fact, Koppelman did such an excellent job defending Ljusa Nuculovic, despite falling asleep several times during the 2005 trial, that U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in New York thought Nuculovic was lucky to have him. One of six defendants on trial for an Albanian crime organization’s attempts to muscle in on the Luchese family gambling business in Queens, N.Y., Nuculovic actually won acquittal on two counts-although he was convicted of racketeering, gambling and firearms charges. He moved for a new trial on the ground that Koppelman was ineffective because he “slept through portions of trial every day” sometimes for a few minutes and other times “for extended periods.” But Cote said that “there were others in the courtroom who may also have been tempted to sleep during that time, given the tedium associated with this largely uncontroversial proof.” “As far as she agreed that I did a good job, I agree with her opinion,” Koppelman said. -New York Law Journal Tug of war Nearly eight decades later, the noose used in Illinois’ last public hanging has taken on an ugly life of its own. Rebecca Cocke, granddaughter of the sheriff who supervised the 1928 execution of bootlegger Charlie Birger, says the rope is a family heirloom that her mother lent to the Benton, Ill., jail museum 10 years ago. With her mother now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Cocke is suing to get the rope back. Not so fast, says the local preservation society chief. Robert Rea wants a judge to determine whether Cocke, granddaughter of former Sheriff Jim Pritchard, is the rightful heir to the prized piece of rope, or whether it belongs to the county because Pritchard was on its payroll. “We do not know who owns the rope,” Rea said. “I’m just thankful I’m not a judge. It’s an interesting case, to say the least.” The law caught up to Birger in 1927, when he was condemned for arranging the killing of Joe Adams, the mayor of a nearby town. On April 19, 1928, more than 5,000 spectators watched him hang. Before his head was covered by a black hood-he declined a white one, saying he didn’t want to be confused with the Ku Klux Klan-Birger grinned and said, “It’s a beautiful world.” “Charlie Birger dies smiling,” bellows a headline in a yellow, tattered edition of the Benton Evening News.- Associated Press Chickens to roost An animal rights organization has objected to convicted felons being used to process chickens at a south Georgia poultry plant whose work force was decimated by a crackdown on illegal immigrants working there. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said that it was concerned that criminals with violent pasts could be among the workers being bused from a probation center. PETA said it wanted to point out “that chicken slaughterhouses are notorious for animal abuse and that staffing the plant with violent criminals is begging for violations of Georgia’s cruelty-to-animals laws.” The Crider Poultry plant in Stillwell, Ga., announced it was using felony probationers and homeless people to replace the missing workers. “Placing animals in the care of convicts with violent histories is like putting children in the care of child molesters,” PETA vice president Bruce Friedrich said.- Associated Press

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