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A judge’s prescription for painkillers has provided fuel for an appeal by counsel for former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards. U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola’s use of OxyContin for back pain may have hampered his decision-making during pretrial motions, argues defense attorney Mike Small. The defense is also alleging juror bias as well as undisclosed financial incentives for a chief witness for the prosecution. Edwards is serving a 10-year sentence for extorting payments for riverboat casino licenses … When it comes to handing out death sentences, Nevada leads the pack. That state’s courts imposed capital punishment in 6 percent of all murder cases from 1976 to 1998, claims a study in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. By contrast, Texas courts called for capital punishment in only 2 percent of murder cases. But sooner or later, Nevada tends to back down. The state has only executed nine prisoners since 1977 — two more than Texas has killed this year aloneA former death row inmate has been cleared of all charges. A North Carolina jury took just 2 1/2 hours to acquit Alan Gell, 28, who had previously been sentenced to death for allegedly leading a 1995 robbery-slaying. Gell had been given a new trial after a judge determined that prosecutors withheld critical evidence casting doubt on testimony by Gell’s alleged collaborators. Defense attorneys James Cooney and Joseph Cheshire V leaned hard on additional, previously withheld evidence to secure the acquittal … A $151 million judgment against Nebraska has won the blessings of a federal appeals court. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the state had deliberately dodged construction of a low-level nuclear waste dump. Nebraska has been fighting the dump since 1987, when it lost out in voting among central states that had banded together to tackle the problem of radioactive waste. – Lori Patel

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