National digest: Florida judge strikes down gay-marriage ban

New York
Family seeks probe of chokehold death

The family of an unarmed black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a white police officer met with a federal prosecutor Thursday to again demand a federal probe.

The wife and mother of Eric Garner emerged from the 25-minute closed-door meeting with U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended the meeting, said Lynch assured the family that her office was monitoring a pending state investigation.

Garner’s arrest on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes was captured on an amateur video widely watched on the Internet. Garner, who had asthma, can be heard on the video shouting, “I can’t breathe!” The 43-year-old father of six died a short time later. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide caused by a chokehold, which is banned under police policy.

The Staten Island district attorney has said he will present evidence to a grand jury to determine whether any officers will face criminal charges.

— Associated Press

Florida
Judge strikes down gay-marriage ban

A federal judge on Thursday declared Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, joining judges across the country who have sided with gay couples wishing to tie the knot.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled that the ban added to Florida’s Constitution by voters in 2008 violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Hinkle issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses will be immediately issued for gay couples. That also means gay marriages legally performed in other states will not immediately be recognized in Florida.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, has appealed previous rulings striking down the ban, which were issued earlier this year in Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. Hinkle’s ruling allows time for appeals in the federal case. Bondi wants the Florida cases to remain on hold pending a definitive national ruling on gay marriage by the Supreme Court.

— Associated Press

California
$3 million to aid immigrant children

California lawmakers will approve legislation supported by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to spend $3 million in state money to provide legal help for unaccompanied children from Central America, Democratic leaders announced Thursday.

Making the money available to help children is “the decent thing to do and it’s consistent with the progressive spirit of California,” Brown said in a statement.

Because Democrats control both houses of the state legislature, they will not need Republican support to pass the legislation. Spokesmen for the Assembly and Senate Republican caucuses did not immediately offer a response to the plan.

The legislation will also give state courts the jurisdiction to make findings needed for federal officials to grant special immigrant juvenile status to the minors. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates there are about 3,900 unaccompanied minors in California.

“We’re not sending the National Guard to confront these children as other states have done,” said assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), vice chairman of the Latino legislative caucus, taking a jab at Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to deploy troops to the Texas-Mexico border.

— Associated Press

2 firefighters injured in ice- bucket challenge: Two firefighters in a firetruck bucket were seriously injured when they got too close to a power line after helping college students take part in the ALS “ice-bucket challenge,” police said Thursday. The firefighters had just finished dousing cold water on the Campbellsville University marching band when they were shocked by electricity. One was in critical condition and the other was stable, Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette said. Two other firefighters on the main part of the truck were shocked when the bucket was being lowered. They have been treated and released.

Judge orders former judge to apologize to colleagues: A former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice convicted of corruption was spared Thursday the further embarrassment of having to write her court-ordered apologies to every judge in the state on photos of herself in handcuffs. A state appeals court upheld the conviction of Joan Orie Melvin and said she still must write apologies to the state’s judges. But it found the photo requirement served no legitimate purpose and was meant only to “shame and humiliate her.” Melvin was convicted of theft, conspiracy and other charges in 2013 for using court staff and other public workers to aid her campaigns for a seat on the court. A judge ordered the handcuff picture taken after she was sentenced to three years of house arrest.

— From news services

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