New Mexico
Murder charges for police officers

Two Albuquerque police officers were charged with murder Monday in the shooting death of a knife-wielding homeless man that led to sometimes violent protests and a federal investigation into the city’s police force.

The decision to bring murder charges occurred at a time when police tactics are under intense scrutiny nationwide, fueled by the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of another unarmed man in New York City. Grand juries declined to charge officers in those cases.

Acknowledging the frustration over the secrecy of the proceedings in those cases, the Albuquerque district attorney said she would bypass the grand jury process and instead present the murder case to a judge at a preliminary hearing that will be open to the public.

“Unlike Ferguson and unlike in New York City, we’re going to know. The public is going to have that information,” District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said.

Police said SWAT team member Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy fatally shot James Boyd, a mentally ill homeless man who had frequent violent run-ins with law enforcement. Video from an officer’s helmet camera showed Boyd appearing to surrender when officers opened fire, but a defense attorney characterized him as an unstable suspect who was “unpredictably and dangerously close to a defenseless officer while he was wielding two knives.”

— Associated Press

Oath of office given in hospital

A Mississippi congressman who is recovering from a series of health problems took his oath of office Monday while hospitalized in his home town.

Republican Rep. Alan Nunnelee was accompanied by family members as he was sworn in by U.S. District Judge Michael Mills at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, said his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Parks.

Nunnelee had a stroke while surgeons were removing a tumor from his brain in June. The 56-year-old was admitted to the Tupelo hospital Dec. 28 for treatment of a hematoma, a bleeding problem in his left leg. He was too ill to go to Washington last week to be sworn in for his third two-year term, so House leaders agreed that he could take his oath in Mississippi.

Parks said Nunnelee has been moved to the hospital’s rehabilitation wing, where he will restart therapy for speech and movement. Doctors have not said when the congressman will be discharged, Parks said.

— Associated Press

South Dakota
Judge rules against marriage ban

South Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the right to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Judge Karen Schreier ruled in favor of six same-sex couples who challenged the South Dakota ban on gay marriage and put her decision on hold pending appeals.

Schreier’s ruling came the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court, which is in the midst of deciding whether to take up the issue of gay marriage, declined to take an early look at a challenge to a Louisiana state ban. The Supreme Court is considering whether to take up cases concerning gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

— Reuters

Wire services