Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

The Iowa Supreme Court on Thursday heard the appeal of an Iowa woman who was denied unemployment benefits after missing work and subsequently losing her job as a medical assistant because she was in jail. Sondra Irving missed more than three weeks of work after being held at the Johnson County Jail in late 2013, in part because she couldn’t make bail which was set at $17,500.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

An Iowa man convicted of first-degree murder in 1992 will be resentenced. This comes as little surprise following the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling this summer in State of Iowa vs. Yvette Louisell

Eric Querrey was 15 when he shot and killed 16-year-old Stacy Halferty. He received the mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Emily Woodbury / Iowa Public Radio

Before the 1980s, we assumed that wrongful convictions were rare. Then came Peter Neufeld and the Innocence Project. Through DNA testing, Neufeld and his organization have helped to exonerate more than 300 people of crimes they were wrongfully convicted of committing.

“We thought we could look at old cases where people were tried on other evidence like eye-witness testimony and test the hypothesis of innocence,” he says.

John Pemble/IPR file

On Mother’s Day 2012, 17-year-old Isaiah Sweet of Manchester put on earmuffs, loaded ten bullets into an assault rifle, and shot his grandparents in the head. He was later sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Thursday, the Iowa Supreme Court was asked if that’s ever an appropriate sentence for a juvenile in Iowa.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

Wednesday is the first day of the Iowa Supreme Court's 2015-2016 session. The high court will hear five cases, including one questioning when someone should be given the Miranda Warning, which is the right to remain silent when in police custody and the right to legal counsel. 

Zyriah Schlitter was found guilty in 2012 of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment resulting in the death of his 17-month-old daughter Kamryn. During his trial, Schlitter made statements that conflicted with a taped interview conducted by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

The NAACP held a day-long symposium Friday on the overrepresentation of African-Americans in Iowa prisons.   

The symposium addressed a wide range of issues, from racial profiling to the underrepresentation of minorities on Iowa juries.  

The NAACP cites statistics showing the overrepresentation of minorities in corrections is worse in Iowa than in any other state, in particular for drug offenses.  

Arnold Woods with the Des Moines NAACP says it’s not an abstract topic for blacks.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The NAACP announced today it will host a two-day summit next month to take a comprehensive look at racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system.  

Law enforcement, judges, corrections officials and others will examine why African-Americans make up a bigger percentage in Iowa prisons than they do in the population as a whole.   

It’s a bigger event than the group has sponsored in the past.   

Governor Branstad will attend and the national NAACP will be on hand for the Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities.  

Photo coutesy of PACER

A Remsen, Iowa man will spend six weekends in prison for violating the Clean Water Act. Michael J. Wolf pleaded guilty last year to one count of knowingly discharging a pollutant into the west branch of the Floyd River. 

Wolf was employed as the maintenance manager at Sioux-Preme Packing Co., a pork processor based in Sioux City. On October 23 and 24, for about 11 hours, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says Wolf intentionally discharged blood, fecal material, animal guts and cleaning chemicals from the company's Sioux Center plant into the Floyd.

Flickr / Christopher Paquette

The founder and former owner of a Cedar Rapids-based meat supplier has been found guilty of 15 counts of fraud in federal district court on Monday. Midamar founder Bill Aossey faces more than a century in prison for fraudulently labeling beef so it appeared to meet certain Islamic standards when it did not. He also was convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud.

Flickr / Ellen Macdonald

Iowa is the first state nationwide to move all of its document filings for the district court system online. The process will likely be completed later this year for Iowa’s appellate courts.  

Up until now, many Iowans had go to their country courthouse during business hours to deal with legal matters. People can now file and view legal documents using the internet, and see the court docket online. 

John Pemble/IPR

Governor Branstad is hearing from county attorneys around the state, as he debates whether to sign a last-minute item in a catch-all spending bill.  

The provision would privatize the collection of court fines and fees to bring in an estimated $12 million more next year.    

The Judicial Branch has pushed to improve the collection of delinquent fines.  The bill would bypass the state’s Central Collection Unit and assign the work to a private debt collector.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says last week’s momentous U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not have a big impact in Iowa, since same-sex marriage has been well-established in the state since 2009.  

The governor today commented on the fact that county officials in other states may try to deny licenses to same-sex couples in protest.   

Branstad says he’s not aware of any way that could happen here.

Photo by John Pemble

It appears that Governor Branstad is not ruling out an appeal of Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for continued use of so-called telemed abortions.  

The court ruled that the Iowa Board of Medicine placed an unconstitutional burden on women when it banned the administration of abortion-inducing drugs without a doctor in the room. 

Under the procedure, a doctor uses two-way telecommunication to oversee a patient taking an abortion-inducing drug. Governor Branstad disagrees with the ruling.

Flickr / Jeff Kubina

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case next term involving a $5.8 million class-action lawsuit arising from a pork processing plant in northwest Iowa. Tyson Foods Inc. say that employees at its Storm Lake facility don't have enough in common to join in a single class-action lawsuit.

Photo Courtesy of the Institue for Justice

Carole Hinders of Arnold’s Park, IA, wasn’t charged with a crime, but that didn’t stop the I.R.S. from seizing the entire balance of her checking account, more than $30,000.

Wikimedia Commons

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has resigned his post in the wake of a series of scandals at Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. During this News Buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Des Moines Register Health Care Reporter Tony Leys about how the announcement could affect Iowa's VA hospitals. He also tells us about a possibly mismanaged case at the Iowa City VA

State lawmakers looking into the closing of the Iowa Juvenile Home at Toledo got a fresh perspective from juvenile court officers who work with the  delinquent girls who used to be assigned to the home.     The officers argue that Iowa needs a facility specifically for  girls who’ve been in serious trouble with the law.  Governor Branstad is at odds with the judicial branch. 

Billie Hara

This segment of River to River features a volunteer-run court in Iowa - the Johnson County Family Treatment Court - that works with parents who suffer from substance abuse. Host Ben Keiffer sits down with a recent graduate of the court, a mother who formerly struggled with a meth addiction while trying to raise her son.

elycefeliz / Flickr

With George Zimmerman recently acquitted of murder in the death Trayvon Martin host Ben Kieffer looks at the role juries play in the U.S. justice system.  What are the origins of the jury and how have juries evolved over the centuries.  Also, what does the recent flourish of media attention aimed at the jurors for the Zimmerman trial reveal and distort about jury duty?

SalFalko / Flickr

Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady delivered his State of the Judiciary speech to a joint session of the Iowa Legislature Wednesday. He's calling for increased staffing in the court system, which has taken a hit in budget cuts in recent years.

Cady wants court offices around the state to stay open all week. Right now they close in the afternoons twice a week. He also tells lawmakers the state doesn’t have enough juvenile officers to reach all of Iowa’s children in need.

Two statewide bus tours begin in Des Moines with stops planned in more than a dozen communities.    They’ll be promoting opposing views on whether Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins should stay on the court.     

Keith Allison

It seems like everybody’s talking about strip searches these days. But as Iowa Public Radio’s Kate Wells reports, strip searches for minor crimes are pretty limited in this state – or at least, they’re supposed to be.