Crime, Justice and Public Safety

Crime, Justice and Public Safety

The Iowa Supreme Court  ruled that the Iowa bar exam will remain a requirement to practice law in the state.    The Iowa State Bar Association had sought to  waive the exam for graduates of Iowa law schools.

The University of Northern Iowa is going to bankruptcy  court to try to get money back from the now defunct Cedar Falls-based investment fund  Peregrine Financial  group.   The firm’s CEO Russell Wasendorf, Sr. is serving a 50-year prison term for defrauding investors of more than 200 million dollars. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Jason Powell will not be proselytizing near entrances to the Iowa State Fair this year. The U.S. District Court in Des Moines ruled in an injunction Tuesday, that fair officials can bar Powell from areas of heavy foot and vehicle traffic for public safety purposes.

The injunction's ruling does allow Powell to demonstrate on fair grounds in less populated areas, but his attorney Nate Kellum of the Memphis-based Center for Religious Expression says this is an empty victory.

The United States Department of Transportation  has ordered the nation’s rail lines to let states know how much crude oil is coming through from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.  The  Bakken crude is especially  flammable and a number of derailments have resulted in disastrous fires.   Iowa officials are  in dispute with the rail lines about whether to release  the information to the general  public.  

Zachary Korb

A class-action lawsuit that could involve thousands of Iowans has been filed against HealthPort Technologies.

The Georgia-based company is a medical records and billings statement provider.  The suit alleges HealthPort overcharges costumers for duplications of their medical records and billing statements.

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs is James Bisconglia of the Des Moines law firm LaMarca & Landry. Bisconglia says that Iowa Code limits the amount a consumer can be charged for a records request.

John Pemble

While he didn't win the Sioux City senate seat, at least 2010 candidate Rick Mullin and the Iowa Democratic Party won’t have to pay $231,000 to State Senator Rick Bertrand.

Today the Iowa Supreme Court today found that an ad run by Mullin’s campaign did not meet the definition of defamation. 

Senator Bertrand sued Mullin and his party saying the campaign ad purposely misled voters into thinking Bertrand was the owner of the pharmaceutical company Takeda, when in reality he was an employee.

Clay Masters / IPR

 It’s been 5 years since the Iowa Supreme Court decision of Varnum versus Brien that paved the way for same sex marriage in the state and Iowa’s public opinion is changing.

In 1996, Rob Gilmer and his husband Rene Orduna opened the restaurant Dixie Quick's in Omaha. They were running out of space in their Nebraska restaurant and after the Iowa Supreme Court decision they decided to move the restaurant to Council Bluffs.

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. 

The Shepard family from Dayton Iowa and their friends and supporters came to the capitol  to lobby for tougher penalties for kidnappers.  15 year old  Kathlynn

  

   Shepard  died at the hands of a kidnapper last year, and lawmakers say a stronger law  might have prevented the tragedy. 

IPR's Joyce Russell

Activist groups launched  a project they hope will illustrate how common  racial profiling is in and around Des Moines.     The ACLU, the NAACP, and a coalition of churches known as AMOS are inviting people of color to come forward with their stories to document allegations that  law enforcement targets  individuals solely because of their race.   

Joe Burbank / AP

 Dr. Michael Blackwell, the University of Northern Iowa's Director for Multicultural Education, joins IPR's Sarah McCammon to preview a panel discussion at UNI on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case.

IPR's Clay Masters speaks with Talk of Iowa Host Charity Nebbe about her show and River to River's summer series examining the state's correctional system. 

Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

As we continue our series on corrections in Iowa…here's the second half of our report on sex offender treatment and monitoring.  

About 1 in 8 inmates in Iowa's prison system are sex offenders, and many go through treatment while in prison.  But does it work?

Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

It’s been just over a month since two girls from Dayton, Iowa were abducted near their bus stop - allegedly by a convicted sex offender who’d served nearly two decades in prison.  Authorities say Michael Klunder abducted the girls and committed suicide later that day.

The fact that Klunder was free at all has prompted questions about how sex offenders are evaluated, treated and monitored. 

This story begins a summer series examining Iowa's correctional system.

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

Investigators continue to search the area surrounding Dayton, Iowa for Kathlynn Shepard, a teenager abducted earlier this week as she walked home from the bus stop.  A twelve-year-old who was taken with her escaped shortly after the kidnapping and is, except for scratches on her arms and legs, unharmed. 

The events have rocked Dayton, a small town of fewer than 1,000 residents. A local church held a vigil last night for 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard, who has been missing since Monday afternoon.

State troopers narrowed their search Wednesday morning for 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard. She was abducted Monday while walking home from the bus stop in Dayton, Iowa with a younger girl who escaped soon afterwards. Their suspected abductor was found dead later that day. Despite the efforts search party of more than 300 members of law enforcement and volunteers from the area, Shepard has not been found.

Special Agent Bill Keitzman with the Iowa DCI says Wednesday’s search focuses on a smaller area.

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A landmark $240 million verdict against a Texas company who employed mentally disabled workers at an Iowa turkey processing plant will be reduced to about $1.6 million because of a law capping their damages. The 32 men faced decades of verbal and physical abuse at work and at home.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Henry's Turkey Service have agreed in legal briefs that each plaintiff can recover $50,000 - compared to the $7.5 million a jury awarded them on May 1st.

  Juveniles in Iowa who've committed first degree murder could be eligible for parole after serving 45 years in prison. That’s according to a bill discussed at the statehouse Thursday. As Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports, it’s in reaction with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

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.

Wayan Vota / Flickr

Beginning Tuesday, January 15,  Iowa will issue driver’s licenses and state IDs that comply with a new federal program called REAL ID.  The program is being phased in as part of legislation passed by Congress in 2005.  It's aimed at streamlining security at federal facilities and for air travel.

Mark Lowe of the Iowa Department of Transportation visited our Des Moines studio to explain what changes are coming.

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Two young Mexican immigrants living in a small northeast Iowa town are defying the odds by  pursuing degrees  from the University of Northern Iowa. Because they are undocumented they are working their way through college without the help of student loans or other benefits of citizenship.      A new Obama administration order granting them temporary work permits is helping to ease the  way.

The Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation was in the hot seat at the statehouse.   Critics turned out to rally against the DOT’s recent policy decision denying  driver’s licenses  for young undocumented immigrants in Iowa.   That’s even though the Obama administration recently approved work permits for immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children years ago.  

The Iowa Department of Transportation says it will not issue driver's licenses or state identification cards to undocumented immigrants who have been granted deferred action by the Obama administration because they came to the United States as kids.

In Iowa almost 5,000 young immigrants—mostly of Mexican descent—have been granted temporary deferred action by the Obama administration. This means they can stay in the country, but after this ruling from the DOT, they can’t drive or receive a state ID in Iowa.

The Branstad administration as well as school districts all over the state are reacting to Friday’s school shootings in Connecticut.   One official  is  encouraging schools to review their security procedures.       But the governor and key lawmakers aren’t jumping to any conclusions about needed legislation to prevent such a tragedy here.       

Clay Masters / IPR

In the wake of the discovery the bodies of two northeastern Iowa girls earlier this month, the talk of reinstating the death penalty is back at the state capitol. But proponents of capital punishment know they face a tough fight.

Iowa parents who have lost children due to kidnapping and murder met with Governor Branstad Monday morning to talk about reinstating the death penalty. Afterwards at a press conference, the parents told their stories.

/ Courtesy of Des Moines Register

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit over whether a same-sex Des Moines married couple should BOTH stay on their daughter’s birth certificate. The Polk county district court already ruled in favor of the couple.

Representing the Iowa Department of Health was Deputy Attorney General Julie Pottorff. She argued opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples remain different in one immutable way. Only opposite sex couples can conceive a child.

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12/6/12  4:30 PM UPDATE: 

The Black Hawk County Sheriff's Department says they're confident that two bodies discovered Wednesday by hunters in a Bremer County wildlife area are those of Elizabeth Collins and her cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey. 

"We have no one else that’s missing in this area, we have two bodies that were found, smaller in stature, so we have nothing to think other than that at this time," Sheriff’s Captain Rick Abben said. 

Parole Board Votes

Nov 13, 2012

A new rule at the Iowa Board of Parole scheduled to go into effect next month is giving  some victims advocates heartburn.    A panel of state lawmakers declined to delay a new guideline to 

grant parole to high-risk inmates with a simple majority vote.

Wiggins on the Ballot

Sep 27, 2012

Advocates for and against an Iowa Supreme Court Justice are wrapping up their bus tours across the state.   Critics of the court’s same-sex marriage ruling  urged voters to reject Justice David Wiggins.   The other side is advocating a yes vote for all the judges on the ballot.   But one justice who was thrown off the court two years ago worries that might not work.

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.     

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