Money, death sentences and more: The latest in legal news

Money, death sentences and more: The latest in legal news

Firing squad comeback, parole for one killer and maybe not for another, purloined tunes, grandma wants the money but the Church wants to party hearty. It's "Samakow's Legal Believe It or Not"!

Firing Squad execution, 1877.
John D. Lee was executed by firing squad in Utah in 1877 for his role in the Mountain Meadows massacre. (Via Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2015 — The latest legal news covers everything from money to death to life to “it’s mine” to general stupidity.

Grandma’s new twist on welfare abuse

An Ohio grandmother is on trial for rape and kidnapping of the three grandchildren she was caring for. Two granddaughters told grandma their mom’s boyfriend raped them, but she says she didn’t believe them because she examined them and they looked fine. She claims she did not harm the kids or allow anyone else to do so. Grandma said, however, she was afraid of the man and admitted she “failed her grandchildren.” The prosecutor thinks grandma was afraid of losing the government benefits she was receiving for taking care of the kids.

The children testified that grandma kept them chained up, did not always feed them, and also beat them. Grandma said the chains were in the house for a dog and that the children’s bruises and scars were from playing “cops and robbers” with ropes.

The children’s mother and boyfriend pled guilty to rape charges and have already been sentenced.

Money doesn’t matter in the life of the spirit

A Panama City Beach, Florida church lost its tax-exempt status because it hosted naked paint parties and slumber-party Sundays featuring “the sexiest ladies on the beach.” Since the end of February, the church−known as The Life Center: A Spiritual Community−has been running a continuous party billed as “Amnesia: The Tabernacle.”

Upon entering the church, partygoers spot the sign proudly proclaiming that its events are alcohol- and drug-free. T-Shirts hung on the inside walls, however, display obscene gestures. The tastefully spiritual decor also features signage declaring “I hate being sober.” A $20 “donation” is charged at the entrance door.

Understandably, the tax appraiser changed the church’s tax-exempt status. But the church did not say it would stop the parties.

“Sensational” news updates – no death sentence?

  • Newsflash: Murderer Jodi Arias will live. Two separate juries could not agree on sentencing her, although the second jury voted 11-1 in favor of the death sentence. Because no unanimous verdict was reached, the death penalty could not be imposed. The result is that on April 13 Arias will be sentenced to life in prison or a life sentence with the possibility of release after 25 years.
    Arias was convicted in 2013 of brutally killing her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander, shooting and stabbing him nearly 30 times before slitting his throat so deeply he was nearly decapitated. She left his mortal remains behind in the shower of his Phoenix home.
  • At age 16, William Flynn murdered Pamela Smart’s husband, Gregg Smart, in 1990. He pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison. Pamela, then age 22, seduced Flynn and then persuaded him to kill her husband.
    Flynn was paroled last week by a three-person board on his first attempt, on his 41st birthday.Pamela is still serving a life sentence that does not provide for parole. Her conviction was for being an accomplice to first-degree murder. She admits seducing Flynn, but maintains she did not plan the murder.

Current state of death sentences

Utah’s Senate has voted to allow a firing squad to do the deed if lethal injection drugs are not available to carry out a death sentence. Utah’s governor must still sign the bill. If he does, Utah would become the only state to currently permit a firing squad to perform an execution.

Dating from its territorial days, Utah had long been the only U.S. state to permit the condemned a choice of executions−death by firing squad or death by hanging. After a countrywide moratorium on the death penalty, Utah revived this method in the 1970s, replacing the choice of hanging with that of lethal injection in 1980, removing the choice of firing squad in legislation passed in 2004.

The state’s effort to employ a firing squad once again, this time as a backup execution method, follows botched lethal injection executions in Oklahoma and Arizona. Those states had experimented with new drug formulas for lethal injections due to a continuing shortage of the drugs normally used.

Arkansas currently has a firing squad bill pending. Wyoming had one, but it did not pass.

To this day, Utah is the only state besides Nevada that ever used the firing squad for capital punishment.

Thank goodness this death sentence was not carried out

In 1984, Dale Johnson of Ohio was convicted of the 1982 shooting deaths of his teenage stepdaughter and her fiancé. He was sentenced to die. On his appeal, the case against him unraveled, and he was freed in 1990. Another man confessed in 2008 to the killings.

In 2011, a Franklin County judge declared Johnson, then 81, innocent of all charges and paved the way for him to seek compensation from the state. An appeals court reversed that ruling. Johnson is appealing the reversal.

“Blurred Lines” is a perfect title

Copyrights and trademark protections prevent others from using and profiting from material not their own. A jury decided last week that singer-composer-producer and ”The Voice” judge Pharrell Williams, and singer-songwriter Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines,” a mega-hit in 2013, had elements stolen from now deceased singer-etc. Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give It Up.” The jury then awarded Gaye’s children $7.3 million in total damages and a share of the profits from “Blurred Lines.”

Thicke had said in interviews that Gaye’s song was one of his favorites, and that he told Pharrell they “should make something like that, something with that groove.”

Industry analysts are concerned that this verdict may have a chilling effect on the way new music is created. Mashup makers take note.

Who is the owner?

Marshawn Lynch, the famous pro-football running back of the Seattle Seahawks−who should have been given the ball on the Seahawks’ last offensive play in this year’s Superbowl−is the latest athlete to try to “own” a nickname and a catchphrase. Recall at the pre-game press conference Lynch kept answering questions by saying, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.” Lynch now has made a trademark application to protect the phrase. He previously trademarked “Beast Mode®, explaining “I’m all about that action boss.”

The Washington Redskins’ quarterback, Robert Griffin III, has trademarked “RGIII®,” and the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Johnny Manziel has trademarked “Johnny Football®.”

The Ultimate Stupidity

Robert Collins of Alliance, Ohio will not get anyone’s vote for high intelligence. With a warrant outstanding for his arrest and with drug paraphernalia in plain view in his home, Collins called 911 and asked to have police come to his home to arrest “his lady,” whom he says stole the cocaine he had purchased earlier in the day.

Police arrived at Collins’ home, arrested him on the outstanding warrant, adding charges of improper use of the 911-system and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The moral of our stories: Pay attention to the things that go on in the world that are truly real. They are much more interesting than most “reality” television shows.


Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order


Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website and “like” the concept on the Facebook page

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