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Harpham loses latest appeal

Kevin William Harpham has failed once again to overturn his 32-year prison sentence for planting a bomb on the route of the Martin Luther King Day march in 2011. 

An order handed down Monday by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush throws out that latest appeal from Harpham. The 41-year-old is serving his sentence at a federal penitentiary in Lompoc, California, and is scheduled for release in 2039.

Harpham pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and hate crimes in September 2011, eight months after local authorities discovered the explosive placed along the march route before the event began. Authorities eventually arrested Harpham in rural Stevens County, and he faced a potential life sentence in prison before taking a plea deal a few days before his trial was scheduled to begin.

The most recent appeal was lodged by Harpham in May, more than a year after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Harpham's argument that he had been coerced into taking the plea deal by his attorneys. Harpham argued in this appeal that his lawyers had provided ineffective counsel, but Quackenbush said that argument was without merit.

"Harpham was facing a possible life sentence. That he was ultimately sentenced to 32 years is evidence that his attorneys provided proper representation," Quackenbush wrote.

The U.S. Supreme Court had declined to hear Harpham's first appeal. 

Appellate court rules search unconstitutional, throws out child porn conviction

Washington appellate judges have thrown out an Ephrata man's conviction on child pornography charges after ruling investigators improperly searched his computer in March 2009.

Michael Allen Budd was convicted and sentenced to 13 months in prison after a Grant County bench trail concluded in April 2013. Budd immediately appealed his conviction, saying that evidence collected from his computer by Lakewood Police Department Detective Kim Holmes should have been excluded because Holmes did not provide an ample warning that he could call off the search any time he pleased.

Two of three appellate judges in Washington's Third Division of Courts of Appeal agreed. Their decision, and a dissent penned by Judge Kevin Korsmo, can be read in its entirety below:


Michael Budd decision

In overturning the conviction, the judges relied on the Washington Supreme Court's 1998 ruling in the case State v. Ferrier, a case that set a precedent for the process of law enforcement in the state searching a property. Holmes did not have a search warrant when she performed a "knock and talk" at Budd's residence, which is an attempt to solicit answers from and permission to search the property of a suspect before speaking with a judge.

Appellate judges George Fearing and Rob Lawrence-Berry found that Holmes did not provide an ample warning of Budd's rights before entering his Ephrata home.

"A house is considered a castle and entitled to the greatest protection from government entry and roaming," Fearing wrote.

But in his dissent, Korsmo raises the possibility that Budd may have recognized the police did not have a search warrant and agreed to a consultation in his home in order to later have the case against him thrown out on constitutional issues.

"No good deed goes unpunished," Korsmo begins his dissent. He argues that the Ferrier ruling does not apply to this case, because the search targeted only Budd's computer, not the entire of his property. Korsmo also says the oral agreement to continue the search outside the home should hold up in court.

The majority of the court said their decision should not lead to law enforcement abandoning the "knock and talk" technique, saying it "remains lawful … and we recognize that diligent and honest officers will continue to use this method of investigating crime."

In today’s legal news, courts say EPA gets to do its job

The EPA does stand for Environmental Protection Agency, after all. But today, there was a win for clean air and common sense when the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the EPA does indeed have the authority to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Carol Browner, the Former EPA head in the Clinton administration and former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under President Obama, commented at Climate Progress:

The Court's decision should put an end, once and for all, to any questions about the EPA's legal authority to protect us from industrial carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act. This decision is a devastating blow to those who challenge the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change and deny its impact on public health and welfare.

Idaho violating court order after prison riot

The AP is reporting that Idaho is temporarily violating a court order on prison crowding at the Idaho State Correctional Institution, after a Jan. 2 inmate riot damaged a new temporary housing unit that had been set up in a warehouse.  It was too late to cancel plans to bring back 300 inmates from out of state, so overcrowding ensued. “We’re trying to come to an understanding with the court so we’re not in hot water,” state Corrections Director Brent Reinke said.  Click below to read the full story from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.