January 27th, 2009
03:50 PM ET

Dead man breathing

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Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

Larry Swearingen should be dead today. Yesterday, the 37-year-old man was supposed to have been strapped to a gurney, while a lethal cocktail poured into his veins; sodium thiopental to sedate him, pancuronium bromide for collapsing the lungs and diaphragm. The final dose of potassium chloride would have stopped his heart. But, a federal appellate court granted an eleventh-hour reprieve.

The jury in Texas that convicted the former electrician and mechanic believed beyond a reasonable doubt that Swearingen was a cold-blooded killer. According to the state, Swearingen kidnapped 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, in December, 1998, raped and then strangled the young college student.

The condemned claims he’s innocent, insists he barely knew the victim. His words were posted on the Innocent In Prison International web site. Here’s what he wrote:

“On the morning of December 8, 1998 after leaving my ex-wife at my parents for a ride to work, I proceeded to SEARS AUTOMOTIVE CENTER in the woodlands, before traveling to Cavenders Boottown for some shopping.

After leaving Cavenders I stopped at the carwash on Rayford/Sawdust Road, washing my truck before meeting Gail at the community college, who owed money for work I had done for her.

While at the school, I saw and spoke with Melissa, the victim in my case, which I had known for a few months prior to this date, yet the jury was not told or presented available evidence of this.

After speaking to Melissa, we parted ways, with her heading towards the cafeteria, and me going to the parking lot, never to see another again.”

Prosecutors didn’t buy his story. Neither did the jurors. And the state says they have overwhelming evidence that points directly to him. But his defense team says the facts just don’t add up. They go further, and argue there is an iron-clad alibi for Swearingen. The claim? That Swearingen was in jail the time Trotter was murdered. Their pleas have been joined by the Medical Examiner who investigated the crime. Now, a federal appears court has granted a stay to determine whether or not Swearingen is indeed the killer.

Are the Swearingen supporters just holding up justice, adding to pain and suffering to the family of the woman he was convicted of killing.

Or does he deserve a new trial?

Post by:
Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
January 27th, 2009
03:43 PM ET

Fact-checking Blago, Day 2

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Editor’s Note: You can read more Lisa Bloom blogs on “In Session

Lisa Bloom
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Blago continues to misstate the law.

He’s a lawyer. He should know better.

Blago has steadfastly refused to answer specific questions from Larry King, CBS’s Maggie Rodriguez and others, including Jami Floyd today on In Session (is that you on the tapes? Did you say that? If it’s out of context, what was the context?) on the grounds that he is legally barred from commenting on a pending legal matter. No. Incorrect.


Filed under: Justice Department • Lisa Bloom • Rod Blagojevich
January 27th, 2009
03:23 PM ET

Rod Blagojevich even turns up in the Stimulus bill

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Emma Lacey-Bordeaux
CNN Researcher

Interesting tidbit from page 14:

“None of the funds provided by this Act may be made available to the State of Illinois, or any agency of the State, unless (1) the use of such funds by the State is approved in legislation enacted by the State after the date of the enactment of this Act, or (2) Rod R. Blagojevich no longer holds the office of Governor of the State of Illinois.”

January 27th, 2009
02:54 PM ET

Bush rejected pardons for Duke Cunningham, Edwin Edwards and Michael Milken

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Josh Meyer
The L.A. Times

President George W. Bush, on his last full day in office, formally struck down the petitions for clemency of some high-profile politicians and businessmen, including former lawmakers Randall "Duke" Cunningham, Edwin Edwards and Mario Biaggi and "junk bond" financier Michael Milken, the Justice Department said today.

The chief of the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney, Ronald Rodgers, confirmed the pardon rejections through a spokeswoman, in response to queries from The Times' Washington Bureau.

The Justice Department said Bush also denied petitions for clemency for two men who became highly polarizing symbols of their eras. One of them was John Walker Lindh, the young American serving 20 years in prison for aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan at a time when it was fighting U.S. military forces just after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.


January 27th, 2009
02:28 PM ET

Right on cue, the White House press awakens from its slumber

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Eric Boehlert
Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America

Pulling a collective Rip Van Winkle, the White House press corps has awakened from its extended nap just in time to aggressively press the new Democratic administration, just as it dogged the last Democratic president during his first days in office back in the 1990s. Conveniently skipped over during the press corps' extended bout of shut-eye? The Bush years, of course.

Suddenly revved up and vowing to keep a hawk-like watch on the Obama administration ("I want to hold these guys accountable for what they say and do") and all of a sudden obsessed with trivia, while glomming onto nitpicking, gotcha-style critiques, Beltway reporters have tossed aside the blanket of calm that had descended on them during the previous administration, a blanket of calm that defined their Bush coverage.


Post by:
Filed under: 360º Follow • First 100 Days • President Barack Obama
January 27th, 2009
01:35 PM ET

Audacity of hoping

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Allison Samuels

As soon as my jam-packed plane hit the ground in Washington, I instantly felt a kind of shift in the air. D.C. has long been called the "chocolate city" for its large number of African-American residents. But on this particular weekend—the historic one before the swearing-in of the first African-American president—the city was transformed into a sort of chocolate Disney World. The streets were filled with thousands of smiling, almost giddy, brown faces. Young and old wandered joyfully and endlessly in the freezing cold, searching for any souvenir with Barack Obama's face on it. "This is what hope looks like," I remarked to one of my friends as we walked by a man selling T shirts with a picture of the White House and the slogan THE BLACK HOUSE.

Ever since Barack Obama and his family hit the national scene two years ago, African-Americans have balanced our greatest hopes against our fears of disappointment. Would he run? Would he win the nomination? Would he, could he, win the presidency? On the broadest level, Obama has fulfilled our dreams just by taking office. African-American boys I know in South-Central Los Angeles who wore cornrows and once dreamed of nothing more than living to the age of 18 without being shot down are now entering barbershops to ask for the no-nonsense Obama haircut. Teenage girls I mentor who once yearned only for a date with someone who lived "the thug life," are now giving the nerd in the front of the class a second look.


Filed under: Allison Samuels • Barack Obama • Raw Politics
January 27th, 2009
12:56 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Citigroup’s first-class flight canceled

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Citigroup is changing its tune on taking delivery of a new $45 million corporate jet under pressure from the White House. According to a senior administration official, the Obama Administration pressured Citigroup to reverse course after a Treasury Department official called the company Monday and "told them it was unacceptable" to accept delivery of the new aircraft.

The New York Post reported Monday that Citi was set to take possession of the jet it decided to acquire two years ago - even after it received billions of dollars in support from the government amid the ongoing credit crisis and recession. But a Citigroup spokesman told CNN this morning, "We have no intent to take delivery of any new aircraft."


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance • Gas Prices • Oil • Wall St.
January 27th, 2009
12:29 PM ET

Clinton: “Great exhalation of breath around the world”

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Jill Dougherty
CNN State Department Correspondent

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at the State Department Tuesday that there has been a “great exhalation of breath around the world” with the new approach to diplomacy introduced by the Obama administration.

The short, informal and off-camera visit to the working media area of the State Department came after Secretary Clinton had breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden. Asked whether the president’s team of strong personalities responsible for foreign policy and national security issues could create dissension, the Secretary said that the Vice President, Defense Secretary, national security adviser and she have already worked out a “collegial, effective working relationship.”


January 27th, 2009
12:07 PM ET

Obama works phones for stimulus

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Suzanne Malveaux
CNN White House Correspondent

President Obama is hands-on in shaping the $825 billion economic stimulus package, urging his fellow Democrats to take out provisions he feels are unnecessary and controversial, according to a senior administration official.

An Obama aide said the President has personally called House Democratic leaders recently to urge them to remove a $200 million family planning provision that would have made it easier for states to use federal funds to provide contraception for poor families.


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