Death

This is a case with shocking facts.

Few things fill a junior associate with more dread than a partner beginning a sentence with the following words: “There must be a case that holds….” Much of the time, there is no such case (especially when the issue concerns some annoying e-discovery dispute that no judge would ever want to write about).

But if a partner says to you, “There must be a case addressing whether an insurance company is liable for accidental death benefits when the decedent accidentally kills himself while engaged in masturbation that involves intentional self-electrocution” — well, now there’s a case that’s on all fours. With an electric cattle prod.

Keep reading, to learn about an ERISA opinion that is very… stimulating….

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(Or: The most interesting ERISA opinion ever.)

Last week, we wrote about the bail hearing for Stephen M. McDaniel, the Mercer Law School graduate accused of killing his former neighbor and classmate, Lauren Giddings. At the hearing, the prosecution cited a gory internet posting that it claimed was written by McDaniel. But it now appears that the post might have been a fake. When contacted by Above the Law, one of McDaniel’s lawyers, Franklin Hogue, denied that his client wrote the posting in question.

At the bail hearing, the prosecution asked for bond to be set at $2.5 million, while defense counsel sought $100,000 bond. Chief Judge S. Phillip Brown took the matter under advisement.

Yesterday he issued his ruling….

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With the media scrutiny, not charging George Zimmerman would have been the bigger surprise.

The Washington Post is reporting that special prosecutor Angela Corey will hold a press conference this afternoon charging Zimmerman with something arising out of the death of Trayvon Martin.

Just what he’ll be charged with is anyone’s guess, is he getting hit with murder, manslaughter, or the simple “hunting black teens without a license,” which I think is just a misdemeanor in Florida. Check back for updates as we learn more.

Of course, charging the man and finding him are two completely different things…

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Stephen McDaniel

Last week, we saw some big news in the Stephen M. McDaniel murder case. In a bond hearing, prosecutors told the court about another internet post allegedly made by McDaniel, the Mercer Law School graduate who stands accused of murdering classmate Lauren Giddings. The newest post was particularly unsettling and gory.

At first glance, the post seemed like it could be a smoking gun. But things are never as simple as they seem: rumors are going around that the post is a fake. Because, as Above the Law readers know, don’t believe everything you read in online comments…

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Stephen McDaniel

It has been a while since our last significant update on the criminal case against Stephen M. McDaniel, the Mercer Law School graduate accused of killing classmate Lauren Giddings. But as noted in Morning Docket, we now have an update.

A rather lurid and gory update. Reader discretion is advised….

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Florida’s “stand your ground” law has received a lot of attention this week as people struggle to understand how a teenager named Trayvon Martin, armed with Skittles, was gunned down in the street. The FBI, the Justice Department, and a Florida grand jury are now all investigating the incident where Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, claims he was acting in self-defense.

I don’t want to get into the racial aspect of the instant situation — mainly because it’s too obvious. Don’t get me started on what the police would have done if a black man shot a white teenager to death and claimed he was standing his ground. It’s not even worth debating.

But even if race played a role here, it doesn’t mean a prosecutable crime took place. As many now know, that’s because Florida’s “stand your ground” law does not require people to retreat, even if they can do so safely.

Sure, “real men” don’t run. You can’t find a culture on Earth where running away is “honorable.” But in light of what’s happened with these laws on the books, do they really make sense? Is the enforcement of these laws racially prejudiced? Do “stand your ground” laws really just make it open season on black youths who might “scare” prejudiced people who incorrectly think they’re in danger of their lives?

I think so, but at least that’s a position where reasonable people will disagree….

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Last night, a dramatic scene unfolded in the parking lot of a movie theater. A suspected drunk driver allegedly took off without his headlights on, hit two police cruisers, terrified several witnesses, and then slammed his car into a tree. The driver was killed.

“It was coming straight towards us and I didn’t know if he was going to stop or what he was doing,” said one witness. “He was going 70, 80 miles an hour. It was scary.”

The driver of the vehicle was a young lawyer, an associate at a law firm. He graduated not too long ago from a leading law school….

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Stephen McDaniel cleans up nicely for court.

Stephen M. McDaniel, the Mercer Law School graduate accused of killing classmate Lauren Giddings, made an appearance in court this morning. As you may recall, Giddings’s decapitated torso was found on June 30 in Macon, Georgia, and thus far, police have been unable to recover the rest of her body.

Last month, we mentioned that Bibb County prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty for McDaniel. Today, in court, the alleged murderer received formal notification of his fate if he is found guilty of the charges levied against him.

McDaniel’s arraignment hearing has been set for February 7, but his lawyers raised some interesting issues today. What sort of motions will they be filing on their client’s behalf?

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket on Friday, prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty against Stephen McDaniel if he is convicted of the murder of Lauren Giddings, his former neighbor and classmate at Mercer Law School.

The Bibb County District Attorney calls the crime “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved depravity of mind,” which is one standard the prosecution has to meet to seek the death penalty in Georgia.

The Macon Telegraph conducted a long interview with Lauren Giddings’s boyfriend, David Vandiver. The King & Spalding lawyer wonders if Giddings’s final email to him was entirely hers….

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Stephen McDaniel

This should not come as a great shock, since he’s been in jail since July, but Stephen Mark McDaniel has been indicted by a grand jury for the murder of Lauren Giddings. McDaniel and Giddings graduated earlier this year from Mercer Law School, where they were classmates, and they were also neighbors in the Barristers Hall apartment complex in Macon, Georgia.

In addition to being charged with the Giddings murder, McDaniel has been indicted for other creepy crimes….

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