State News in Brief


House OKs free community college for high school graduates

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky House of Representatives has approved a bill that would give free community college tuition to all of Kentucky’s high school graduates.

The proposal would eventually cost taxpayers about $20 million a year. Kentucky high school graduates would still have to apply for federal and state scholarships. But the state would cover whatever cost was left.

All Kentucky high school graduates would be eligible. The program would also include home school and private school students. Students would have to maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average to keep the money.

The bill is modeled after a similar program in Tennessee. The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

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Deputies: 2 arrested after toddlers found wandering alone

LONDON (AP) — Two people have been arrested after authorities say two young children were found wandering nearly a mile from their Laurel County home.

The Laurel County Sheriff’s Office tells media outlets that deputies were called around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday after the children, ages two and four, were found outside of a house. The homeowners didn’t know the children.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Deputy Gilbert Acciardo Jr. says deputies searched extensively for the girls’ home.

Deputies say they found the home after noon, where the girls’ mother, 25-year-old Sarah Powell, was asleep with her boyfriend, 28-year-old Sean Bosch.

Authorities say the house was in deplorable condition.

Powell and Bosch are both charged with endangering the welfare of a minor and possession of drug paraphernalia. It isn’t immediately clear if they have attorneys.

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Senate bill would let some felons clear their records

FRANKFORT (AP) — Some convicted felons in Kentucky could have their records cleared under a bill advancing in the state Senate.

Kentucky does not have a process for felons to have their records expunged. Critics say some people convicted of a low level felony when they were young are unable to get jobs or get into college.

The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives passed a bill that would let people convicted of low-level felonies file for expungement. The Republican majority in the state Senate opposes that bill. They passed a bill Thursday that would let some convicted felons apply to have their records cleared. But the bill would only apply to 61 crimes, including some drug possession and theft charges.

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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House passes bill to reclassify some non-violent offenses

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky House has passed a bill that would reclassify some non-violent felony offenses as misdemeanors in an effort to reduce corrections costs.

The measure would create a new misdemeanor category — gross misdemeanor — that would include some low-level offenses now classified as felonies. It would apply to such offenses as flagrant non-support, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and second-degree forgery.

High-level misdemeanors carry up to 12 months in jail, while Class D felony offenses result in one to five years in prison. Supporters say the bill could save the state about $20 million.

The bill’s lead sponsor is Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts of Greenville. The measure passed the House on a 65-30 vote Friday and goes to the Senate.

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Kentucky Supreme Court judge nominated for appeals court

LOUISVILLE (AP) — The White House Press Office says Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In a news release Thursday, the president said Hughes has a “long and impressive record of service and a history of handing down fair and judicious decisions.”

Hughes began her career in private practice. In 1997, she was appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, a position she held until 1998. In 1999, Hughes was appointed and then elected to the Jefferson Circuit Court, where she served for more than seven years before being re-appointed and later elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 2006.

Hughes has served on the Kentucky Supreme Court since 2007.

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2 facing misdemeanor charges after detention center death

ELIZABETHTOWN (AP) — Two Elizabethtown juvenile detention center employees have been indicted on misdemeanor charges after an investigation into a teenage girl’s death that authorities say was caused by a heart condition.

The News-Enterprise reports that a Hardin County grand jury on Thursday indicted Reginald Wyndham and Victor Holt. Each faces one count of second-degree official misconduct stemming from what authorities say was their failure to perform a bed check on 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen of Shelby County.

McMillen was found unresponsive in her cell at Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center on Jan. 11. An autopsy report says the girl died in her sleep from a rare heart condition known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia.

The charge is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250.

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Turtle that was oldest animal at Newport Aquarium dies

NEWPORT (AP) — Officials at the Newport Aquarium say the oldest animal at the facility— an alligator snapping turtle — has died.

Aquarium spokeswoman Jennifer Tan told The Kentucky Enquirer (cin.ci/1SWeFcg) that the animal was estimated to be about 150 years old. She said the alligator snapping turtle is thought to live between 80 and 120 years in the wild, but how long they live in captivity isn’t known because aquariums have only tracked the ages of animals for about 40 years.

A necropsy was performed after the turtle’s death on Tuesday, but results weren’t immediately available.

The turtle, named Thunder, was most recently in the Canyon Falls exhibit, but had lived at the aquarium since it opened in 1999.

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Court: Judge can’t dismiss jury pools for lack of diversity

LOUISVILLE (AP) — An appeals court ordered a Jefferson County circuit judge to stop dismissing smaller jury pools, known as a jury panels, on the basis that he believes they aren’t reflective of the community’s diversity.

Judge Olu Stevens came under fire from Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine last month after Stevens decided on Feb. 9 to agree with a black defendant’s request and dismiss 41 potential jurors that included only three African-Americans, multiple media outlets reported. A jury panel is about 40 to 50 potential jurors.

In a unanimous Court of Appeals opinion Wednesday, Judge Irv Maze told Stevens the practice violates state law.

“This practice must cease unless or until the law of this Commonwealth changes,” Maze wrote, according to The Courier-Journal.

Stevens said the state makes it impossible for defense attorneys to levy a complaint over diversity by not keeping racial data in its database of potential jurors, an omission that is “purposeful.”

The court ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that there was systematic exclusion. The law requires a jury pool to represent a cross-section of the community, but the smaller jury panel isn’t required to reflect the community.

The higher court wrote that the lack of data kept by the state, “while unfortunate, does not amount to a deliberate attempt to exclude any particular group.”

A similar case in which Stevens dismissed a jury panel is pending before the state Supreme Court.

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