November 1, 2014

Missouri House finds no way to challenge same-sex marriage ruling

State lawmakers have found that there is nothing they can do to fight to uphold Missouri’s prohibition of same-sex marriage, but the Speaker of the House tells Missourinet the issue might not be settled.

House Speaker Tim Jones (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Speaker Tim Jones (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Attorney General Chris Koster announced October 6 he would not challenge the ruling of a Kansas City judge that would mean Missouri must recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Some Republican state lawmakers looked for ways they could step in and defend the state’s statutes and constitutional amendment against gay marriage, but House Speaker Tim Jones says they found none.

“House research and our House counsel’s office looked into that issue,” says Jones. “They determined that there is no mechanism for this; a constitutional provision that allows the legislature to intervene.”

The judge’s order becomes final Monday, and ten days remain to file an appeal after that.

Jones thinks Missouri might not be done with the issue, however, and it could come up in the legislature next year.

“The senate leaders issued a very strong statement on this. I don’t know exactly where [Speaker-elect John] Diehl and the next [House] leadership team stand, but I can tell you I’ve heard from a lot of my caucus members. This is going to be a priority for them in 2015.”

Jones believes there are “a lot of possible remedies the General Assembly as a whole could pursue,” but doesn’t elaborate on what those are. He won’t be in the legislature after the end of this year, as he is term-limited from running again in the House.

Two more court challenges to Missouri’s same-sex marriage ban are awaiting rulings.

Earlier stories:

Judge rules Missouri must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages

AG:  will not appeal ruling that Missouri must recognize same-sex marriages

Missouri’s Washington U tries to help patients cope with tinnitus

Washington University researchers might have found a way to help people who are bothered by hearing a constant noise deal with it.

Professor Jay Piccirillo, MD, professor of otolaryngology, and one of the participants in the tinnitus treatment study, Jacqueline Richardson (right).  (photo courtesy; Washington University School of Medicine)

Professor Jay Piccirillo, MD, professor of otolaryngology, and one of the participants in the tinnitus treatment study, Jacqueline Richardson (right). (photo courtesy; Washington University School of Medicine)

It’s called tinnitus; a condition in which patients hear a so-called phantom noise, often described as a buzzing, humming or tapping. About 80 percent of patients are able to essentially ignore it, but the other 20 percent have difficult concentrating. It interferes with work, sleep, and relationships.

Washington University School of Medicine researchers including Professor Jay Piccirillo came up a possible treatment to help people function in spite of the noise.

“If tinnitus patients were taking this drug and doing a brain training program to help strengthen the neurons, could the people on the drug actually do it faster than [those on] a placebo?” Piccirillo says the study asked.

It found that they could, and enjoyed, “a significant improvement in some tinnitus measure and a greater improvement in their self-reported cognitive problems. In other words, they were thinking better.”

The drug being used, d-cycloserine, encourages neuroplasticity – a state in which the brain is more susceptible to change. That meant it made the brain more receptive to the conditioning treatment patients underwent while using it.

“It does get into the central nervous system and works with the neurotransmitters to help the brain learn faster,” says Piccirillo.

Piccirillo emphasizes the treatment doesn’t actually fight the condition.

“All of our treatment’s been focused on getting people not to be bothered by it,” says Piccirillo. “Giving them the tools and techniques so that they can redirect away from the tinnitus and not focus on it, and not let it get in the way of their life.”

The original work only involved about 30 subjects using the brain training two days a week. He says the next step will be to repeat the experiment with a bigger test group, undergoing the treatment for longer periods.

“Using the brain fitness training program for five days instead of the shortened, abbreviated version, and see if we can get a better effect on tinnitus relief and improvement in cognition.”

The larger study would see if the same combination of the drug and the fitness program would yield the same benefits to a larger group of participants.

MO Supreme Court sets execution date for inmate Paul Goodwin

The Supreme Court has set an execution date for a man convicted of killing his former neighbor with a hammer in 1998.

Paul Goodwin (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Paul Goodwin (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

The Court has ordered that Paul Goodwin be executed December 10 for the murder of Joan Crotts.

Court documents say Goodwin had repeatedly harassed and threatened Crotts when he moved into a boarding house next to her home in St. Louis County. Goodwin was eventually evicted from that boarding house and Crotts’ daughter says Goodwin blamed Crotts for it.

A year and a half after his eviction Goodwin returned to the neighborhood and snuck in Crotts’ home through the back door while she investigated an open gate to her yard, which he was also responsible for. He stayed in her basement for hours before entering her apartment.

He forced her to perform a sex act on him before pushing her down the basement stairs and striking her in the head with a hammer.

Crotts was still alive when her daughter found her that afternoon, and was able to tell police before she died what had happened.

In addition to finding Goodwin’s fingerprints at the scene and the victim’s blood on his clothes, police found his hearing aid at the scene. Goodwin has a hearing impairment that required authorities to have a sign-language interpreter present when they interviewed him about the crime, which he confessed to at that time. Goodwin was sentenced to death in December, 1999.

Goodwin was sentenced to death in December, 1999.

Missouri is next scheduled to carry out the execution of Leonard Taylor November 19 for the 1994 murder of a man working at a gas station that he robbed.

US AG: Michael Brown grand jury leakers need to ‘shut up’

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says whoever has been leaking information from the grand jury investigation of the Michael Brown shooting needs to “shut up.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the 6th annual Washington Ideas Forum.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the 6th annual Washington Ideas Forum.

Holder spoke about the investigation during the Washington Ideas Forum.

“That part of the investigation is being done by the state and local authorities,” says Holder. He notes the Justice Department has a separate and independent investigation, “and we’ve not seen any leaks there. Whoever the sources of the leaks are need to shut up.”

Holder includes the release by the Ferguson Police Department of surveillance footage of Brown at a convenience store not long before he was shot among information he thinks shouldn’t have been released.

“These are all the kinds of things that I think are inappropriate. I’ve said I’m exasperated. That’s a nice way of saying I’m mad,” says Holder. “These leakers have made the determination they’re trying to somehow shape public opinion about this case, and that’s inconsistent with the way in which we conduct investigations and especially grand jury investigations, which are supposed to be secret.”

Holder also talked about the Ferguson Police Department, which he says needs to be reformed.

“I think it’s pretty clear,” says Holder, “that the need for wholesale change in that department is appropriate. Exactly what the forms of that change will be, I think we’ll wait until we complete our inquiry.”

Holder is on his way out as Attorney General, having said he will resign as soon as a successor is confirmed.

NY Times explores relationship between Missouri AG Koster, lobbyists

A New York Times investigation into the lobbying of Attorneys General has focused a great deal on Missouri’s Attorney General.

Attorney General Chris Koster

Attorney General Chris Koster

The Times leads off by reporting that Attorney General Chris Koster halted an investigation of false claims by the makers of 5-Hour Energy drinks after a lobbyist for the company spoke to him at an event in California.

The Times reports that lobbyist’s firm, its clients and its partners have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Koster, a candidate for Missouri Governor in 2016, in some cases while his office was investigating those companies. He has also been included in public service ads sponsored by the firm and has spoken at public events it hosted.

Koster tells the Times he felt the suit lacked merit and denies that contributions or relationships prompted any of his office’s decisions that appear to benefit the firm’s clients.

House Speaker Tim Jones has issued a statement calling the situations outlined in the article “egregious” and saying he is looking into how the House can investigate the findings of the article.

Read the Times’ article here