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Liberal US justices lean toward death row inmate in mental health dispute

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Liberal U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday indicated support for a convicted murderer held on Alabama’s death row who argued he had a right to an independent medical expert to assess his mental health and potentially help him avoid the death penalty.

The nine justices heard a one-hour argument in an appeal brought by James McWilliams, who was sentenced to death for raping, murdering and robbing a convenience store clerk in Tuscaloosa in 1984.

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The case has taken on greater importance in the past week because two Arkansas death row inmates who that state plans to execute, Don Davis and Bruce Ward, had their cases put on holding pending the Supreme Court’s decision in the McWilliams case, due by the end of June.

Based on questions asked by the justices, the four liberals could be joined by conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s frequent swing vote, in favoring McWilliams. The nine-member court’s other conservatives appeared more likely to vote against McWilliams.

At issue in his appeal of his death sentence to the Supreme Court is whether an indigent defendant like McWilliams during a trial in which his mental health is a pivotal matter is entitled to an expert witness independent of the prosecution. Such an independent expert witness possibly could offering mitigating evidence at his sentencing hearing as prosecutors pursue the death penalty.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Trump’s Pentagon chief vows to cooperate with impeachment probe in apparent break with the president

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US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday the Pentagon would cooperate with the congressional impeachment inquiry -- in an apparent break with President Donald Trump's policy to thwart the probe.

Esper said his department would try to comply with a subpoena from House Democrats seeking records relating to the withholding of US military aid to Ukraine.

"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS's "Face The Nation."

His reassurance came days after the White House announced it would not cooperate with the Democratic-led House of Representatives, calling its impeachment push illegitimate and unconstitutional.

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GOP lawmaker sits in painful silence for four seconds after CNN’s Camerota schools him on impeachment

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Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) sat in painful silence for a full four seconds after CNN's Alisyn Camerota schooled him on the nature of impeachment inquiries.

During an interview on Monday, Camerota asked Davis if he thought it was appropriate for a president to ask a foreign government to help him investigate his domestic political opponents.

Davis said it was not, but then pivoted to saying that House Democrats didn't have enough evidence at the moment to justify holding an impeachment inquiry based on their knowledge of just the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Kurds announce groundbreaking deal with Damascus as Turkey pushes deep into Syria

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Syria's Kurds have announced a groundbreaking deal with Damascus on a Syrian troop deployment near the border with Turkey, as Ankara presses a deadly cross-border offensive that has sparked an international outcry.

The announcement on Sunday came as the United States ordered the withdrawal of almost its entire ground force in Syria.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the move to withdraw 1,000 US troops came after Washington learned that Turkey was pressing further into Syria than expected.

Turkey's relentless assault, which has seen air strikes, shelling and a ground incursion manned mainly by Syrian proxy fighters, has killed scores of civilians and fighters since its launch on Wednesday.

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