Region Shorts

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Havre man gets new trial in sexual assault case

HELENA (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a Havre man who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in January 2011.

Justices on March 17 ruled that Edward Harold Ghostbear did not receive a fair trial because District Judge Daniel Boucher failed to disqualify a juror who said she would tend to believe a child who testified about being sexually abused.

Defense counsel used one of his six peremptory challenges to remove the juror and then used Ghostbear’s remaining peremptory challenges.

Under case law, if a district court denies a legitimate for-cause challenge, the error requires automatic reversal, justices noted.

During trial, the girl testified that Ghostbear sexually abused her in a church basement. Ghostbear was sentenced in September 2017 to 15 years in prison with 10 suspended. He remains an inmate at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, according to the Department of Corrections website.


ND gov. says COVID-19 will last months despite Trump’s optimism

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday that South Dakota may be as much as eight weeks away from the peak of the COVID-19 crisis and needs to limit business activity, even as President Donald Trump considers relaxing national guidance.

“This situation is not going to be over in a week. ... We have another eight weeks until we see our peak infection rate,” Noem told reporters.

The Republican governor said she’ll continue to support restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. She expects infections to increase and is bracing the state’s health care system for a surge of patients. She ordered schools to remain closed and state employees to work from home until at least May. 

When asked if she is considering lifting her executive order that recommends businesses to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people, she said she hasn’t ordered any businesses to close. The move to ask, rather than demand, that businesses and municipalities self-regulate has irked some mayors who are calling for statewide enforcement.

“Any changes we make for how we conduct our daily lives have to be sustained,” Noem said.

COVID-19 infections are now spreading in communities throughout the state, as the total number of positive tests rose to 30 on Tuesday.