Archive for Sunday, October 1, 2000

National briefs

October 1, 2000

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Virginia

Inmates given right to DNA test

Inmates who claim they were wrongfully convicted have a constitutional right to request DNA testing that might prove their innocence, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Albert Bryan issued the ruling Friday in the case of James Harvey, 59, who was convicted of rape in 1990. Bryan did not order DNA testing for Harvey but said the 14th Amendment allows state prisoners to file federal civil rights lawsuits seeking DNA testing.

Although a district judge's decision is not binding on other courts, Harvey's lawsuit could become a national test case.

If Bryan's decision reaches higher courts and is upheld, it could unleash a flood of lawsuits, The Washington Post reported Saturday. Most jurisdictions, including Virginia, do not guarantee prisoners the right to post-conviction DNA testing. Instead, prisoners must depend on prosecutors and governors to grant access to the laboratory work they claim could clear them.

Texas

Race bias alleged in drug arrests

Two law enforcement agents and a district attorney are being sued for their roles in an arrest stemming from a drug bust that has prompted allegations of racial discrimination in northwest Texas.

Forty-three people were arrested in the 1999 bust in Tulia, all but three of them are black.

The federal lawsuit was filed by the Texas American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Yul Bryant, who was arrested in July 1999 for allegedly selling cocaine. His case was dismissed after Dist. Atty. Terry McEachern learned that undercover agent Thomas Coleman was not certain he had bought cocaine from Bryant.

"These unlawful actions were part of a deliberate plan, scheme and policy of targeting members of the African-American community of Swisher County, Texas, and removing them from the area using the legal system," the lawsuit claims.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Security checks delay promotions

A security crackdown, which has cost an ambassador his security clearances and forced former diplomats to use escorts inside the State Department building, has led to reviews of security records of almost 400 employees who were up for promotion, it was reported Saturday.

Promotions for more than 200 senior officials are held up during the review, and 200 midlevel officials' promotions were released Friday after being delayed a week, The New York Times said.

It quoted Marc Grossman, director general of the foreign service, as saying he would review the remaining files for security violations before forwarding the promotions to the White House, which will forward them on to the Senate. Grossman told the newspaper that "under 10" officials had been barred from promotions because of results of the review.

Florida

Infant found after abduction

A 10-day-old infant was abducted from her home early Saturday after a struggle between her kidnappers and her screaming mother. The baby was found later Saturday, authorities in Jacksonville said.

The mother, identified as Angela Brown, was home with her five children when two women knocked on the door about 1:30 a.m., the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.

When a boy opened the door, the women squirted pepper spray in his face, authorities said. One of the women then picked up the baby, Latisha Renae Dunn, from her crib.

When the mother tried to fight off the other abductor, she was squirted with pepper spray.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Thurmond hospitalized after collapse

Sen. Strom Thurmond, at 97 the oldest person to serve in the Senate, appeared "to be doing very well" at a hospital Saturday after collapsing at a restaurant in suburban Alexandria, Va., his spokeswoman said.

Doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have not determined why he collapsed, but "more than likely his condition can be attributed to dehydration," spokeswoman Genevieve Erny said.

Thurmond, R-S.C., will remain hospitalized through today for observation, but "he appears to be doing very well," Erny said.

Thurmond has been hospitalized several times in recent years for various problems, including fatigue, and had prostate surgery in 1999. Erny said the collapse was unrelated to previous illnesses.

Connecticut

Priceline.com complaints probed

The state attorney general is investigating dozens of complaints about Priceline.com, including accusations that gasoline wasn't available at quoted prices and airline tickets ended up having restrictions.

Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday that most of the complaints are from people who bought gasoline and airline tickets from the name-your-own-price company based in Norwalk.

There's no indication that the company broke the law, said Blumenthal, who could impose fines and penalties if he finds wrongdoing.

Priceline spokesman Brian Ek said the company has addressed prior complaints from the attorney general's office. Earlier this week, Priceline.com warned that its third-quarter revenues are likely to be lower than analysts' expectations.

NEW YORK

Children cut from insurance plan

Up to half of the roughly 538,000 New York children enrolled in a federal health care plan are ineligible and will be removed from the plan over the next several months, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Some families began receiving notices several weeks ago that their children would be removed from the Children's Health Insurance Program as early as today and that they must apply for Medicaid, the newspaper said.

Health insurance executives and advocates for the poor told The Times that thousands of New York children were wrongly placed in the program largely because participating insurance plans did not steer families into Medicaid even when it was clear they belonged there.

Insurance executives said the state Health Department did not instruct them to screen applicants for Medicaid eligibility.

Florida

Michelin settles tire death lawsuit

Relatives of two women who died in a crash caused by the blowout of an allegedly defective tire have settled an eight-year lawsuit with Michelin North America.

Michelin attorney Mark Williams called the settlement "appropriate" but would not release its terms or comment further.

Michelin denies any liability for the 1991 accident that killed Mary Eddings, 46, of Boynton Beach and Lisa Wright, 25, of Delray Beach. The women were riding in a van that overturned on Interstate 95.

Michelin said a 3-year-old tire made by Uniroyal Goodrich failed because of a faulty patching job. Michelin acquired Uniroyal Goodrich in 1990.

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