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Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2003

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March 13, 2003

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Supreme Court blocks 300th Texas execution

The Supreme Court blocked Texas on Wednesday from executing its 300th inmate since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982, granting a stay just minutes before the condemned man was to be put to death.

Delma Banks' claims that he was wrongly convicted of a murder 23 years ago had been backed by three former federal judges.

His lawyers told justices he was poorly represented at trial, prosecutors improperly kept blacks off the jury and testimony from two prosecution witnesses was shaky. Banks is black, his victim was white, and the jury was all-white.

Relatives rejoiced outside the prison upon hearing the news, including Banks' daughter Dakinya Jefferson and Banks' former wife, Demetra Jefferson Wysinger.

The court issued the stay without comment about 10 minutes before Banks, 44, was to be readied for execution for the 1980 murder of 16-year-old Richard Wayne Whitehead, a co-worker at a restaurant.

New Jersey

Judge: Birth certificate can list lesbian couple

Both women in a lesbian couple can be listed as parents on the birth certificate of the baby they're expecting in May, a judge ruled.

State officials said it was the first time in the state that two women who were both physically tied to an unborn child had tried to make sure they were both listed on the birth certificate. One woman is carrying the child, and her partner provided the egg.

The ruling issued Tuesday by Family Court Judge James A. Farber means the unidentified Newton women will share a financial obligation to the child, and if one parent dies, the other will have custody.

Melissa Brisman, the couple's lawyer, said the ruling was a "victory for reproductive rights," but she doubted it would have a major legal impact.

Arizona

GED exams stolen

Three versions of the GED test were stolen from Pima Community College, and officials said the theft will derail testing statewide for about a month and could halt the high school equivalency exam nationally.

The theft early Tuesday of a locked file cabinet containing the tests compromises the security of the General Educational Development exam, said Greg Hart, Pima College dean of adult education.

Administration of the test has been halted in Arizona while police investigate, said Elvin Long, acting field services manager for the GED Testing Service headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The results of that investigation will determine whether testing in other states will need to be postponed, Long said Wednesday.

New York City

Photos, mementos taken from 9-11 memorial

Thirty photographs and other mementos were stolen from a memorial to three Manhattan court officers who were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center.

The items, including four flags, were believed to have been stolen over the weekend from the memorial of photos, cards, flowers and stuffed animals left outside the state Supreme Court building in honor of officers Thomas Jurgens, Mitchel Wallace and Capt. William Harry Thompson.

Laura Loud, a senior court officer who maintains the memorial, called the theft "despicable" and compared it to "taking something from a cemetery."

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