New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - October 21, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
Herald-Zeitung □ Tuesday,October 21.1997 g 5
Texas warned about death penalty rules
WASHINGTON (AP) — In an extraordinary warning, four Supreme Court justices have told Texas officials their rules in death penalty sentencing may be unfair to some convicted killers.
“Although juries are required to assess a capital defendant’s ’future dangerousness’ before sentencing him todeath,” said Justice John Paul Stevens, “he is prohibited from presenting truthful information to the jury about when he would be eligible for parole if sentenced to life.’*
Three other justices joined Stevens’ opinion. But the four did not vote to hear an appeal by Texas death row inmate Arthur Brown Jr., convicted of four drug-related murders in Houston five years ago.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had upheld Brown’s death sentence and the Supreme Court on Monday declined to disturb that ruling.
The four justices who expressed misgivings with Texas’ death penalty procedures served notice that they’re carefully watching how the state lets juries choose between death or life in prison for convicted murderers.
Texas has become the nation’s far-and-away leader in executions with 31 this year of the nationwide total of 59. Since the Supreme Court ended a four-year legal moratorium on capital punishment in 1976, 417 have been executed, including 138 in Texas.
Stevens, whose opinion was joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, noted that Brown would have had to spend 35 years in prison before being eligible for parole if sentenced to life.
Brown sought to have the jury
learn of that fact but was prevented from doing so by Texas law.
Stevens cited a 1994 Supreme Court ruling that said convicted murderers can tell sentencing juries when there’s no chance they could be paroled if sentenced to life in prison. He said there is “obvious tension’’ between that ruling and the Texas rule.
“The Texas rule unquestionably tips the scales in favor of a death sentence that a fully informed jury might not impose,” said Stevens.
Nonetheless, the four justices did not disagree with their five colleagues who silently left Brown’s sentence intact — even though only four votes are needed to grant review to such appeals.
Stevens said their purpose was to drive home the point that the court doesn’t always grant review even when it thinks a lower court was wrong.
“The likelihood that the issue will be resolved correctly may increase if this court allows other tribunals to serve as laboratories in which the issue receives further study before it is addressed by this court,’’ Stevens wrote.
Meanwhile, the Catholic bishops of Texas are urging a public outcry to abolish the death penalty.
“As religious leaders, we are deeply concerned that the state of Texas is usurping the sovereign dominion of God over human life by employing capital punishment for heinous crimes,” the bishops said. “We implore all citizens to call on our elected officials to reject the violence of the death penalty and replace it with non-lethal means of punishment.”
The Supreme Court case is Brown vs. Texas, 96-9187.
HaraM-Zeitung photo by Michael Darnall
Javier NMO Jr. trios to ram through his brothsrs Joshua and Jsrik Monday aftsmoon whits playing footbsfl with their father Javier Sr. on Morningside Drive.
Congress moves to reform Amtrak
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress embarks this week on an attempt to rescue Amtrak from a crippling strike and, a little farther down the tracks, fiscal bankruptcy.
The House on Wednesday takes up legislation aimed at reversing the long-term fortunes of die perennially money-losing railway by reducing federal controls and giving Amtrak greater authority over routes, hiring and labor rules.
A new board of directors would have a freer hand in changing routes to reflect customer demand and in making investments to boost revenues.
Passage of the bill, which may also come up in the Senate this week, would free $2.3 billion for capital improvements set aside in the balanced budget agreement on the condition that Congress first legislate reforms.
Without that infusion of money and management overhaul, Amtrak, the recipient of some $19 billion in federal subsidies since the early 1970s, could go bankrupt by next spring.
But even more urgent is the threat of a strike that could start as early as Oct. 29. The 2,300-member Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, after nearly three years of unsuccessful contract talks, may go on strike that day to press demands for a wage increase.
A strike would affect some 500,000 Amtrak and commuter line riders daily, paralyzing rail traffic in the Northeast and driving another stake into Amtrak’s financial viability.
President Clinton in August ordered a 60-day cooling off period and appointed a presidential emergency board to make recommendations on resolving contract disputes.News Briefs
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FRIENDSWOOD, Texas (AP) — A prime suspect in the abduction and slaying of a teen-age girl is now held on unrelated charges, six months after her body was found in a retention pond.
Arrest of the man by Friendswood police in connection with a Webster woman’s aggravated kidnapping has prompted law officers in nearby La Marque to examine a possible connection in another disappearance.
Friendswood Police Chief Jared Stout said Monday that the suspect, who had been working at a construction site near Laura Kate Smither’s home the day she disappeared, was arrested Thursday in the kidnapping of a 19-year-old woman rn Webster.
AUSTIN (AP) — Sure, college football players have shoulder pads, helmets and mouthpieces.
But Kent Waldrep, paralyzed in a 1974 Texas Christian University football game, says they’re missing protection afforded coaches, trainers and every other university employee: sufficient medical and disability insurance.
Waldrep’s quest to change that has failed, at least for now.
The 43-year-old lost his bid Monday to be classified an employee of TCU when he was injured on an Alabama football field nearly 23 years ago. That would have made him eligible for worker’s compensation benefits for the rest of his life.
HOUSTON (AP) — The state is ordering insurance companies to cut rates by $610 million next year in an attempt to give consumers some benefit from lawsuit reform.
Texas Insurance Commissioner Elton Burner said Monday that he was ordering cuts of an estimated $436 million for 1996 and $441 million for 1997.
Altogether, the cuts for the three years bring the insurance impact of tort reform to $1.5 billion in savings, Bomer said in a joint appearance with Gov. George W. Bush.
The rollbacks stem from 1995 legislation, authored by Rep. Mark Stiles, D-Beaumont, mandating that insurance companies pass an to their customers the savings triggered by civil justice reforms.
The legislative changes included a
cap on civil damages and was intended to limit frivolous lawsuits in Texas.
Hawing a hail attack?
Take an aspirin
DALLAS (AP) — Your chest aches. You think you’re having a heart attack. What do you do?
Consider taking an aspinn.
The American Heart Association recommends it, and according to a report published Tuesday in the association’s journal Circulation, as many as 10,000 American lives a year could be saved if everyone followed that advice.
The heart association first recommended in 1993 that people take one, hill 325-milligram aspirin at the onset of chest pain or other symptoms of a severe heart attack.
Four years later, a follow-up report shows that not enough people are taking that seemingly simple lifesaving step.
Tach racalvas documents
•TU BUB OC K >r Texas (AP) — Retired Gen. William Westmoreland’s highly publicized libel lawsuit against CBS never went to a jury, but even the trial judge recognized the case’s importance
“I suggest that the value of this proceeding may have more to do with the record it has created for history than with the verdict it could have produced,” U.S. District Judge Pierre N. Leva! said after the 1985 case was dropped.
On Monday, Texas Tech University’s Vietnam Center received 123,000 pages of documents from California researcher Larry Berman, who assisted The New York Times during its coverage of the case
gjrty voting yndar tony
AUSTIN (AP) — Early voting for
thoXuv. 4 constitutional amendment election is uhder way in all 254 Texas counties.
Under a new law passed by the 1997 Legislature, the voting period begins 17 days before Election Day. That law gave county clerks the option of starting voting as early as last Saturday, with all starting by Monday.
While encouraging Texans to do their duty, the League of Women Voters suggested the time has come to overhaul the 121-ycar-old document and put an end to the long, involved amendment ballots.
“The League of Women Voters urges citizens to accept the challenge of becoming informed and voting on Nov. 4,” said Julie Lowcnbcrg, the group’s president.
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Alvin on FM 517, about a mile into punishment, which are sufficient to The bishops recommend life
CLUTE, Texas (AP) — Southeast Texas officials are testing well water and issuing warnings after a resident demonstrated that water from his well is flammable.
“You can light my hose. Physically light it,’’ Jerry McCullough told The Brazosport Facts on Monday.
Earlier tests confirmed the presence of methane, ethane and propane in the ground water from McCullough’s well.
Based on those results, the Galveston County Health District issued a warning to 150 property owners in the area.
The letter advises those in the area to consider the use of bottled water for drinking and cooking if their well water appears milky or ignites like McCullough’s water.
Possible sources for the contamination include a large oil field just south of McCullough’s house, a gas pipeline in the area and
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Galveston County. Alvin is about 24 miles south of Houston.
Taut bishops rsitsrats opposition to dosth penalty
AUSTIN (AP) — The Catholic bishops of Texas — the state that leads the nation in executing convicted murderers — are urging a public outcry to change the ultimate penalty.
“As religious leaders, we are deeply concerned that the state of Texas is usurping the sovereign dominion of God over human life by employing capital punishment for heinous crimes,” the bishops said Monday in a statement reiterating their opposition to capital punishment.
“We implore all citizens to call on our elected officials to reject the violence of the death penalty and
protect society from violent sentences without the possibility of offenders of human life and public parole as an alternative.
Do you have a RUNNY NOSE, SNEEZING, CONGESTION or ITCHY EYES in September or October? lf so, we need volunteers for an allergy research study involving an investigational medication.
ADULTS mo rn a ope POD* CHILDREN
12 YEARS A UP NU LrlAKUC TUK: 6*11 YEARS OLD
* Allergy akin testing
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Qualified patients may be compensated up to $120.00.
CENTRAL TEXAS HEALTH RESEARCH
NEW BRAUNFELS, TX 78130 629-9036 609-0900 (METRO)